Jay Winik (born February 8, 1957) is a New York Times best-selling author and American historian who is best known for his book April 1865: The Month That Saved America. Winik is an honors graduate of Yale College. He also holds an M.Sc. in economics from the London School of Economics with distinction and a Ph.D. from Yale University. He played on the Yale tennis team and was an editor of the Yale Daily News.
He had a brief career in the U.S. government's foreign policy, involving civil wars around the globe, from the former Yugoslavia to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Cambodia, including helping to create the United Nations plan to end the Cambodian Civil War. In 1991, he took up writing history full-time.
The Baltimore Sun has called Winik “one of the nation's leading public historians,” and he is currently the inaugural Historian-in-Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of the highly acclaimed number-one bestseller April 1865 (2001), which also became a History Channel documentary and a stage production, both of which feature him.
In 2007 Winik published the New York Times bestselling The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, which both USA Today and The Financial Times picked as one of their “Best Books of the Year.” Winik's latest book is 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History, also an NYT best-seller. It has stimulated a broad national conversation about morality and foreign policy.
Winik has been read by political leaders including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Chief Justice John Roberts, and numerous celebrities. Winik appears on the first page of George W. Bush's presidential memoir Decision Points, discussing the craft of writing history with the president. Just after the September 11 attacks, Bush was seen carrying April 1865 in the White House.
In 2017 in the New York Times, renowned actor Tom Hanks read an excerpt from April 1865 to Maureen Dowd about slavery and race relations. He told the NYT that Winik's April 1865 is on his nightstand. Peggy Noonan also told the NYT that 1944 is on her nightstand. Winik's articles and history book reviews have been published in the New York Times, Atlantic magazine, Time magazine, Newsweek, National Review, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, to which he has been a frequent contributor.
He has appeared on national broadcasts such as The Today Show, Fresh Air, and Morning Edition with Scott Simon, CNN, Good Morning America, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He has provided historical commentary for documentaries on the History Channel, PBS, and C-SPAN. He was the Presidential Historian for FOX News for Donald Trump and Barack Obama's inaugurations and Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral.
In 2002 he was a regular on the History Channel weekly show, The History Center. He was a principal history commentator for the History Channel special Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After. In 2013, he was a historical advisor to National Geographic and the consulting historian for their six-part series, The 1980s: The Decade That Made Us, which aired in over 100 countries.
In a New York Times op-ed, Winik correctly predicted a long guerrilla struggle in Iraq. At the same time, Time magazine noted that Winik's April 1865 was a powerful reminder about how a war's end is every bit as important as how or why it had begun.