Mike Dash

Mike Dash (born 1963) is a Welsh writer, historian and researcher. He is best known for books and articles dealing with dramatic yet little-known episodes in history.

Mike Dash
Born1963 (age 57–58)
OccupationWriter, historian and researcher
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
King's College London (PhD)


Dash was born in London. He attended Peterhouse, a college at the University of Cambridge particularly noted for teaching history,[1][2] and completed postgraduate work at King's College London, where he obtained a Ph.D.

Dash authored a series of books covering incidents in the history of the Dutch East India Company, the Netherlands, India under British rule, and New York during the Progressive Era. Each focuses on a single event or series of events, among them the wreck of the East Indiaman Batavia, the Dutch tulip mania of 1634–1637, and the early years of the American Mafia. More recently he has become known as the author of a wide-ranging weekly historical blog, "Past Imperfect", written for the Smithsonian Institution.

As a historian, Dash is noted for the high quality of his research, which the academic journal The Age of Sail described as being "to a level rarely seen in books intended for a general audience."[3] The Globe and Mail applauded his work as “up-close, personal, and full of you-are-there detail," adding, "Dash is that rarity: a perfectionist in his research and a writer who perfectly carves out his story with a pen as sharp as a stiletto,"[4] and the New York Times praised his "unabashedly cinematic flair, backed by meticulous research."[5] On the other hand, Publishers Weekly, writing of Dash's book on the Batavia, charged that while he took the story "to a new level of grotesque accuracy," his "nautical drama never truly comes to life." [6]

"Past Imperfect" has also attracted comment for introducing history that rarely features in text books to a new generation of readers. The New Yorker identified it as "the most mind-boggling read of the week",[7] and the Christian Science Monitor added: "Show it to any kid who's complaining that history is boring and that will be the end of that conversation. And the beginning of a new one."[8]

Dash's most recent book, The First Family, is a new history of Giuseppe Morello and the establishment of the Mafia in the United States. He began writing for the Smithsonian in July 2011 when the Institution acquired his history site, A Blast from the Past, shortly after the History News Network awarded it the 2010 Cliopatria prize for history blogging.[9][10] In addition to blogging, Dash regularly contributes to r/AskHistorians, and since January 2019 he has republished material written for AskHistorians on his personal blog's "Ask Mike" page.[11]


  • The Limit: Engineering at the Boundaries of Science. BBC, 1995. ISBN 0-563-37117-X.
  • Borderlands: The Ultimate Exploration of the Unknown. Dell, 1997. ISBN 0-440-23656-8.
  • Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused. Crown, 2000. ISBN 0-609-60439-2.
  • Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002. ISBN 0-575-07024-2.
  • Thug: The True Story of India's Murderous Cult. Granta Books, 2005. ISBN 1-86207-604-9.
  • Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century. Crown Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0-307-39522-1.
  • The First Family: Terror, Extortion and the Birth of the American Mafia. Simon & Schuster, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84737-173-7.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Brooke, Christopher, ed. (1991). David Knowles Remembered. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37233-X.
  2. ^ http://www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/themes/peterhouse_school.html
  3. ^ The Age of Sail, 2003 p.198.
  4. ^ The Globe and Mail, August 15, 2009.
  5. ^ New York Times, April 7, 2002.
  6. ^ Publishers Weekly, June 2, 2002.
  7. ^ The New Yorker, February 2, 2013.
  8. ^ Christian Science Monitor, November 2, 2011.
  9. ^ "The Cliopatria Awards, 2010". History News Network. January 7, 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2012.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ http://allkindsofhistory.wordpress.com/about/#comment-138
  11. ^ Dash, Mike (2019-01-18). "Ask Mike". A Blast From The Past. Retrieved 2019-12-30.

External linksEdit