Victor Davis Hanson
Hanson giving a lecture at Kenyon College in May 2005
Hanson giving a lecture at Kenyon College in May 2005
BornVictor Davis Hanson
(1953-09-05) September 5, 1953 (age 70)
Fowler, California, U.S.
OccupationClassicist, military historian, political commentator
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Cruz (BA)
Stanford University (PhD)
SubjectsMilitary history, ancient warfare, ancient agrarianism, classics, politics
Notable awardsNational Humanities Medal (2007)

Victor Davis Hanson (born September 5, 1953) is an American classicist, military historian, farmer, and political commentator. He has been a commentator on modern and ancient warfare and contemporary politics for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Washington Times, and other media outlets.

He is a professor emeritus of Classics at California State University, Fresno, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in classics and military history at the Hoover Institution, and visiting professor at Hillsdale College. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and was a presidential appointee in 2007–2008 on the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Early life and education

Hanson grew up in Selma, California in the San Joaquin Valley, and has worked there most of his life.[1] He is of Swedish and Welsh ancestry, and his father's cousin, for whom he was named, was killed in the Battle of Okinawa.[2]

Hanson received a B.A. in classics and general Cowell College honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1975, and his PhD in classics from Stanford University in 1980.[1]

Academic career 1985–2004

In 1985 he was hired at California State University, Fresno to launch a classical studies program. In 1991, Hanson was awarded the American Philological Association's Excellence in Teaching Award, given annually to the nation's top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. He was named distinguished alumnus of the year for 2006 at University of California, Santa Cruz.[3] He has been a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University in California (1991–92), a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992–93), awarded an Alexander Onassis traveling fellowship to Greece (1999), as well as Nimitz Fellow at University of California, Berkeley (2006), and held the visiting Shifrin Chair of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002–03).[citation needed]

In 2004 he took early retirement in order to focus on his political writing and popular history.[4] Hanson has held a series of positions in ideologically-oriented institutions and private foundations. He was appointed Fellow in California Studies at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think-tank in California, in 2002.[5] Hanson was appointed Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, another conservative think-tank in California. He was often the William Simon visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, a private Christian institution in California (2009–15), and was awarded in 2015 an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the graduate school at Pepperdine. He gave the Wriston Lecture in 2004 for the Manhattan Institute whose mission is to "develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility".[citation needed] He has been a board member of the Bradley Foundation since 2015, and served on the HF Guggenheim Foundation board for over a decade.[citation needed]


Since 2004, Hanson has written a weekly column syndicated by Tribune Content Agency,[6] as well as a weekly column for National Review Online since 2001.[citation needed] He was awarded the National Humanities Medal (2007) by President George W. Bush, as well as the Eric Breindel Prize for opinion journalism (2002), and the Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in 2008.[3]

Hanson's Warfare and Agriculture (Giardini 1983), his PhD thesis, argued that Greek warfare could not be understood apart from agrarian life in general, and suggested that the modern assumption that agriculture was irrevocably harmed during classical wars was vastly overestimated. The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf 1989) explored the combatants' experiences of ancient Greek battle and detailed the Hellenic foundations of later Western military practice.[citation needed]

External videos
video icon Presentation by Hanson on The Land Was Everything, June 22, 2000, C-SPAN
video icon Interview with Hanson on Mexifornia, May 31, 2003, C-SPAN
video icon Booknotes interview with Hanson on Mexifornia, September 28, 2003, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on Ripples of Battle, October 27, 2003, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on A War Like No Other, September 7, 2005, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on A War Like No Other, December 10, 2005, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on An Autumn of War, August 26, 2002, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on The Father of Us All, May 16, 2010, C-SPAN

The Other Greeks (The Free Press 1995) argued that the emergence of a unique middling agrarian class explains the ascendance of the Greek city-state, and its singular values of consensual government, sanctity of private property, civic militarism and individualism. In Fields Without Dreams (The Free Press 1996, winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award) and The Land Was Everything (The Free Press 2000, a Los Angeles Times notable book of the year), Hanson lamented the decline of family farming and rural communities, and the loss of agrarian voices in American democracy. The Soul of Battle (The Free Press 1999) traced the careers of Epaminondas, the Theban liberator, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George S. Patton, in arguing that democratic warfare's strengths are best illustrated in short, intense and spirited marches to promote consensual rule, but bog down otherwise during long occupations or more conventional static battle.

