Famous 20th Century Historians

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Historians, including Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Niall Ferguson, Donald Tusk and William Rehnquist.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Historians

 1 

Arnold J. Toynbee
8
Birthdate: April 14, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: October 22, 1975

 2 
Ian Kershaw
(Best Known for His Non-fiction Work About Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regim)

Ian Kershaw
4
Birthdate: April 29, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Oldham, England, United Kingdom

 3 
Max Weber
(Sociologist)

Max Weber
4
Birthdate: April 21, 1864
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Erfurt, Germany
Died: June 14, 1920

Max Weber was a German historian, political economist, jurist, and sociologist. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and important theorists, Weber's ideas had a profound influence on social research and social theory. Although he did not see himself as a sociologist, Weber is often counted among the fathers of sociology alongside Émile Durkheim, Auguste Comte, and Karl Marx.

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 4 

Terry Jones
6
Birthdate: February 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales
Died: January 21, 2020
Starting his career as a comedy writer, actor-director Terry Jones later soared to fame as part of the Monty Python comedy team. An avid historian, too, he wrote several books and presented TV documentaries on the topic. In his later years, the BAFTA Cymru award winner struggled with dementia. 

 5 
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
(Novelist & Writer Best Known for His Work 'The Gulag Archipelago')

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
4
Birthdate: December 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kislovodsk, Russia
Died: August 3, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, and political prisoner. An outspoken critic of Communism and the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn helped raise awareness of the Gulag, a government agency that oversaw forced labor camps set up in accordance with Vladimir Lenin's order. His non-fiction text The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work and sold millions of copies.

 6 
Lucy Worsley
(Historian)

Lucy Worsley
4
Birthdate: December 18, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Reading, Berkshire, England, UK

British historian and author Lucy Worsley is not just a curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces, but is also a famed TV presenter, popular for her work on series such as A Very British Murder and If Walls Could Talk. Suffering from a speech disorder, she pronounces “r” in a peculiar way.

 7 
Anthony Blunt
(Art Historian, University Teacher)

Anthony Blunt
4
Birthdate: September 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bournemouth, Hampshire, England
Died: March 26, 1983
Art historian Anthony Blunt is best remembered as part of the spy group Cambridge Five. His confession, revealed after years, stripped him of his knighthood. An expert on the works of Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin, he had also authored works such as Art and Architecture in France 1500–1700.
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 8 

Joe Medicine Crow
4
Birthdate: October 27, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lodge Grass, Montana, United States
Died: April 3, 2016

The last Crow war chief, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow was part of the Whistling Water clan of Native Americans. The legendary indigenous hero was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A published historian, too, he is remembered for his research on the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

 9 
George McGovern
(United States Senator from South Dakota (1963 - 1981))

George McGovern
9
Birthdate: July 19, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Avon, South Dakota, United States
Died: October 21, 2012

Historian George McGovern had been the U.S. senator from South Dakota. He held important positions related to food, agriculture, and nutrition, too, and was named a World Food Prize laureate for his efforts in reducing world hunger. He had also advocated for the end of the Vietnam War.

 10 
Lola Van Wagenen
(Historians)

Lola Van Wagenen
4
Birthdate: July 19, 1922, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Provo, Utah, United States

Lola Van Wagenen is an American historian who is credited with co-founding non-profit educational organizations like Consumer Action Now (CAN) and Clio Visualizing History, Inc. Consumer Action Now went on to establish several environmental education and consumer-oriented programs in an attempt to raise awareness about the effects of consumers' buying habits on the environment.

 11 
E. P. Thompson
(Historian)

E. P. Thompson
3
Birthdate: February 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: August 28, 1993

British historian E. P. Thompson is best remembered for his iconic works such as The Making of the English Working Class. He was also a poet, a novelist, and a biographer. An anti-nuclear activist, too, he played a significant role in the formation of the New Left.  

 12 
Howard Zinn
(Historian)

Howard Zinn
8
Birthdate: August 24, 1922
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: January 27, 2010

Born into a Jewish working-class, immigrant family in Brooklyn, Howard Zinn was initially dragged into communism. He was part of the U.S. Army during World War II and later established himself as a historian. Of his many books, the most popular has been A People's History of the United States.

