Category Archives: Council on Foreign Relations Lecture Series

The National History Center has entered into a partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations for a series of lectures. Periodically, a historian addresses an audience on a foreign relations topic from the perspective of history.

NHC-Council on Foreign Relations Series: John Lewis Gaddis on George Kennan

On June 4, the National History Center and the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a conversation with John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, on his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography George F. Kennan: An American Life. Council President Richard Haass interviewed Professor Gaddis on the personal and diplomatic legacy of George Kennan, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Gaddis discussed what he calls Kennan’s “edgy” decision to publish the “Long Telegram” analyzing Soviet policy in 1946, arguing for its “uncanny” ability to predict the long-term trajectory of the Soviet state. He also fleshed out the intellectual legacy of Kennan’s containment policy, his “impractical” approach to policy planning which led to a tenuous popularity within government, and Kennan the idealist who pined for the America of his youth against what he believed were dramatic cultural changes while he was frequently away in Europe. Gaddis also answered several questions from the audience.

The meeting, which took place at the CFR’s New York headquarters, is part of a series featuring prominent historians who examine the events, times, and individuals that shaped foreign policy as we know it today.

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— Christine Kelly

NHC-Council on Foreign Relations Series: Jonathan Steinberg on Bismarck

The National History Center and the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a conversation with historian Jonathan Steinberg at the CFR’s New York headquarters on Thursday, October 20, 2011. Titled “Personality and Power: The Case of Otto von Bismarck,” the program was based upon Steinberg’s recent book, Bismarck: A Life. History Center Director Wm. Roger Louis moderated the discussion.

Steinberg is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Modern European History at the University of Pennsylvania.  The meeting is part of a series featuring prominent historians who examine the events, times, and individuals that shaped foreign policy as we know it today. A webcast of his session is available at NHC-CFR: Steinberg on Bismarck.

Evan Thomas and Douglas Brinkley Discuss Presidents and War

In the latest event co-hosted by the Center and the Council on Foreign Relations at the Council’s New York headquarters, Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley questioned Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas on the relationship between U.S. Presidents and war.  Evan Thomas delves into the “psychohistory” of Theodore Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for the Spanish-American War and Roosevelt’s subsequent international decisions as President compared to other early twentieth-century U.S. presidents. The series, now in its third year, focuses on the connection between history and current foreign policy. The November 30 session was attended by more than 130 members of the Council and their guests.

Douglas Brinkley (left) and Evan Thomas (right)

Thomas used his recent book, The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, and Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1898, as a springboard to a discussion beginning with Teddy Roosevelt and moving through history to the current administration. He argued that Roosevelt’s experiences in the conflict with the Spanish in Cuba broke his yearning for war. Thomas compared TR’s “carry a big stick” policy to Eisenhower’s efforts to keep the U.S. out of combat during the Cold War, remarking that both believed in the public display of awesome war power as a deterrent to its actual use. Thomas also answered questions from the audience.

The transcript of the event can be found here.