Gordon Alexander Craig
– October 30
) was a Scottish-American
historian of German
and of diplomatic history
Craig was born in Glasgow
. In 1925 he emigrated with his family to Toronto
, and then to Jersey City
in New Jersey
. Initially interested in studying the law, Craig switched to History
after hearing the historian Walter "Buzzer" Hall lecture at Princeton University
. In 1935, Craig visited and lived for several months in Germany
, to research a thesis he was writing on the downfall of the Weimar Republic
. Craig's 1935 trip marked the beginning of life-long interest with all things German. Craig did not enjoy the atmosphere of Nazi Germany
, and throughout his life, Craig sought to find the answer to the question of how a people who, in his opinion, had made a disproportionately large contribution to Western civilization
, allowed themselves to became entangled in what Craig saw as the corrupting embrace of Nazism
Education and work
He graduated in History from Princeton University
and was a Rhodes Scholar
at Balliol College, Oxford
, between 1936-1938, and served in the US Marine Corps
as a Captain and in the Office of Strategic Services
during World War II
. In 1941, Craig co-edited with Edward Mead Earle and Felix Gilbert
on the behalf of the American War Department, the book Makers of Modern Strategy; Military Thought From Machiavelli to Hitler
, which was intended to serve as a guide to assist American military leaders with strategic thinking during the war. After 1945, Craig worked as a consultant to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the State Department, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Historical Division of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was professor at Princeton University from 1950-61 and at Stanford University
from 1961-79. In 1956-1957, Craig taught at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
. In addition, Craig often held visiting professorships at the Free University of Berlin
; in 1967, Craig was only the professor there to sign a petition asking for an investigation into charges of police brutality towards protesting students. Craig was Chair of the History Department at Stanford in 1972-1975 and 1978-1979. Between 1975-1985, Craig served as the vice-president of the Comité International des Sciences Historiques. In 1979, Craig became an emeritus professor
and was awarded the title J. E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Humanities
During his time at Stanford, Craig was considered to be a popular and innovative teacher who improved both undergraduate and graduate teaching while remaining well-liked by the students. After his retirement, Craig worked as a book reviewer for the New York Review of Books
. Some of his reviews attracted controversy most notably in 1996 when he praised Daniel Goldhagen
's book Hitler's Willing Executioners
in April of that year and later in September when he argued that David Irving
's work was valuable because of what Craig saw as Irving's Devil's Advocate
role. Craig argued that Irving was usually wrong, but that by promoting what Craig saw as a twisted and wrong-headed view of history with a great deal of elan, Irving forced other historians to fruitfully examine their beliefs about what is known about the Third Reich
Craig was formerly President of the American Historical Association. In 1953, together with his friend Felix Gilbert, Craig edited a prosopography of inter-war diplomats entitled The Diplomats, an important source for diplomatic history in the interwar period. Craig followed this book up with studies on the Prussian Army, the Battle of Königgrätz and many aspects of European and German history. Craig was particularly noted for his contribution to the Oxford History of Modern Europe series entitled Germany, 1866-1945 and its companion volume entitled The Germans. The latter was a wide-ranging cultural history that explored aspects of being German in regards to and German attitudes towards such fields as German-Jewish relations, money, students, women, democracy, and so forth. The book was a best-seller in both the United States and Germany and Craig was awarded the Pour le Mérite medal for his book. Increasing interested in cultural history in his later years, Craig subsequently wrote studies of several German writers, most notably Theodor Fontane. In his later years, Craig emerged as a celebrity in the German-speaking world and frequently appeared as a guest on German television talk shows. By his later years, Craig was widely regarded as the doyen of American historians of Germany, and his opinions carried much weight.
Craig died of a heart attack in 2005, and is survived by his widow Phyllis and three children.
Craig saw modern German history as being a struggle between positive as exemplified by the values of humanist intellectuals and negative forces in German life as exemplified by Nazism. In a more broader sense, Craig viewed this conflict as being between enlightened spirit and authoritarian power. Craig was highly critical of those who saw Nazism
as the culmination of German national character while at the same time criticizing those argued that Nazi Germany was just a Betriebsunfall
(industrial accident) of history. Craig felt that the particular way Otto von Bismarck
created the German Empire
in 1871 was a tragedy as it entrenched the forces of authoritarianism
in German life. Likewise, Craig viewed the autonomous role of the German Army
as a “State-within-the-State” as highly adverse to the development of democracy
Craig saw history not as a social science, but rather as a “human discipline”. Craig censured those historians who saw their work as social science and frequently called for historians to return to the methods of former times by seeking to “interconnect” history and literature. Craig was noted for his sparse, highly elegant literary style together with a tendency to keep an ironic distance from his subjects. Craig was very fond of German literature, and praised the novels of Theodor Fontane as the best picture of 19th century Germany, which he considered superior to many works by produced by historians. Craig’s last project, uncompleted at the time of his death concerned a survey of novels set in Berlin (which was Craig’s favorite city) in the 20th century.
- co-edited with Edward Mead Earle and Felix Gilbert (1943). Makers of Modern Strategy; Military Thought From Machiavelli to Hitler. (published in revised edition, 1967)
- (1944). The Second Chance: America And The Peace.
- edited with Felix Gilbert (1953). The Diplomats 1919—1939.
- (1955). The Politics of the Prussian Army 1640—1945. (published in revised edition, 1964)
- (1958). From Bismarck to Adenauer: Aspects of German Statecraft.
- (1964). The Battle of Königgrätz: Prussia's Victory Over Austria, 1866. (published in revised edition, 1975)
- (1966). War, Politics, And Diplomacy.
- (1967). World War I, A Turning Point In Modern History: Essays On The Significance Of The War.
- (1972). Europe Since 1914.
- (1974). Europe Since 1815.
- (1978). Germany, 1866-1945. (a volume in the Oxford History of Modern Europe series)
- (1981). The Germans.
- (1984). The End Of Prussia.
- edited with Peter Paret and Felix Gilbert (1986). Makers Of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli To The Nuclear Age.
- (1988). The Triumph Of Liberalism: Zürich In The Golden Age, 1830-1869.
- (1990). Force And Statecraft: Diplomatic Problems Of Our Time.
- (1994). Geneva, Zurich, Basel: History, Culture & National Identity.
- edited with Francis L. Loewenheim (1994). The Diplomats, 1939-1979.
- (1995). The Politics Of The Unpolitical: German Writers And The Problem Of Power, 1770-1871.
- (1999). Politics And Culture In Modern Germany.
- (1999). Theodor Fontane: Literature and History in the Bismarck Reich.