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Who are the most influential thinkers in world?

Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!

Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

About our data on gender

List of the most influential people in History, for the years 1970 – 2020

Richard J. Evans
# 1
Richard J. Evans

1947 - Present (74 years)

#1797 person's overall influence

Richard J. Evans is the Provost of Gresham College and a highly regarded historian. He earned an M.A. from Jesus College at Oxford and a D.Phil. from St. Antony’s College at Oxford.

Eric Hobsbawm
# 2
Eric Hobsbawm

1917 - 2012 (95 years)

#1395 person's overall influence

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm was a British historian of the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism and nationalism. A life-long Marxist, his socio-political convictions influenced the character of his work. His best-known works include his trilogy about what he called the "long 19th century" , The Age of Extremes on the short 20th century, and an edited volume that introduced the influential idea of "invented traditions".

# 3
Ernst Nolte

1923 - 2016 (93 years)

#3518 person's overall influence

Ernst Nolte was a German historian and philosopher. Nolte's major interest was the comparative studies of fascism and communism . Originally trained in philosophy, he was professor emeritus of modern history at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 until his 1991 retirement. He was previously a professor at the University of Marburg from 1965 to 1973. He was best known for his seminal work Fascism in Its Epoch, which received widespread acclaim when it was published in 1963. Nolte was a prominent conservative academic from the early 1960s and was involved in many controvers

Michel Foucault
# 4
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#26 person's overall influence

Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

# 5
Klaus Hildebrand

1941 - Present (80 years)

#5776 person's overall influence

Klaus Hildebrand is a German liberal-conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th–20th-century German political and military history.

Hans-Ulrich Wehler
# 6
Hans-Ulrich Wehler

1931 - 2014 (83 years)

#5198 person's overall influence

Hans-Ulrich Wehler was a German left-liberal historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th-century Germany.

# 7
Geoffrey Blainey

1930 - Present (91 years)

#1766 person's overall influence

Geoffrey Norman Blainey is an Australian historian, academic, best selling author and commentator with a wide international audience. He is noted for having written authoritative texts on the economic and social history of Australia, including The Tyranny of Distance. He has published over 40 books, including wide-ranging histories of the world and of Christianity. He has often appeared in newspapers and on television. He held chairs in economic history and history at the University of Melbourne for over 20 years. In the 1980s, he was visiting professor of Australian Studies at Harvard Univ

Ian Kershaw
# 8
Ian Kershaw

1943 - Present (78 years)

#3476 person's overall influence

Sir Ian Kershaw is an English historian and author whose work has chiefly focused on the social history of 20th-century Germany. He is regarded by many as one of the world's leading experts on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and is particularly noted for his biographies of Hitler.

Jürgen Kocka
# 9
Jürgen Kocka

1941 - Present (80 years)

#11960 person's overall influence

Jürgen Kocka is a German historian.

# 10
Andreas Hillgruber

1925 - 1989 (64 years)

#4186 person's overall influence

Andreas Fritz Hillgruber was a conservative German historian who was influential as a military and diplomatic historian who played a leading role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s.

Stephen Jay Gould
# 11
Stephen Jay Gould

1941 - 2002 (61 years)

#29 person's overall influence

Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

Howard Zinn
# 12
Howard Zinn

1922 - 2010 (88 years)

#1573 person's overall influence

Howard Zinn was an American historian, playwright, and socialist thinker. He was chair of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, and a political science professor at Boston University. Zinn wrote over 20 books, including his best-selling and influential A People's History of the United States. In 2007, he published a version of it for younger readers, A Young People's History of the United States.

Bernard Lewis
# 13
Bernard Lewis

1916 - 2018 (102 years)

#912 person's overall influence

Bernard Lewis, was a British American historian specialized in Oriental studies. He was also known as a public intellectual and political commentator. Lewis was the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Lewis' expertise was in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West.

Joachim Fest
# 14
Joachim Fest

1926 - 2006 (80 years)

#4267 person's overall influence

Joachim Clemens Fest was a German journalist, critic, and editor best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including a biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer and German resistance to Nazism. He was a leading figure in the debate among German historians about the Nazi period.

