This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Lukacs. In a career spanning more than six decades, he has taught and inspired generations of historians and shaped the way we study and interpret history. His work ranges from political and diplomatic history to treatises on the philosophy of history, the role of the historian, and the limits of knowledge, all of which have had a significant impact on post–WWII American intellectual conservatism.
The oeuvre of Lukacs, who described himself as a “reactionary” rather than a conservative, offers intriguing glimpses into an intellectual environment where it becomes clear that advocating conservative values is not synonymous with some kind of sentimental philosophising but with a public affinity that is able to reconcile value-based and realpolitik considerations while bearing in mind the long-term interests of society.
This way of thinking connected him with political actors such as George F. Kennan, with whom he corresponded for decades and maintained a deep friendship that was characterised by a kind of ‘Wahlverwandtschaft’. Lukacs’ letters, penned in a literary style and with academic rigour, and Kennan’s replies, imbued with and moulded by his genuine political understanding and knowledge, provide an insight into a quite extraordinary relationship and constitute an excellent source for historians and other scholars dealing with the Cold War period.
However, his conviction and intellectual independence drove the legendary professor at Chestnut Hill College more towards thinkers like Russell Kirk and the academic circle around him. The decades-long professional and personal tie between Lukacs and the ‘Wizard of Mecosta’ is a particularly important and interesting point of reference for understanding the American conservative renaissance.
Otto von Habsburg entered this political-intellectual scene in a rather unique way, as he not only bridged the gap between Anglo-Saxon and continental European conservative thought but was even able to establish links between the key actors of the political right and intellectual conservatism. His correspondence with the protagonists of this conference, i.e., Kennan, Kirk, and Lukacs, also provides an instructive historical record for the study of Cold War conservatism.
The conference seeks to explore how Lukacs and the intellectual and public figures who surrounded him influenced American (and European) thinking about history and politics, as well as academic research on the Cold War, and how their work might serve as an inspiration for contemporary political thought and practice. On the occasion of the anniversary, the Institute for Strategic Studies, which has been preserving the legacy of the history professor in Budapest, will continue its activities under the new institute named after John Lukacs. During the conference, a lounge furnished with the personal belongings of John Lukacs will be open to the public.
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We are looking forward to welcoming you!