Doubleday Bestselling Historian Author, Former Editor Thomas Cahill Has Died


Thomas Cahill, New York City, Sept. 29, 2006. © Paul Hawthorne

Amid the celebration of Doubleday’s 125th anniversary, sadly, we also commemorate the passing of an author and publishing colleague, who was a contributor to its success.
Thomas Cahill, one-time director of the imprint’s eponymous vaunted religious publishing program, and the author of the Nan A. Talese imprint’s bestselling multi-volume “Hinges of History” series, died at 82 on October 18 in Manhattan.

Journalist, teacher, scholar, Cahill was best known for his knowledge-immersive loosely-connected volumes of works for a general audience popularizing Western history from a lay-religious perspective. The first two volumes, “How the Irish Saved Civilization” and “The Gifts of the Jews,” were long-standing  New York Times bestsellers, with the former selling more than 700,000 trade paperbacks. “Each,” noted the Times, in 1998, “is mercifully short,” and “each has a catchy boldness and a certain playfulness about the title.” His final work, “Heretics and Heroes,” was published in 2013.

The Associated Press observed Cahill’s “approach to his books was shaped in part by his Jesuit background, by his depth of learning, and the dullness of how he learned it. He would resolve to combine scholarly discipline and a conversational tone.”

In the early nineties, the author, for a time, also was the director of Doubleday’s religious division, shepherding the publication of “Jewish books, Muslim books, Buddhist books, Methodist books, Lutheran books, Catholic books,” per the Times.

One of the titles he championed, “Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven,” by prominent German theologian Dr. Uta Ranke- Heinemann, became embroiled in international controversy when New York’s then Cardinal O’ Connor, admitting he had not read the book, accused the publisher, based on its jacket, of “Catholic bashing.”

Doubleday’s deputy publisher Bill Barry said, “We have never before suffered an attack like Cardinal O’Connor’s in more than 30 years of publishing religious books.” Cahill declared that the book, which is critical of the Roman Catholic Church for allegedly degrading the sexuality of women, “ is not anti-Catholic. It is a highly critical book from the loyal opposition.”

In the wake of the raging public exchanges, the book tripled its original press run.

Doubleday Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Bill Thomas pays tribute to his dexterously skilled late colleague: “Among his many talents, Tom made broad and varied subjects imminently readable. He shared long-forgotten stories of how cultures are shaped by the forces of values, intellectualism, and art, and their connection to us all.”

Thomas Cahill

March 29, 1940 – October 18, 2022



Posted: November 1, 2022