Gordon A. Craig, 91, considered America's dean of German historians and a respected professor at Stanford University, died Oct. 30 at the Sequoias, a nursing facility in Portola Valley, Calif. He had a heart ailment.
Dr. Craig, perhaps best known for his books "Germany" and "The Germans," was a prolific writer. The author of a dozen books on Germany and the editor of many more, he concentrated on writing after retiring from Stanford and became a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books. He was consulted by politicians and the news media on changes in modern Germany, including the nation's reunification in 1990.
In reviewing Dr. Craig's "Germany: 1866-1945" for The Washington Post in 1979, University of California at Los Angeles history professor Peter Loewenberg said the book carried forward the "study of the integral relationship between military and political affairs and the fabric of German society that has been the hallmark and essential contribution of Craig's work."
Loewenberg praised Dr. Craig's "deft and intelligent handling" of historical material and concluded, "Altogether this is the best contemporary statement of modern German history in the classical mode."
When "The Germans," something of a companion volume about the character of its people, was published in 1982, it garnered Dr. Craig a nomination for the American Book Award in history. British historian and author Gerry Graber, in reviewing the book for the Los Angeles Times, wrote of Dr. Craig:
"His special gift is to ask a question, select a theme from German history that is likely to supply the answer and lead the reader through labyrinthine erudition without producing a dry-as-dust result.
"I believe this book comes within the province of popular history and, for my money, is an outstanding, good example of it," he continued. "There is wit, urbanity and imagination as well as scholarship."
Among Dr. Craig's other books were "The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640-1945," published in 1955; "From Bismarck to Adenauer: Aspects of German Statecraft," in 1958; "Europe Since 1815" in 1961; "War, Politics and Diplomacy" in 1966; and "The Politics of the Unpolitical: German Writers and the Problem of Power, 1770-1871" in 1995. Among major books he edited were two with Felix Gilbert, "The Diplomats, 1919-1939," published in 1953, and "The Diplomats, 1939-1979," published in 1994.
Gordon Alexander Craig, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, moved to Canada and then to the United States as a child and received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Princeton University. He also was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University in England.
During his college days shortly before World War II, he traveled widely in Germany and was appalled at what he considered abuses of culture as well as human rights.
The scholar was a political analyst for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. He worked for the State Department during World War II and was an officer in the Marine Corps.
He taught briefly at Yale and for 20 years at Princeton before joining Stanford in 1961. He chaired Stanford's history department from 1972 to 1975 and again from 1978 until his retirement in 1979. He was president of the American Historical Association in 1981.
Survivors include his wife of 66 years, Phyllis Craig; four children; a sister; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.