Born in London and educated at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Mr. Curtis earned his doctorate at Cornell University before settling in Princeton in 1963 when he was appointed to a teaching position at Rutgers University, where he is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus in political science.
As well as writing on the Middle East, he is renowned for work that looks at the origins of the political Right in modern France, and France’s complicated role in the Holocaust during the Vichy regime and the Nazi occupation in World War II.
His contributions to the study of the history of French political thought and 20th century French politics began with the first book he wrote after coming to the United States. Three Against the Third Republic is considered the definitive study of early 20th century French politics and the rise of the Right after the Dreyfus affair. Published by Princeton University Press in 1959, it was recently re-issued by Transaction Press with a new introduction by the author.
Mr. Curtis’s Verdict on Vichy (2002) was named one of the best books of the year by England’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Known in Princeton for his love and knowledge of jazz, Mr. Curtis is recognized internationally as an activist as well as a scholar. For many years, he was the president of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East and editor of the Middle East Review.
Although the subject of Mr. Curtis’s library talk is a serious one, that it takes place on his 90th birthday is surely a cause for celebration. After his presentation, Mr. Curtis will be feted with a toast and birthday cake for all. “Michael is amazing,” said his wife Judith K. Brodsky, Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of Visual Arts at Rutgers University. “He has written so many books that we’ve lost count. His passion for his subjects keeps him intellectually vital. Everyone thinks he’s about 65.”
A recent count of the long-time Princeton resident’s books, shows him to be the author of more than 35 titles, including textbooks that have influenced and informed thousands of college students here and abroad. His textbook on the great political philosophers published in the 1960s is still in print and used throughout the United States.