Category Archives: Washington History Seminar

Sponsored jointly by the National History Center and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Washington History Seminar meets each week, January to May and September to December, on Monday afternoons at 4 o’clock at the Wilson Center. It aims to facilitate understanding of contemporary affairs in light of historical knowledge of all times and all places and from a variety of perspectives. For the latest schedule, please click on Spring 2012 Schedule. For more information on past speakers, topics, and videos, please click on Washington History Seminar Schedule.

9/26: Niall Ferguson on “Kissinger”

No American statesman has been as revered and as reviled as Henry Kissinger. Once hailed as “Super-K”—the “indispensable man” whose advice has been sought by every president from Kennedy to Obama—he has also been hounded by conspiracy theorists, scouring his every “telcon” for evidence of Machiavellian malfeasance. Yet as Niall Ferguson shows in the first volume of his new biography, the idea of Kissinger as the ruthless arch-realist is based on a profound misunderstanding. Drawing not only on Kissinger’s hitherto closed private papers but also on documents from more than a hundred archives around the world, Ferguson argues that the true foundation of Kissinger’s thought is philosophical idealism—combined with history itself.  The first half of Kissinger’s life is usually skimmed over as a quintessential tale of American ascent: the Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany who made it to the White House. Ferguson shows that what Kissinger achieved before his unexpected appointment as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser was historically significant in its own right.

Niall Ferguson is one of the world’s most renowned historians. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash NexusEmpire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, High Financier,Civilization, The Great Degeneration, and Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. His many awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013).

4:00pm – 5:30pm
Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor Moynihan Boardroom

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.

9/19: Matthew Dallek on “Defenseless Under Night: The Roosevelt Years and the Origins of Homeland Security”

Homeland security is often seen as a post-Sept. 11 development. Yet, in Defenseless Under the Night, Matthew Dallek traces its birth to an epic battle during World War II: Eleanor Roosevelt’s vision of a wartime New Deal was pitted against New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s campaign to militarize millions of civilians to keep Americans safe from air raids, chemical and biological attacks, spies, and even land invasion. Defenseless argues that Americans felt truly vulnerable for the first time not after 9/11 but during the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Matthew Dallek (Ph.D., U.S. History, Columbia) is associate professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Washington Post, Politico, the Journal of Policy History, and numerous other scholarly and popular publications. He is also author of The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan’s First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics and co-author of Inside Campaigns: Elections through the Eyes of Political Professionals (CQ/Sage).

4:00pm – 5:30pm
Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor Moynihan Boardroom

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.

9/12: Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s

The 2016 Fall Washington History Seminar series will begin with the inagural Wm. Roger Louis Lecture featuring Salim Yaqub.

Salim Yaqub argues that the 1970s were a pivotal decade in U.S.-Arab relations—a time when each society came to feel profoundly vulnerable to the political, economic, cultural, and physical encroachments of the other. Such perceptions aroused sharp antagonism between the United States and the Arab world. Meanwhile, however, elements of the U.S. intelligentsia grew more respectful of Arab perspectives, and Arab Americans became more visible and accepted. These patterns left a contradictory legacy of estrangement and accommodation that remains with us today.

Salim Yaqub is Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Director of UCSB’s Center for Cold War Studies and International History. He is the author of Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East (University of North Carolina, 2004) and of several articles and book chapters on U.S. involvement in the Middle East. His second book,Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s, was published by Cornell University Press in September 2016.

4:00pm – 5:30pm
Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor Moynihan Boardroom

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.