Jared Diamond
# 15
Jared Diamond

1937 - Present (84 years)

#768 person's overall influence

Jared Mason Diamond is an American geographer, historian, anthropologist, ornithologist, and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee ; Guns, Germs, and Steel ; Collapse , The World Until Yesterday , and Upheaval . Originally trained in biochemistry and physiology, Diamond is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology. He is a professor of geography at UCLA.

# 16
Michael Stürmer

1938 - Present (83 years)

#7186 person's overall influence

Michael Stürmer is a right-wing German historian arguably best known for his role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s, for his geographical interpretation of German history and for an admiring 2008 biography of the Russian politician Vladimir Putin.

David Christian
# 17
David Christian

1946 - Present (75 years)

#8982 person's overall influence

David Gilbert Christian was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1946. He completed his B.A. degree at Oxford University before earning his M.A. in Russian history from the University of Western Ontario, and eventually culminating his studies with a Ph.D in 19th Century Russian History from Oxford University.

Niall Ferguson
# 18
Niall Ferguson

1964 - Present (57 years)

#2313 person's overall influence

Niall Ferguson was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1964 and attended The Glasgow Academy. He received a demyship from Magdalen College in Oxford and graduated with his Doctor of Philosophy in 1989. He has credited his family for instilling within him a love for writing and critical thought. His reading of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace at the age of 15 inspired him to make his career studying history.

E. P. Thompson
# 19
E. P. Thompson

1924 - 1993 (69 years)

#2117 person's overall influence

Edward Palmer Thompson was a British historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner. He is probably best known today for his historical work on the British radical movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in particular The Making of the English Working Class .

Henry Reynolds
# 20
Henry Reynolds

1938 - Present (83 years)

#8772 person's overall influence

Henry Reynolds is a historian and researcher who specialized in the study of European Australian and Indigenous Australian conflicts. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Tasmania and a Ph.D. from James Cook University.

Hans Mommsen
# 21
Hans Mommsen

1930 - 2015 (85 years)

#4425 person's overall influence

Hans Mommsen was a German historian, known for his studies in German social history, and for his functionalist interpretation of the Third Reich, especially for arguing that Adolf Hitler was a weak dictator. He was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Deborah Lipstadt
# 22
Deborah Lipstadt

1947 - Present (74 years)

#4527 person's overall influence

Deborah Esther Lipstadt is an American historian, best known as author of the books Denying the Holocaust , History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier , The Eichmann Trial , and Antisemitism: Here and Now . Since 1993 she has been the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

# 23
Keith Windschuttle

1942 - Present (79 years)

#7287 person's overall influence

Keith Windschuttle is an Australian writer, historian, and former ABC board member.

Eric Foner
# 24
Eric Foner

1943 - Present (78 years)

#3538 person's overall influence

Eric Foner was born in New York City in 1943. After initially beginning his studies at Columbia University in pursuit of a B.A. in physics, he changed majors and eventually graduated with a B.A. in history. He earned his Ph.D from Columbia University in 1969.

David Irving
# 25
David Irving

1938 - Present (83 years)

#1714 person's overall influence

David John Cawdell Irving is an English author and Holocaust denier who has written on the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany. His works include The Destruction of Dresden , Hitler's War , Churchill's War and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich . In his works, he argued that Adolf Hitler did not know of the extermination of Jews, or, if he did, he opposed it. Though Irving's negationist claims and views of German atrocities in World War II were never taken seriously by mainstream historians, he was once recognised for his knowledge of Nazi Germ...

# 26
Raphael Samuel

1934 - 1996 (62 years)

#19439 person's overall influence

Raphael Elkan Samuel was a British Marxist historian, described by Stuart Hall as "one of the most outstanding, original intellectuals of his generation". He was professor of history at the University of East London at the time of his death and also taught at Ruskin College from 1962 until his death.

Umberto Eco
# 27
Umberto Eco

1932 - 2016 (84 years)

#330 person's overall influence

Umberto Eco was an Italian medievalist, philosopher, semiotician, cultural critic, political and social commentator, and novelist. In English, he is best known for his popular 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, a historical mystery combining semiotics in fiction with biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory, and Foucault's Pendulum, his 1988 novel which touches on similar themes.