 13 
Sarah Vowell
(Author of Seven Nonfiction Books on American History and Culture)

Sarah Vowell
4
Birthdate: December 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States

Bestselling author and essayist Sarah Vowell is known for her expertise in American history and her books such as Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes. She is also a regular on the radio program This American Life and has voiced Violet in the animated film The Incredibles.

 14 
E. H. Carr
(Historian, Journalist, Diplomat, Writer, Political scientist, Professor)

E. H. Carr
4
Birthdate: June 28, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: November 3, 1982

Best known for his 14-volume book A History of Soviet Russia, British historian and diplomat E. H. Carr had been part of the Foreign Office for a long time, before stepping into the academic world. He had also been an assistant editor of The Times and a fellow of both Oxford and Cambridge.

 15 

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
5
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an American literary critic, historian, professor, filmmaker, and public intellectual. He is currently serving as the director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Over the years Gates has been honored with several prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal. In 1997, he was named in Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans list.

 16 
Shelby Foote
(Writer)

Shelby Foote
4
Birthdate: November 17, 1916
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Greenville, Mississippi, United States
Died: June 27, 2005

 17 
Victor Davis Hanson
(Commentator on modern and ancient warfare)

Victor Davis Hanson
5
Birthdate: September 5, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Fowler, California, United States

Historian and academic Victor Davis Hanson is best known for his opinions on warfare and politics in publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He teaches at the California State University and Stanford's Hoover Institution. His academic interests include military history and classics.

 18 
Fernand Braudel
(Historian)

Fernand Braudel
4
Birthdate: August 24, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Luméville-en-Ornois, France
Died: November 27, 1985

Fernand Braudel was a French historian who led a group of historians who were associated with the Annales School. Braudel is credited with popularizing the school in France. As the leader of the school during the 1950s and 1960s, Braudel had a major influence on historical writings around the world. He is also counted among the forefathers of world-systems theory.

 19 
Robert Osborne
(Actor, Television actor, Biographer, Film actor, Historian, Journalist, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Film producer)

Robert Osborne
6
Birthdate: May 3, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colfax
Died: March 6, 2017

Best known for his over two-decade-long stint as a Turner Classic Movies host, Robert Osborne also gained fame for his penning The Official History of the Academy Awards and the National Film Book Award-winning 50 Golden Years of Oscar. A qualified journalist, he also wrote columns for The Hollywood Reporter.

 20 
Stephen Jay Gould
(Paleontologist and Evolutionary Biologist Known for His 'Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium' & Book ‘The Mismeasure of Man’)

Stephen Jay Gould
4
Birthdate: September 10, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bayside, New York, United States
Died: May 20, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould was an American evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and historian of science. One of the most widely read and influential authors of popular science, Gould was named a Living Legend in April 2000 by the US Library of Congress. He is also counted among the most frequently cited scientists, as far as evolutionary theory is concerned.

 21 
Doris Kearns Goodwin
(Historian, Writer known for her book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II)

Doris Kearns Goodwin
9
Birthdate: January 4, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City, United States

Doris Kearns Goodwin is an American historian, biographer, and former sports journalist. She is best known for writing presidential biographies, including Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga. In 1995, she won the Pulitzer Prize for History for her book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

 22 
David Eisenhower
(Writer, Educator)

David Eisenhower
4
Birthdate: March 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: West Point, New York, United States

Author, academic, and public policy fellow David Eisenhower teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Best known for his Pulitzer Prize-shortlisted book Eisenhower at War: 1943-1945, he is the grandson of former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower and the son of John Eisenhower. He is also the son-in-law of Richard Nixon.

 23 

Suzannah Lipscomb
4
Birthdate: December 7, 1978
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Barnes, London, United Kingdom

Apart from being a historian and an award-winning professor, Suzannah Lipscomb is also a popular author and broadcaster. Known for presenting documentary series such as Walking Tudor England and Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder, she also pens columns for History Today and other publications and is a public speaker, too.

 24 
Carter Woodson
(Historian)

Carter Woodson
4
Birthdate: December 19, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Canton, Virginia, United States
Died: April 3, 1950

Historian Carter Woodson was is remembered for pioneering Black studies in schools and colleges. He began the Negro History Week, which is now celebrated as the Black History Month. Poverty had pushed him to work in the coal mines initially, and he couldn’t join high school before 20.

