David Nasaw (born July 18, 1945 in Cortland, New York) is an American author, biographer and historian who specializes in the cultural and social history of early 20th Century America. Nasaw is on the faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History.
In addition to writing numerous scholarly and popular books, he has written for publications such as the Columbia Journalism Review, American Historical Review, American Heritage, Dissent, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The London Review of Books, and Condé Nast Traveler.
Nasaw has appeared in several documentaries, including The American Experience, 1996, and two episodes of the History Channel‘s April 2006 miniseries 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America: “The Homestead Strike” and “The Assassination of President McKinley“. He is cited extensively in the US and British media as an expert on the history of popular entertainment and the news media, and as a critic of American philanthropy.
Books in order of publication:
- Starting Your Own High School, editor (Random House, 1972).
- Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in United States (Oxford University Press, 1979, 1980).
- Children of the City: At Work and at Play (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985; Oxford University Press, 1986).
- Course of United States History: To 1877, Vol. 1, ed. (Thomson Wadsworth, 1987)
- Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements (Basic Books, 1993)
Going Out “unearths fascinating details about everything from the early history of the movies to pre-World War I dance crazes,” wrote critic Jackson Lears in the New York Times. Nasaw “raises fundamental questions about the web of connections joining commercial play, public space and cultural cohesion,” he wrote.
- The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst (Houghton Mifflin, 2000)
Nasaw’s 2000 biography of the American newspaper baron was praised as “an absorbing and ingeniously organized biography… of the most powerful publisher America has ever known”, and for “immediacy that almost makes the reader forget that the author himself was not there as the story unfolded”. In 2001, The Chief won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Bancroft Prize for American history. It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Andrew Carnegie (Penguin Press, 2006)
Nasaw’s 2006 biography of the American steel mogul, was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for biography. A reviewer praised Nasaw for “bringing to life the fascinating world of business moguls, statesmen, journalists and intellectuals in which Carnegie moved.” Praising Nasaw’s “keen all-rounder’s eye”, Christopher Hitchens wrote: “The great strength of this immense biography is the way in which David Nasaw causes these tributaries — capitalism, radicalism, and educational aspiration — to converge like the three rivers (the Allegheny, the Ohio, and the Monongahela) whose confluence makes the site of Pittsburgh possible.” The book was among The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of the Year, and among the Favorite Books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, which praised it as “a fresh and thorough assessment.”
- The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Penguin Press, November 2012)
Following the success of Nasaw’s 2000 biography of William Randolph Hearst, Senator Ted Kennedy approached Nasaw to write a biography of his father, Kennedy patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy. Nasaw told the family that as an academic historian, he had no interest in writing an “authorized biography”. “I told him I would undertake this project if I had guarantees to see all the documents at the Kennedy Library and elsewhere, and if I were free to write whatever I wanted, with no censorship or interference of any kind,” Nasaw said. Senator Kennedy said he had read and admired Nasaw’s book on Hearst and believed the historian would make a “fair evaluation of his life and contributions.” The Kennedy family agreed to sit for interviews and to make Joseph Kennedy’s private papers available. After publication, the book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2013.