Eberhard Jäckel
# 28
Eberhard Jäckel

1929 - 2017 (88 years)

#7871 person's overall influence

Eberhard Jäckel was a Social Democratic German historian, noted for his studies of Adolf Hitler's role in German history. Jäckel sees Hitler as being the historical equivalent to the Chernobyl disaster.

# 29
Martin Broszat

1926 - 1989 (63 years)

#5976 person's overall influence

Martin Broszat was a German historian specializing in modern German social history. As director of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich from 1972 until his death, he became known as one of the world's most eminent scholars of Nazi Germany.

Simon Schama
# 30
Simon Schama

1945 - Present (76 years)

#5512 person's overall influence

Sir Simon Michael Schama was born in Marylebone, London in 1945. He is best known as the host of a BBC series titled, A History of Britain, which aired from 2000 to 2002. He is a prolific author of nearly 20 books and is currently a Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University.

Norman Davies
# 31
Norman Davies

1939 - Present (82 years)

#5157 person's overall influence

Norman Davies is UNESCO Professor at Jagiellonian University, professor emeritus at University College London and a historian. He earned a B.A. in history from Magdalen College at Oxford University, an M.A. at the University of Sussex, and a Ph.D. at Jagiellonian University.

Hagen Schulze
# 32
Hagen Schulze

1943 - 2014 (71 years)

#13209 person's overall influence

Hagen Schulze was a German historian who held a position at the Free University of Berlin. He specialized in early modern and modern German and European history, particularly in comparative European nationalisms.

Gerda Lerner
# 33
Gerda Lerner

1920 - 2013 (93 years)

#6145 person's overall influence

Gerda Hedwig Lerner was an Austrian-born American historian and woman's history author. In addition to her numerous scholarly publications, she wrote poetry, fiction, theater pieces, screenplays, and an autobiography. She served as president of the Organization of American Historians from 1980 to 1981. In 1980, she was appointed Robinson Edwards Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she taught until retiring in 1991.

Leonard J. Arrington
# 34
Leonard J. Arrington

1917 - 1999 (82 years)

#6703 person's overall influence

Leonard James Arrington was an American author, academic and the founder of the Mormon History Association. He is known as the "Dean of Mormon History" and "the Father of Mormon History" because of his many influential contributions to the field. Since 1842, he was the first non-general authority Church Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , from 1972 to 1982, and was director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History from 1982 until 1986.

Richard Bushman
# 35
Richard Bushman

1931 - Present (90 years)

#6923 person's overall influence

Richard Lyman Bushman is an American historian and academic who serves as the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University. Bushman taught at Brigham Young University, Harvard University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware before joining the history faculty at Columbia. Bushman is the author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, an important biography of Joseph Smith, and he serves as one of three general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers.

# 36
John Lukacs

1924 - 2019 (95 years)

#9664 person's overall influence

John Adalbert Lukacs was a Hungarian-born American historian who wrote more than thirty books, including Five Days in London, May 1940 and A New Republic. He was a professor of history at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia from 1947 to 1994 and chaired that department from 1947 to 1974. He served as a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Princeton University, La Salle University, Regent College in British Columbia and the University of Budapest and Hanover College. Lukacs was Roman Catholic. Lukacs described himself as a reactionary.

Lyon Sprague de Camp
# 37
Lyon Sprague de Camp

1907 - 2000 (93 years)

#969 person's overall influence

Lyon Sprague de Camp , better known as L. Sprague de Camp, was an American writer of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction. In a career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and works of non-fiction, including biographies of other fantasy authors. He was a major figure in science fiction in the 1930s and 1940s.

Fernand Braudel
# 38
Fernand Braudel

1902 - 1985 (83 years)

#1228 person's overall influence

Fernand Braudel was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects: The Mediterranean , Civilization and Capitalism , and the unfinished Identity of France . His reputation stems in part from his writings, but even more from his success in making the Annales School the most important engine of historical research in France and much of the world after 1950. As the dominant leader of the Annales School of historiography in the 1950s and 1960s, he exerted enormous influence on historical writing in France and other countries. He was a stude...