 25 
James M. McPherson
(Historian, University teacher, Writer)

James M. McPherson
3
Birthdate: October 11, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Valley City

James M. McPherson is an American historian who serves as a professor at Princeton University. Well-known for his activism, McPherson spoke against the construction of a theme park near Manassas battlefield. A Civil War historian, McPherson won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for his work, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, in 1989.

 26 
Romila Thapar
(Historian known for Authoring books about Indian history)

Romila Thapar
14
Birthdate: November 30, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Renowned history scholar and JNU professor Romila Thapar has also taught at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously been in the news for rejecting the Padma Bhushan twice, stating she didn’t accept state awards. She has also often opposed Hindutva and the “saffronization” of education.

 27 
Richard J. Evans
(Historian, University teacher, Non-fiction writer)

Richard J. Evans
5
Birthdate: September 29, 1947
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Woodford Green

 28 
Mircea Eliade
(Historian of Religion and Author)

Mircea Eliade
4
Birthdate: March 13, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bucharest, Romania
Died: April 22, 1986

Mircea Eliade was a Romanian fiction writer, historian of religion, professor at the University of Chicago, and philosopher. His stories and novels have been adapted into films, such as The Bengali Night, which was directed by Nicolas Klotz. His works have also influenced writers all over the world.

 29 
Cherie Blair
(Barrister)

Cherie Blair
6
Birthdate: September 23, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bury, England

Apart from being the wife of former UK prime minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair is also a successful attorney in her own right. The daughter of actor Tony Booth, she is has also taught at the University of Westminster. She is associated with charitable campaigns on breast cancer and other causes, too.

 30 

Harry Turtledove
4
Birthdate: June 14, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

An expert in Byzantine history, author Harry Turtledove is known for his historical fiction and science-fiction books, such as How Few Remain and the Opening of the World series. Regarded as the “Master of Alternate History,” he has also won awards such as the Hugo Award for the Best Novella.

 31 
Gilles Deleuze
(Most popular for his works with Felix Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus from 1972 and A Thousand Plateaus from 1980)

Gilles Deleuze
4
Birthdate: January 18, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 4, 1995

Gilles Deleuze was a French philosopher who wrote extensively on philosophy, film, fine art, and literature. Widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Deleuze's works have influenced a wide range of disciplines, such as philosophy, literary theory, and art. His work has also influenced movements like postmodernism and post-structuralism.

 32 
Henry Cabot Lodge
(United States Senator from Massachusetts (1893-1924))

Henry Cabot Lodge
4
Birthdate: May 12, 1850
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Beverly, Massachusetts, United States
Died: November 9, 1924

 33 
Anne Applebaum
(Journalist)

Anne Applebaum
7
Birthdate: July 25, 1964
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Anne Applebaum is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gulag, which described the Soviet concentration camps. The American historian and journalist has worked for The Economist and The Spectator and now writes for The Atlantic. The mother of two now lives in Poland with her politician husband, Radek Sikorski.

 34 
Will Durant
(American Writer Best Known for His Work 'The Story of Civilization')

Will Durant
6
Birthdate: November 5, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: North Adams, Massachusetts, United States
Died: November 7, 1981

Will Durant was an American writer, philosopher, and historian. He is credited with writing The Story of Philosophy which helped popularize philosophy in the USA. Will is also remembered for co-writing an 11-volume set of books titled The Story of Civilization along with his wife Ariel. Will and Ariel were awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 35 
Murray Bookchin
(Writer, Historian, Philosopher, University teacher, Anarchist, Libertarian municipalism, Social ecology)

Murray Bookchin
4
Birthdate: January 14, 1921
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City
Died: July 30, 2006

Murray Bookchin, also known by his pseudonyms M.S. Shiloh and Lewis Herber, was an anarchist, a political philosopher, and an academic, best known for his fight against capitalism. The son of Russian immigrants, he followed communism since age 9. He had also penned books such as The Ecology of Freedom.

 36 
Bettany Hughes
(Historian)

Bettany Hughes
4
Birthdate: January 14, 1921, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England

The daughter of English actor Peter Hughes, art historian Bettany Hughes is also a popular TV personality and an author. Best known for presenting and writing documentaries and shows such as Ancient Discoveries and The Spartans, she also supports The Iris Project, which promotes Latin and Greek languages.

