Washington History Seminar

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 […]

March 10th, 2014

March 10: Mark Atwood Lawrence “Foreign Policy by Analogy: U.S. Decision-Making and the Uses of the Vietnam War”

Over the four decades since U.S. forces came home from Vietnam, Americans have fiercely debated the lessons that the nation should draw from one of its longest and most controversial wars. The purpose of this talk is not to take a position on that question but to suggest a scheme for making sense of how […]

February 25th, 2014

March 3 (Rescheduled to 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 […]

February 18th, 2014

February 24: Marilyn Lake: “Australia’s Historic Minimum Wage: A World History Approach”

Histories of the minimum wage are usually written within national analytic frameworks. Research in the New York Public Library on the first minimum wage, legislated in Victoria, Australia, in 1896, convinced historian Marilyn Lake that a world history approach was necessary, one that located this experiment in “state socialism” in the context of both the […]

February 6th, 2014

February 8 and 9: The NHC on C-SPAN

C-SPAN3′s American History TV aired two National History Center programs the weekend of February 8 and 9, 2014. Jackie Jones’ talk on the myth of race and its political uses appeared Sunday, February 9, at 9:30 am, 8:30 pm, and 11:30 pm, ET.  Prof. Jones originally gave this presentation to the Washington History Seminar on […]

February 4th, 2014

February 10: Lynne Olson: “Racing Against Time: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over Saving Britain and Going to War”

Today, we think of World War II as the “good war” — a necessary conflict to save Western civilization from the evil of Nazi Germany. But in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor, author Lynne Olson argued in this presentation to the Washington History Seminar, the extent of that evil was not as obvious […]