Noam Chomsky
# 39
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (93 years)

#40 person's overall influence

Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at MIT as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

# 40
Timothy Mason

1940 - 1990 (50 years)

#15402 person's overall influence

Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany. He was one of the founders of the History Workshop Journal and specialised in the social history of modern Germany, especially its working class. He argued for the "primacy of politics" and believed World War II had been caused by an economic crisis inside Germany.

Peter Gay
# 41
Peter Gay

1923 - 2015 (92 years)

#4389 person's overall influence

Peter Joachim Gay was a German-American historian, educator, and author. He was Sterling Professor of History at Yale University and former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers . Gay received the American Historical Association's Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2004. He authored over 25 books, including The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, a two-volume award winner; Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider , a bestseller; and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time .

# 42
Detlev Peukert

1950 - 1990 (40 years)

#26485 person's overall influence

Detlev Peukert was a German historian, noted for his studies of the relationship between what he called the "spirit of science" and the Holocaust and in social history and the Weimar Republic. Peukert taught modern history at the University of Essen and served as director of the Research Institute for the History of the Nazi Period. Peukert was a member of the German Communist Party until 1978, when he joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany. A politically engaged historian, Peukert was known for his unconventional take on modern German history, and in an obituary, the British historian...

# 43
David Montgomery

1927 - 2011 (84 years)

#22543 person's overall influence

David Montgomery was a Farnam Professor of History at Yale University. Montgomery was considered one of the foremost academics specializing in United States labor history and wrote extensively on the subject. He is credited, along with David Brody and Herbert Gutman, with founding the field of "new labor history" in the U.S.

# 44
Ronald Hutton

1953 - Present (68 years)

#599 person's overall influence

Ronald Edmund Hutton is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and Contemporary Paganism. He is a professor at the University of Bristol, has written 14 books and has appeared on British television and radio. He held a fellowship at Magdalen College, Oxford, and is a Commissioner of English Heritage.

Griselda Pollock
# 45
Griselda Pollock

1949 - Present (72 years)

#11860 person's overall influence

Griselda Pollock is professor of social and critical histories of art at the University of Leeds and is regarded as one of the most influential scholars of feminist theory, gender studies, and modern, avant-garde, postmodern and contemporary art. She studied at Oxford University (modern history) and Courtauld Institute of Art (history of European art).

# 46
Wolfgang Mommsen

1930 - 2004 (74 years)

#12972 person's overall influence

Wolfgang Justin Mommsen was a German historian. He was the twin brother of historian Hans Mommsen.

# 47
Karl Dietrich Bracher

1922 - 2016 (94 years)

#8173 person's overall influence

Karl Dietrich Bracher was a German political scientist and historian of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Born in Stuttgart, Bracher was awarded a Ph.D. in the classics by the University of Tübingen in 1948 and subsequently studied at Harvard University from 1949 to 1950. During World War II, he served in the Wehrmacht and was captured by the Americans while serving in Tunisia in 1943. Bracher taught at the Free University of Berlin from 1950 to 1958 and at the University of Bonn since 1959. In 1951 Bracher married Dorothee Schleicher, the niece of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They had two child...

# 48
D. Michael Quinn

1944 - Present (77 years)

#14081 person's overall influence

Dennis Michael Quinn is an American historian who has focused on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . He was a professor at Brigham Young University from 1976 until he resigned in 1988. At the time, his work concerned church involvement with plural marriage after the 1890 Manifesto, when new polygamous marriages were officially prohibited. He was excommunicated from the church as one of the September Six and is now openly gay.

David McCullough
# 49
David McCullough

1933 - Present (88 years)

#4526 person's overall influence

David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, popular historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award.

# 50
Walter Goffart

1934 - Present (87 years)

#20999 person's overall influence

Walter André Goffart , is an American historian who specializes in Late Antiquity. He taught for many years in the History Department and Centre for Medieval Studies of the University of Toronto , and is currently a senior research scholar at Yale University. Goffart specializes in the study of Roman fiscal policy and the interpretation of medieval texts, and is well known for his theories on Germanic peoples and the fall of the Western Roman Empire. He is the leader of the Toronto School of History.