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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 2000 – 2020

David Christian
# 1
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
# 2
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.

Howard Zinn
# 3
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.

Eric Hobsbawm
# 4
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".

Jared Diamond
# 5
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.

Simon Schama
# 6
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.

Henry Reynolds
# 7
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.

Bernard Lewis
# 8
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.

# 9
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

Eric Foner
# 10
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.

Richard J. Evans
# 11
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.

Yuval Noah Harari
# 12
Yuval Noah Harari

1976 - Present (45 years)

#16545 person's overall influence

Yuval Noah Harari was born in Kiryat Ata, Israel in 1976. He earned his PhD at Jesus College in Oxford, specializing in the study of medieval and military history. Harari’s early works focused on the role of military engagement in human history, but he is best known for his more recent works, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which explore all of human history through a macro-historical lens.

David Irving
# 13
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...

Noam Chomsky
# 14
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.

# 15
Keith Windschuttle

1942 - Present (79 years)

#7287 person's overall influence

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

Anthony Grafton
# 16
Anthony Grafton

1950 - Present (71 years)

#19291 person's overall influence

Anthony Grafton is the Henry Putnam University Professor at Princeton University and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. He earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. He briefly studied at the University College in London before returning to the University of Chicago to earn his Ph.D. in history.

Antony Beevor
# 17
Antony Beevor

1946 - Present (75 years)

#5667 person's overall influence

Sir Antony Beevor was born in London, England in 1946. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before spending four years in the British Army. He is best known for his work as a military historian. His books have been translated into more than 30 different languages and are critically acclaimed. His book, Stalingrad, was the recipient of the Wolfson History Prize, the Hawthornden Prize for Literature, and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

David McCullough
# 18
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.

# 19
Tom Holland

1968 - Present (53 years)

#11628 person's overall influence

Thomas "Tom" Holland is an English author who has published best-selling books on topics including classical and medieval history and the origins of Islam. In addition to his writing, he has worked with the BBC to create and host historical television documentaries, and presents the radio series Making History.

Dan Snow
# 20
Dan Snow

1978 - Present (43 years)

#52708 person's overall influence

Daniel Robert Snow is a British popular historian and television presenter.

Timothy Snyder
# 21
Timothy Snyder

1969 - Present (52 years)

#13516 person's overall influence

Timothy David Snyder was born in Ohio in 1969. He received a B.A. in history and political science from Brown University and was awarded a Ph.D in Modern History from the University of Oxford.

# 22
Cynthia Stokes Brown

1938 - Present (83 years)

#42554 person's overall influence

Cynthia Stokes Brown was an American educator-historian.

Dipesh Chakrabarty
# 23
Dipesh Chakrabarty

1948 - Present (73 years)

#8895 person's overall influence

Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He earned an undergraduate degree in physics from Presidency College at the University of Calcutta. He earned an MBA from Indian Instituter of Management in Calcutta and a Ph.D. in history from the Australian National University.

Victor Davis Hanson
# 24
Victor Davis Hanson

1953 - Present (68 years)

#15191 person's overall influence

Victor Davis Hanson is an American classicist, military historian, columnist, and farmer. He has been a commentator on modern and ancient warfare and contemporary politics for National Review, The Washington Times and other media outlets. He is a professor emeritus of Classics at California State University, Fresno, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in classics and military history at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and visiting professor at Hillsdale College. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and was a presidential appoi...

Gerda Lerner
# 25
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.

Romila Thapar
# 26
Romila Thapar

1931 - Present (90 years)

#8763 person's overall influence

Romila Thapar is an emerita professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature at Panjab University, and a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in Indian history from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

Deborah Lipstadt
# 27
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.

# 28
Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

1943 - Present (78 years)

#36157 person's overall influence

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall is an American historian, and Julia Cherry Spruill Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her scholarship and teaching forwarded the emergence of U.S. women’s history in the 1960s and 1970s and helped to inspire new research on Southern labor history and the long civil rights movement. She is the author of Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World , and Sisters and Rebels: The Struggle for the Soul of America. She was awarded the National Humanities Meda...

# 29
Walter Pohl

1953 - Present (68 years)

#24258 person's overall influence

Walter Pohl is an Austrian historian who is Professor of Auxiliary Sciences of History and Medieval History at the University of Vienna. He is a leading member of the Vienna School of History

# 30
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.

# 31
Alun Howkins

1947 - 2018 (71 years)

#78250 person's overall influence

Alun Howkins was an English social historian, specialising in the history of English rural society. Regarded as a leading historian of the English countryside and its working class, Howkins was a professor of history at the University of Sussex and co-founder of the journal Rural History.

Umberto Eco
# 32
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.

James M. McPherson
# 33
James M. McPherson

1936 - Present (85 years)

#11604 person's overall influence

James McPherson was born in Valley City, North Dakota in 1936. He earned a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College and a PhD at Johns Hopkins University. Winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for his book, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, he is an esteemed Civil War historian and scholar.

