Ruth Ben-Ghiat

History professor

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University who writes frequently for CNN Opinion.


Ruth Ben-Ghiat contributes frequently to CNN Opinion, writing about politics and culture. A Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, she has won Guggenheim, Fulbright, Library of Congress, and many other fellowships.

Ben-Ghiat puts current events into perspective, exploring how major events of the past – wars, migrations, and empires – shape our lives today, in ways we often do not realize.

She also writes about the power of images to move us and sometimes outrage us. Why do certain images from wars and other critical moments become “iconic,” transcending their own time? She illuminates the power of some images to tell bigger stories, summing up the present mood of a culture – or prefiguring a cultural shift. This is the premise of her latest book, the award-winning “Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema” (2015).

Her CNN articles often focus on war and how it is remembered. In 2014 she created a multi-media series for CNN Opinion, “Legacies of World War I,” which looked at innovations and events that came out of the Great War (such as chemical weapons, changes in gender roles, advances in aerial surveillance and prosthetics) and still influence us today.

Ben-Ghiat’s current research on prisoners of war in World War Two reflects her interest in how people act in contexts of crisis and oppression. Her book will show how situations of captivity illustrate both the worst and best sides of humanity – and how the two aspects of our nature are intertwined.

Her essays and interviews have also appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Corriere della Sera, The Native Society, Il Sole 24Ore, and other publications. She has appeared on Huffington Post Live, Taking Stock with Pimm Fox, RAI Storia, and other news and culture programs.

Ben-Ghiat sits on the Board of Directors of the World Policy Institute, and in 2013 received an Award for Outstanding Service for her work for the Scholar Rescue Fund of the Institute of International Education. She consults for advertising agencies and film production companies and advises universities and cultural institutions in the USA, UK, and Europe.

Follow her on Twitter @ruthbenghiat.