Washington History Seminar

April 21st, 2015

April 27: Sulmaan Khan on “Muslim, Trader, Nomad, Spy: China’s Cold War and the People of the Tibetan Borderlands”

In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa, leaving the People’s Republic of China with a crisis on its Tibetan frontier. Drawing upon never before seen Chinese sources, Sulmaan Khan tells, for the first time, the story of how non-state actors moving across the Tibetan borderlands exposed state weakness and caused the PRC to move from […]

March 31st, 2015

April 13: Christopher Darnton on “Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America”

One of the central paradoxes of the global Cold War was the prevalence of rivalries among countries within the same bloc. Given a common adversary, why did so many of these conflicts persist, why did peacemaking efforts repeatedly fail, and what conditions ultimately contributed to the rare instances of successful rapprochement? Rivalry and Alliance Politics […]

March 24th, 2015

March 30: Bruce Kuklick on “Murdering Patrice Lumumba”

When Belgium relinquished control of the Belgian Congo in June 1960, a charismatic Patrice Lumumba became prime minister of the new Republic. Stability immediately broke down. The army mutinied, while Katanga Province seceded. Six months later Lumumba was murdered in Katanga; his undisputed rule as Congo’s first democratically elected leader had lasted ten weeks. Over […]

March 17th, 2015

March 23: Martha Hodes on “Mourning Lincoln”

Public responses to Lincoln’s assassination have been well chronicled, but Martha Hodes is the first to delve into personal and private responses—of African Americans and whites, Yankees and Confederates, soldiers and civilians—investigating the story of the nation’s first presidential assassination on a human scale. Black freedom, the fate of former Confederates, and the future of […]

March 11th, 2015

March 16: William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh on “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana”

Authors William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh will talk about their new book chronicling the untold history of attempts at reconciliation between the United States and Cuba. From John F. Kennedy’s offering of an olive branch to Fidel Castro after the missile crisis, to Henry Kissinger’s top secret quest for normalization, to Barack Obama’s promise […]

March 3rd, 2015

March 9: Carol Anderson on “The Danger of the Single Story: African Americans’ Anticolonialism in the Early Cold War”

We know the story. Historians have told it for more than forty years. After the onset of the Cold War, fierce anticolonialism emanated solely out of the black left, which paid dearly for opposing U.S. imperial policy. Paul and Eslanda Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, W. Alphaeus Hunton, and even, in his own twisted way, Max […]

February 24th, 2015

March 2: Heather Cox Richardson on “To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party”

How did the Republican Party—the progressive party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower—become the reactionary party of today? Over the one hundred and sixty years of their history, Republicans have swung repeatedly from championing the middle class to protecting the rich. Their story reveals the tensions inherent in America’s peculiar brand of […]

February 10th, 2015

February 23: Bartholomew Sparrow on “The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security”

For four decades Brent Scowcroft has exerted a quiet, continued, and sometimes great influence over the conduct of US national security policy. Drawing on his new biography, The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security, Bartholomew Sparrow discusses how Scowcroft rose to become national security advisor under presidents Gerald Ford and George H. […]

February 3rd, 2015

February 9: Colonel House: A Biography of Woodrow Wilson’s Silent Partner

In this seminal biography, Charles E. Neu details the life of “Colonel” House, a Texas landowner who rose to become one of the century’s greatest political operators. In 1911 House met Woodrow Wilson, and almost immediately the two formed one of the most famous friendships in American political history. As Wilson’s friend and chief political […]

January 27th, 2015

February 2: Pawel Machcewicz: Poland’s War on Radio Free Europe

For the Soviet bloc, the struggle against foreign radio was one of the principal fronts in the Cold War. Poland was at the fore-front of this war, relentlessly conducting, since the early 1950s until the collapse of the Communism, political, propaganda and intelligence operations against Radio Free Europe, regarded as the most dangerous enemy among […]