In Mexifornia (Encounter 2003)—a personal memoir about growing up in rural California and an account of immigration from Mexico—Hanson predicted that illegal immigration would soon reach crisis proportions, unless legal, measured, and diverse immigration was restored, as well as the traditional melting-pot values of integration, assimilation, and intermarriage.[7]

Ripples of Battle (Doubleday 2003) chronicled how the cauldron of battle affects combatants' later literary and artistic work, as its larger influence ripples for generations, affecting art, literature, culture, and government. In A War Like No Other (Random House 2005, a New York Times notable book of the year), a history of the Peloponnesian War, Hanson offered an alternative history, arranged by methods of fighting—triremes, hoplites, cavalry, sieges, etc.—in concluding that the conflict marked a brutal watershed event for the Greek city-states. The Savior Generals (Bloomsbury 2013) followed the careers of five great generals (Themistocles, Belisaurius, Sherman, Ridgway, Petraeus) arguing that rare qualities in leadership emerge during hopeless predicaments that only rare individuals can salvage.[8]

The End of Sparta (Bloomsbury 2011) is a novel about a small community of Thespian farmers who join the great march of Epaminondas (369/70 BC) into the heart of the Peloponnese to destroy Spartan hegemony, free the Messenian helots, and spread democracy in the Peloponnese.

Hanson has edited several collections of essays, including (Hoplites, Routledge 1991), Bonfire of the Humanities (with B. Thornton and J. Heath, ISI 2001), and Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton 2010), as well as a number of his own collected articles, such as An Autumn of War [2002 Anchor], Between War and Peace [Anchor 2004], and The Father of Us All [Bloomsbury 2010]. He has written chapters for works such as the Cambridge History of War, and the Cambridge History of Ancient Warfare.

Carnage and Culture

External videos
video icon Presentation by Hanson on Carnage and Culture, September 15, 2001, C-SPAN

Hanson wrote the 2001 book Carnage and Culture (Doubleday), published in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries as Why the West Has Won, in which he argued that the military dominance of Western civilization, beginning with the ancient Greeks, results from certain fundamental aspects of Western culture, such as consensual government, a tradition of self-critique, secular rationalism, religious tolerance, individual freedom, free expression, free markets, and individualism. Hanson's emphasis on cultural exception rejects racial explanations for Western military preeminence and disagrees as well with environmental or geographical determinist explanations such as those put forth by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997).[9][non-primary source needed]

American military officer Robert L. Bateman, in a 2007 article on the Media Matters for America website, criticized Hanson's thesis, arguing that Hanson's point about Western armies preferring to seek out a decisive battle of annihilation is rebutted by the Second Punic War, in which Roman attempts to annihilate the Carthaginians instead led to the Carthaginians annihilating the Romans at the Battle of Cannae.[10] Bateman argued that Hanson was wrong about Western armies' common preferences in seeking out a battle of annihilation, arguing that the Romans only defeated the Carthaginians via the Fabian Strategy of keeping their armies in being and not engaging Hannibal in battle.[10] In a response published on his personal website, Hanson argued that Bateman had misunderstood and misrepresented his thesis. Regarding the Second Punic War he said that the Romans initially sought out decisive battles, but were reluctantly forced to resort to a Fabian strategy after several defeats at the hands of a tactical genius, until they were able to rebuild their military capacity, at which point they did ultimately defeat Hannibal in decisive battles. He also said that the Carthaginians themselves had adopted many 'Western' methods of warfare from the Greeks, which is why Hannibal was keen to seek decisive battles too.[11]

United States education and classical studies

Hanson co-authored the book Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom with John Heath in 1998. The book explores the issue of how classical education has declined in the US and what might be done to restore it to its former prominence. This is important, according to Hanson and Heath, because knowledge of the classical Greeks and Romans is necessary to fully understand Western culture. To begin a discussion along these lines the authors state, "The answer to why the world is becoming Westernized goes all the way back to the wisdom of the Greeks—reason enough why we must not abandon the study of our heritage".[12]

Political scientist Francis Fukuyama, reviewing Who Killed Homer? favorably in Foreign Affairs, wrote that "[t]he great thinkers of the Western tradition—from Hobbes, Burke, and Hegel to Weber and Nietzsche (who was trained as a classical philologist)—were so thoroughly steeped in Greek thought that they scarcely needed to refer back to original texts for quotations. This tradition has come under fire from two camps, one postmodernist that seeks to deconstruct the classics on the grounds of gender, race, and class, and the other pragmatic and career-minded that asks what value the classics have in a computer-driven society. The authors' defense of a traditionalist approach to the classics is worthy."[13]

