When I grow up, I want to be like the recently-deceased historian John Lukacs, who has often been labeled an “iconoclast” (i.e. someone who destroys icons and sacred cows). I think John Willson’s description fits him perfectly:
“John Lukacs is well known not so much for speaking truth to power as speaking truth to audiences he senses have settled into safe and unexamined opinions.”
No better example was when Rudi Giuliani compared the spirit and endurance of 9/11 New Yorkers to 1940s-era Londoners, which the irritated historian called nonsense — he thought (with plenty of justification) that the Blitzed Londoners had had it far worse than New Yorkers.
In addition to all that, Lukacs was an unashamed fan of BritPM Sir Winston Churchill, which is yet another reason to respect him. When pomo historians attempted to downplay Churchill’s wartime achievements, Lukacs shot them down like RAF Spitfires did Nazi Heinkels.
We need more historians like John Lukacs: many, many more. For those who want to read his stuff, I can absolutely recommend two works in particular: Five Days In London and The Legacy of World War II. I’ve read his Budapest: 1900 three times.
Lukacs was 95 when he died, so I have thirty years’ work to do, and I’m going to set myself a goal of reading a “new” Lukacs book (i.e. ones I haven’t already read) every six months.