"I have developed a very strong partiality for the dead: they don't talk back, they don't sue, and they don't have angry relatives." — Ron Chernow
“Ron Chernow ranks as one of today’s best writers of history and biography.” — Raymond J. Keating, Newsday
“The best, most comprehensive, and most balanced single-volume biography of Washington ever written.” — The New York Review of Books on Washington: A Life
“Rarely does a biographer uncover so much new information about a long-dead, much-chronicled individual. Rarely does a biographer fill in the gaps with such incisive, justified speculation. Rarely does a biographer write narrative so well.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Chernow will speak on his forthcoming biography, Grant – a portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant – to be published in 2017.
The following Q&A discussion will be moderated by Margaret O'Mara, Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington. See full bio below.
Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times-bestselling historical biography, Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow has continued to be one of America’s most distinguished commentators on politics, business, and finance. Chernow was also the historical adviser to the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Hamilton, inspired by his bestselling biography of the same title, which the New York Times called “moving and masterly…by far the best biography ever written about the man.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has hailed Chernow as “one of the pre-eminent biographers of his generation” and, as a 2015 National Humanities Medal recipient, he has been praised by the National Endowment for the Humanities for “bringing our Nation’s story to life. Through his examination of America’s successful giants and titans, [Chernow] invites his readers to discover their failures and foibles, uncovering enduring lessons that inform our modern era.”
Chernow’s first book, The House of Morgan, about the trajectory of the J.P. Morgan empire, won the National Book Award as the best nonfiction book of 1990 and is considered a modern classic. His second book, The Warburgs, won the prestigious George S. Eccles Prize for the best business book of 1993 and was cited by the American Library Association as one of the year’s ten best works. In reviewing his 1997 collection of essays, The Death of the Banker, the New York Times called Mr. Chernow “as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we’ve seen in decades.” His 1998 biography of John D. Rockefeller, entitled Titan, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for sixteen weeks. Both the Times and TIME magazine voted it one of the ten best books of the year, while The Times of London praised it as “one of the great American biographies.”
Since 2009, Chernow has been the historical consultant for Lin-Manuel Miranda on the acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton. In May 2015, as a member of the show’s creative team, Chernow was a recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.
A frequent contributor to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Chernow is a familiar figure on national radio and television shows, and has appeared in numerous documentaries. He has served as president of PEN American Center, the country’s pre-eminent organization of authors. He also sits on the executive board of the Society of American Historians and is a fellow of the New York Academy of History. He recently joined the board of trustees of Humanity in Action, a global human rights organization that educates and connects young people seeking to become leaders on human and minority rights. In recent years, he has received honorary doctorates from Marymount Manhattan College, Hamilton College, Long Island University, Washington College, Skidmore College, and Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.
Chernow lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (1990)
The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family (1994)
The Death of the Banker: The Decline and Fall of the Great Financial Dynasties and the Triumph of the Small Investor (1997)
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (2004)
Alexander Hamilton (2004)
Washington: A Life (2010)
Grant (forthcoming 2017)
Margaret O’Mara is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, where she writes and teaches about the economic and political history of the modern United States. Professor O’Mara is the author of Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley (Princeton, 2005), which showed how politics and culture shaped the metropolitan geography of high technology, as well as other articles and essays about Silicon Valley and other high-tech regions around the world. Her most recent book, Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century (Penn, 2015), explores the personalities, events, and issues of the presidential elections of 1912, 1932, 1968, and 1992.
O’Mara’s current book project is Silicon Age: High Technology and the Reinvention of the United States (under contract with Penguin Press). Her research has received fellowships and awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Mellon Foundation, and the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities. She is an OAH Distinguished Lecturer and a past fellow of the National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education. O’Mara earned her MA/PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania, and her BA from Northwestern University. Prior to her academic career, she worked in the Clinton White House and served as a contributing researcher at the Brookings Institution.