Stephen Graubard, 96, Journal Editor and Provocative Historian, Dies

“Books, Bricks and Bytes: Libraries in the 21st Century” (1998, coedited with Paul LeClerc), was inspired by the fact that, as Dr. Graubard wrote in the preface, “Libraries are today experiencing a technological revolution that goes well beyond anything that has existed since the invention of printing.” Its essayists, who included James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, examined the transformations underway at libraries both in the United States and abroad.

“Minnesota, Real & Imagined: Essays on the State and Its Culture” (2000) was inspired by conversations he had with European acquaintances who told him that they knew a lot about the East and West Coasts of the United States but not much else.

Dr. Graubard was a frequent essayist himself, weighing in with strong opinions in journals and newspapers, and he was not shy about whom he took on. In a 1988 opinion essay in The New York Times, he challenged remarks made by William J. Bennett, secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan and a prominent conservative voice, who had attacked Stanford University over curriculum changes that Mr. Bennett thought slighted classic texts and traditional courses on Western civilization.

A 2000 book by Dr. Graubard was inspired by conversations he had with European acquaintances who told him that they knew a lot about the East and West Coasts of the United States but not much else.

“The glory of our university system is that curriculum reformations occur regularly,” Dr. Graubard wrote, “that many have taken place in the last half century, that different institutions — all self-governing — have selected different curriculum paths, and that all this has happened without the stentorian interventions of Federal appointees.

“The supreme irony of today’s so-called debate is that if Western civilization can be characterized by a single attribute, it is its historic refusal to remain static, to accept tradition as inviolable.”

Stephen Richards Graubard was born on Dec. 5, 1924, in Brooklyn to Harry and Rose (Opolsky) Graubard. He served in the Army during World War II, then earned a bachelor’s degree at George Washington University in 1945 and a master’s degree the next year at Harvard. While earning his Ph.D. there in 1951, his fellow graduate students included Henry A. Kissinger; in 1973 he would make him the subject of a book, “Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind.”

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