Washington History Seminar

September 11th, 2014

September 15: Lisa Leff on “The Archive Thief: Zosa Szajkowski and the Salvaging of French Jewish History”

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Jewish historian Zosa Szajkowski stole tens of thousands of documents about Jews from French archives and sold them to libraries in the United States. To understand why he did it, Leff takes us into the “backstage” of the archives, and reveals the powerful ideological, economic and scientific forces that […]

August 15th, 2014

Washington History Seminar Fall 2014 Schedule

The National History Center of the American Historical Association is pleased to announce the Fall 2014 schedule for the Washington History Seminar. A joint venture of the National History Center and the Wilson Center, with support from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), the seminar is co-directed by Eric Arnesen of George Washington University and […]

May 6th, 2014

May 12: Thomas Sugrue on “Bankrupt: Detroit and the Future of Urban America”

Detroit is the largest American municipality to have declared bankruptcy. Leading urban historian Thomas Sugrue examines the roots of the city’s fiscal crisis, its implications for urban finance, pensions, and the future of American cities, and examines the opportunities and obstacles that Detroit faces in its efforts to restructure its local government, redevelop its downtown […]

April 30th, 2014

May 5: Thomas Boghardt on “Covert Legions: U.S. Army Intelligence and the Defense of Europe, 1944-1949″

As the Third Reich collapsed, Soviet forces moved deep into Central Europe, and the United States had to adjust rapidly to the new political landscape.  The intelligence services of the U.S. Army assumed a key role in informing Washington national security policy toward Europe during this critical period.  This presentation discusses the early Cold War […]

April 24th, 2014

April 28: James Graham Wilson: “The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev’s Adaptation, Reagan’s Engagement, and the End of the Cold War”

In this presentation to the Washington History Seminar based on his book, The Triumph of Improvisation, James Graham Wilson takes a long view of the end of the Cold War, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Operation Desert Storm. Wilson argues that adaptation, improvisation, and engagement by individuals in positions of power ended the specter […]

April 17th, 2014

April 21: Hugh Wilford on “America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East”

The CIA has an almost diabolical reputation in the Arab world. Yet, in the early years of its existence, the 1940s and 1950s, the Agency was distinctly pro-Arab, lending its support to the leading Arab nationalist of the day, Gamal Nasser, and conducting an anti-Zionist publicity campaign at home in the U.S. Drawing on a […]

April 2nd, 2014

April 7: Sophia Rosenfeld on “’Take Your Choice!’: Historical Reflections on the Act of Voting.”

The secret ballot is now considered the gold standard for fair elections around the globe.  However, in the aftermath of the American and French Revolutions, voting in secrecy held little immediate mass appeal in the US or Europe, and the secret ballot was used in combination with a wide variety of voting techniques.  The history […]

March 27th, 2014

March 31: Sergey Radchenko: “An Unwanted Visionary: Gorbachev’s Unrealized Ambitions and the Soviets’ Retreat from Asia”

Sergey Radchenko will offer a fresh interpretation of Mikhail Gorbachev’s foreign policy by showing how the Soviet leader tried to reshape the international order through engagement with China and India, and why his vision for a Soviet-led Asia ultimately failed. Relying on newly declassified records from Russian, Chinese and other archives, he will discuss lost opportunities […]

March 18th, 2014

March 24: Nancy Beck Young on Why We Fight: The Politics of World War II

The conventional wisdom suggests that moderates matter little.  In her new book, Why We Fight: Congress and the Politics of World War II, Nancy Beck Young proves otherwise. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman faced a fractious Congress riven by hardcore ideologues, circumstances that empowered moderates—from both parties—to cut deals on economic but not social justice […]

March 13th, 2014

March 17: David Chappell, U.S. Civil Rights Movement

“Waking from the Dream pt. I:   Martin Luther King’s Last Victory” Exaggerated accounts of urban violence after Martin Luther King’s assassination have long obscured national reactions of far greater significance.   Most important was the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which had been hopelessly stalled in Congress since 1966.   Both opponents and supporters of the Act […]