Classicists Victoria Cech and Joy Connolly have found Who Killed Homer? to have considerable pitfalls. Reviews of the book have noted several problems with the authors' perception of classical culture. According to Cech, "[o]ne example is the relation of the individual to the state and the 'freedom' of belief or of inquiry in each. Socrates and Jesus were put to death by their respective states for articulating inconvenient doctrines. In Sparta, where the population of citizens (male) were carefully socialized in a military system, no one seems to have differed from the majority enough to merit the death penalty. But these differences are not sorted out by the authors, for their mission is to build an ideal structure of classical attitudes by which to reveal our comparative flaws, and their point is more what is wrong with us than what was right with Athens. I contend that Hanson and Heath are actually comparing modern academia not to the ancient seminal cultures but to the myth that arose about them over the last couple of millennia."[14] According to Connolly, Professor of Classics at New York University,[15] "[t]hroughout history, the authors say, women have never enjoyed equal rights and responsibilities. At least in Greece, 'the veiled, mutilated, and secluded were not the norm' (p. 57). Why waste time, then, as feminist scholarship does, 'merely demarcating the exact nature of the sexism of the Greeks and the West' (p. 102)? From their point of view, in fact, the real legacy of feminism is the destruction of the values of family and community."[16]

Political views

Hanson was at one time a registered member of the Democratic Party[17] but is a conservative who voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections.[18] As of 2020, he is a registered independent.[19] He defended George W. Bush and his policies,[20] especially the Iraq War.[21] He vocally supported Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, describing him as "a rare sort of secretary of the caliber of George Marshall" and a "proud and honest-speaking visionary" whose "hard work and insight are bringing us ever closer to victory".[22]

External videos
video icon After Words interview with Hanson on The Case for Trump, March 23, 2019, C-SPAN

Hanson is a supporter of Donald Trump, authoring a 2019 book called The Case for Trump.[23] Trump praised the book,[23] in which Hanson defends Trump's insults and incendiary language as "uncouth authenticity", and praises Trump for "an uncanny ability to troll and create hysteria among his media and political critics."[23]

Conservative views

He has been described as a conservative by some commentators for his views on the Iraq War,[24][25] and has stated, "I came to support neocon approaches first in the wars against the Taliban and Saddam, largely because I saw little alternative."[26] Hanson's 2002 volume An Autumn of War called for going to war "hard, long, without guilt, apology or respite until our enemies are no more."[27] In the context of the Iraq War, Hanson wrote, "In an era of the greatest affluence and security in the history of civilization, the real question before us remains whether the United States – indeed any Western democracy — still possesses the moral clarity to identify evil as evil, and then the uncontested will to marshal every available resource to fight and eradicate it."[28]

Race relations

In July 2013, then-Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech where he mentioned that as a black man he needed to deliver "the Talk" to his son, instructing him how to interact with police as a young black man. In response to Holder's speech, Hanson wrote a column titled "Facing Facts about Race" where he offered his own version of "the Talk", namely the need to inform his children to be careful of young black men when venturing into the inner city, who Hanson argued were statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than young men of other races, and that therefore it was understandable for the police to focus on them.[29][30] Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic described Hanson's column as "stupid advice": "in any other context we would automatically recognize this 'talk' as stupid advice. If I were to tell you that I only employ Asian-Americans to do my taxes because 'Asian-Americans do better on the Math SAT', you would not simply question my sensitivity, but my mental faculties."[31]

American journalist Arthur Stern called "Facing Facts About Race" an "inflammatory" column based upon crime statistics that Hanson never cited, writing: "His presentation of this controversial opinion as undeniable fact without exhaustive statistical proof is undeniably racist."[32] Journalist Kelefa Sanneh, in response to "Facing Facts About Race", wrote "It's strange, then, to read Hanson writing as if the fear of violent crime were mainly a "white or Asian" problem, about which African-Americans might be uninformed, or unconcerned – as if African-American parents weren't already giving their children more detailed and nuanced versions of Hanson's "sermon", sharing his earnest and absurd hope that the right words might keep trouble at bay."[33] Hanson, in response to Sanneh's essay, accused him of a "McCarthyite character assassination" and "infantile, if not racialist, logic".[34]

Obama criticism

Hanson was a critic of President Barack Obama.[35] He criticized the Obama administration for appeasing Iran[36] and Russia, and blamed Obama for the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2014.[37][38][39][40] In May 2016, Hanson argued that Obama failed to maintain a credible threat of deterrence, and that "the next few months may prove the most dangerous since World War II."[41]


External videos
video icon In Depth interview with Hanson, March 7, 2004, C-SPAN
video icon In Depth interview with Hanson, December 5, 2021, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on The Savior Generals, May 14, 2013, C-SPAN
video icon After Words interview with Hanson on The Savior Generals, June 28, 2013, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on The Second World Wars, November 16, 2017, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on The Dying Citizen, October 7, 2021, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hanson on The Dying Citizen, May 13, 2022, C-SPAN