 37 
David McCullough
(Author, Historian)

David McCullough
4
Birthdate: July 7, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

David McCullough is an American popular historian, author, narrator, and lecturer. Over the course of his illustrious career, McCullough has received two National Book Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, and two Francis Parkman Prizes among other prestigious awards. In 2006, he was honored with America's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also received over 40 honorary degrees.

 38 
Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi
(Member of the Federal Supreme Council)

Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi
4
Birthdate: July 2, 1939
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

 39 

Simon Russell Beale
4
Birthdate: January 12, 1961
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Penang, Malaysia

Born to doctor parents, Simon Russell Beale chose to study music and drama instead of following in his parents’ footsteps. A Guildhall alumnus, he gained fame performing for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he collaborated with Sam Mendes. The Tony Award-winning actor has also been knighted for his achievements.

 40 
Timothy D. Snyder
(Author and historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust)

Timothy D. Snyder
4
Birthdate: August 18, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ohio, United States

Historian and Yale professor Timothy D. Snyder has penned countless books, including bestsellers such as Bloodlands and On Tyranny. His themes include Marxism and Soviet and Nazi atrocities. A Harvard scholar and a Carnegie fellow, he is also part of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience.

 41 
Oswald Spengler
(Historian, Philosopher)

Oswald Spengler
4
Birthdate: May 29, 1880
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Blankenburg, Germany
Died: May 8, 1936

German historian Oswald Spengler is best remembered for his iconic The Decline of the West, which had a huge influence on social theory. He believed that culture cannot be transferred and that it can only decline and decay like an organism. He lived his final years in isolation in Munich.

 42 

Walter Isaacson
6
Birthdate: May 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana,

Once an inspiring journalist, Walter Isaacson now teaches history at the Tulane University. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, he has been the chair of CNN, the CEO of Aspen Institute, and an editor at Time. He has also penned biographies of personalities such as Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci.

 43 

Dan Jones
4
Birthdate: July 27, 1981
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Reading, England

Award-winning historian and author Dan Jones is best known for his New York Times bestsellers such as The Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses. An expert in the history of the Middle Ages, he also writes a sports column for the London Evening Standard. He has also presented many documentaries.

 44 
René Girard
(French Polymath, Historian and Philosopher of Social Science)

René Girard
4
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

 45 
Stephen E. Ambrose
(Historian Known for His Biographies of U.S. Presidents 'Dwight D. Eisenhower' and 'Richard Nixon')

Stephen E. Ambrose
7
Birthdate: January 10, 1936
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Decatur, United States
Died: October 13, 2002

Stephen Edward Ambrose was an American biographer and historian. A respected figure, Ambrose was honored with several prestigious awards during his lifetime. In 1998, he was honored with the National Humanities Medal. The same year, he also won the Golden Plate Award as well as the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize. In 2001, he received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal.

 46 
Franjo Tudjman
(Politician)

Franjo Tudjman
4
Birthdate: May 14, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Veliko Trgovišće, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
Died: December 10, 1999

 47 
Emma Donoghue
(Novelist)

Emma Donoghue
4
Birthdate: October 24, 1969
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland

Alex Awards winning Irish-Canadian playwright, literary historian, short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter Emma Donoghue is best known for authoring award winning novels like Room and Hood. Room, an international best-seller, was adapted into a film bearing same title that not only emerged as a critical and commercial success but also garnered four Oscar nominations at the 88th Academy Awards.

 48 
Eric Hobsbawm
(Historian)

Eric Hobsbawm
5
Birthdate: June 9, 1917
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt
Died: October 1, 2012

 49 
Archibald Gracie IV
(Historian, Writer, Investor)

Archibald Gracie IV
4
Birthdate: January 15, 1858
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States
Died: December 4, 1912

Best known as the author of The Truth About The Titanic (currently Titanic: A Survivor's Story), Archibald Gracie IV was one of the few who survived the sinking of RMS Titanic. Beginning his career as colonel of the 7th New York Militia, he later became a real estate agent, concurrently carrying out researches on history, particularly the Battle of Chickamauga.

 50 
Steven Runciman
(Historian)

Steven Runciman
3
Birthdate: July 7, 1903
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Northumberland, England
Died: November 1, 2000