David grew up in New Jersey on a dairy farm near Princeton and did his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin.
His vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War provoked considerable government surveillance.
An academic colleague noted: “Dave was able to integrate the humanities and literature into a history of ideas [using the] attitudes and lives of ordinary human beings, not only the great shakers and thinkers.” He supervised about 100 doctoral dissertations.
David was predeceased by his first wife, Lois. He is survived by his second wife, Gail; their two daughters; and a son with Lois.