# 34
Herwig Wolfram

1934 - Present (87 years)

#18296 person's overall influence

Herwig Wolfram is an Austrian historian. He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Vienna, and the former Director of the Austrian Institute for Historical Research He is a leading member of the Vienna School of History. Wolfram is considered one of the foremost experts on the history of the Germanic tribes and his works on the Goths and the Germanic peoples are widely cited by historians across the globe.

# 35
Thomas L. Thompson

1939 - Present (82 years)

#9114 person's overall influence

Thomas L. Thompson is an American-born Danish biblical scholar and theologian. He was professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1993 to 2009, and he lives in Denmark.

Jan T. Gross
# 36
Jan T. Gross

1947 - Present (74 years)

#17601 person's overall influence

Jan T. Gross is the Norman B. Tomlinson Professor of War and Society and Professor of History for Princeton University. After studying physics at the University of Warsaw, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University.

Richard Bushman
# 37
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.

Griselda Pollock
# 38
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).

Simon Sebag Montefiore
# 39
Simon Sebag Montefiore

1965 - Present (56 years)

#27851 person's overall influence

Simon Jonathan Sebag Montefiore is a British historian, television presenter and author of popular history books and novels.

Susan Stryker
# 40
Susan Stryker

1961 - Present (60 years)

#18841 person's overall influence

Susan O'Neal Stryker is an American professor, author, filmmaker, and theorist whose work focuses on gender and human sexuality. She is Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, former director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, and founder of the Transgender Studies Initiative at the University of Arizona, and is currently on leave while holding an appointment as Visiting Professor of Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University . Stryker also serves on the Advisory Council of METI . She is the author of several books about LGBT history and culture.

# 41
Alessandro Portelli

1942 - Present (79 years)

#42714 person's overall influence

Alessandro Portelli is an Italian scholar of American literature and culture, oral historian, writer for the daily newspaper il manifesto, and musicologist. He is a professor of Anglo-American literature at the University of Rome La Sapienza. In the United States he is best known for his oral history work, which has compared workers' accounts of industrial conflicts in Harlan County, Kentucky and Terni, Italy. In 2014-15, he was a visiting professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University, co-teaching a course on Bruce Springsteen's America.

William Dalrymple
# 42
William Dalrymple

1965 - Present (56 years)

#4894 person's overall influence

William Dalrymple is a prolific writer and historian, and the OP Jindal Distinguished Lecturer at Brown University. He attended school at Ampleforth College and Trinity College at Cambridge. Dalrymple still spends part of each year at his home in India.

# 43
William R. Forstchen

1950 - Present (71 years)

#18893 person's overall influence

William R. Forstchen is an American historian and author who began publishing in 1978 as a contributor to Boys' Life. He is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University, studying under the historian Professor Gunther E. Rothenberg, with specializations in Military History, the American Civil War, and the History of Technology.

Max Hastings
# 44
Max Hastings

1945 - Present (76 years)

#7829 person's overall influence

Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings is a British journalist and military historian, who has worked as a foreign correspondent for the BBC, editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph, and editor of the Evening Standard. He is also the author of numerous books, chiefly on defence matters, which have won several major awards.

Norman Davies
# 45
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.

# 46
Lyndall Ryan

1943 - Present (78 years)

#41840 person's overall influence

Lyndall Ryan was born in Paddington, New South Wales, Australia in 1943. She earned her B.A. at the University of Sydney and completed her Ph.D at Macquarie University.

Norman Finkelstein
# 47
Norman Finkelstein

1953 - Present (68 years)

#4810 person's overall influence

Norman Gary Finkelstein is an activist, author, professor and political science, specializing in the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Holocaust. He earned a B.A. at Binghamton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University. Both of Finkelstein’s parents survived the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust, as well as a series of concentration and labor camps.

Orlando Figes
# 48
Orlando Figes

1959 - Present (62 years)

#42881 person's overall influence

Orlando Figes is a historian and writer who is professor of history at Birkbeck College at the University of London. He earned a double-starred first in history from Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Trinity College at Cambridge.

# 49
Gertrude Himmelfarb

1922 - 2019 (97 years)

#6347 person's overall influence

Gertrude Himmelfarb (aka Bea Kristol) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922. She graduated with an undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

# 50
John Van Seters

1935 - Present (86 years)

#7233 person's overall influence

John Van Seters is a Canadian scholar of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Currently University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, he was formerly James A. Gray Professor of Biblical Literature at UNC. He took his PhD at Yale University in Near Eastern Studies and a ThD h.c. from the University of Lausanne . His honours and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEH fellowship, an ACLS Fellowship, and research fellowships at Oxford, Cambridge, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and National Research Foundation of South Africa. His many publicati...