The death was announced in a statement from New York University, where he had taught for many years. In September 2008, he learned that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a matter of months the disease left him paralyzed and able to breathe only with mechanical assistance, but he continued to lecture and write.
“In effect,” he wrote in an essay published in January in The New York Review of Books, “A.L.S. constitutes progressive imprisonment without parole.”
Mr. Judt (pronounced Jutt), who was British by birth and education but who taught at American universities for most of his career, began as a specialist in postwar French intellectual history, and for much of his life he embodied the idea of the French-style engaged intellectual.
An impassioned left-wing Zionist as a teenager, he shed his faith in agrarian socialism and Marxism early on and became, as he put it, a “universalist social democrat” with a deep suspicion of left-wing ideologues, identity politics and the emerging role of the United States as the world’s sole superpower.
A complete obituary will soon appear on nytimes.com. A column about Mr. Judt’s race to complete his work appears in Saturday’s Irish Independent.