  1. ^ a b "VDH Private Papers" Hanson is married to Jennifer Heyne (married November 2013).Archived January 25, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Victor Davis Hanson website, accessed August 8, 2010
  2. ^ "A Classicist Farmer: The Life and Times of Victor Davis Hanson".
  3. ^ a b "Classical Studies Program". Archived from the original on October 15, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  4. ^ Tempest, Rone (February 25, 2004), "Right Way to Farm the Classics", The Los Angeles Times
  5. ^ "Victor Davis Hanson". Claremont review of books.
  6. ^ "Victor Davis Hanson articles". Tribune Content Agency. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  7. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (June 29, 2003). "Commentary: 'Mexifornia' is a Tragedy in the Making". Los Angeles Times – via ProQuest.
  8. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (March 15, 2013). "The Savior Generals". Kirkus Reviews. ISBN 978-1-60819-163-5.
  9. ^ Victor Davis Hanson Decline And Fall: A review of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, National Review Magazine, May 20, 2005
  10. ^ a b Bateman, Robert (October 29, 2007). "Bateman on Hanson, Round 1: Cannae, 2 August 216 B.C." Media Matters. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  11. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (November 5, 2007). "Squaring Off: Part II". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  12. ^ Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001), p. 28.
  13. ^ "Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom". Foreign Affairs.
  14. ^ "Who Killed Homer?". The Montana Professor.
  15. ^ "NYU> Classics> Joy Connolly". Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  16. ^ "Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom". Bryn Mawr Classical Review.
  17. ^ "Interview with Victor Davis Hanson: 'We're Removing Saddam Hussein'". U.S. Naval Institute. March 1, 2003. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  18. ^ Interview, Proceedings, March 2003.
  19. ^ "Denigrating Hoover". The Stanford Daily. December 3, 2020. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  20. ^ On Loathing Bush – It's not about what he does, Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, August 13, 2004 Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Myth or Reality – Will Iraq work? That's up to us, Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, April 23, 2004"Victor Davis Hanson on Bush Hatred on National Review Online". National Review. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ Leave Rumsfeld Be – He is not to blame for our difficulties Archived July 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, December 23, 2004.
  23. ^ a b c Lozada, Carlos (2019). "Thinking for Trump: Other presidents had a brain trust. But the intellectuals backing this White House are a bust". The Washington Post.
  24. ^ Bush pulls neocons out of the shadows Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2005
  25. ^ The end of the neo-cons? BBC News, February 9, 2009
  26. ^ The Neocon Slur Archived February 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Victor Davis Hanson, July 12, 2008
  27. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (April 5, 2003). "Critic's Notebook; How Books Have Shaped U.S. Policy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  28. ^ Schmidt, Brian C.; Williams, Michael C. (May 22, 2008). "The Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War: Neoconservatives Versus Realists". Security Studies. 17 (2): 191–220. doi:10.1080/09636410802098990. ISSN 0963-6412. S2CID 155073127.
  29. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa (July 24, 2013). "A Sermon on Race from National Review". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  30. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (July 23, 2013). "Facing Facts About Race". National Review Online.
  31. ^ Te-Nehisi Coates (July 23, 2013). "It's the Racism, Stupid!". The Atlantic.
  32. ^ Arthur Stern (July 25, 2013). "A Millennial Takedown Of Victor Davis Hanson's 'Facts About Race'". News.Mic.
  33. ^ Kelefa Sanneh (July 24, 2013). "A Sermon on Race from National Review". The New Yorker.
  34. ^ "Untruth at the New Yorker". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers. July 29, 2013.
  35. ^ Drezner, Daniel W. (April 22, 2013). "Meet the revisionist George W. Bush – pretty much the same as the old George W. Bush". Foreign Policy. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  36. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (November 4, 2014). "Sizing America Up". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers.
  37. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (October 13, 2015). "The Road to Middle East Perdition". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers.
  38. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (February 11, 2014). "The Value of Putin". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers.
  39. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (June 19, 2015). "The New World Map". VDH's Blade of Perseus. Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers.
  40. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (July 30, 2014). "Our Russia Experts". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers.
  41. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (May 19, 2016). "How Barack Obama's Foreign Policy De-Stabilized the World". Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers.
  42. ^ Fredric Smoler[permanent dead link] "Study of the War on Terrorism: The View from 400 B.C.," American Heritage, Nov./Dec. 2006.