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.

5/16: Halbert Jones on “‘Crimes Against the Security of the Nation’: World War II, the Cold War, and the Evolution of Mexico’s Anti-Subversion Laws, 1941-1970”

While, until recently, relatively little attention has been given to the importance of international conditions in accounting for the longevity of Mexico’s post-revolutionary regime, Halbert Jones will show how World War II and the Cold War played a pivotal role in enabling successive Mexican governments to enact, expand, and apply one of its most controversial legal tools, a provision in the federal penal code criminalizing what it described as acts of “social dissolution.” The legislation, in force from 1941 to 1970, prescribed severe penalties for vaguely defined crimes of subversion, and it was invoked over the course of those decades against striking workers, student protesters, and a famous communist muralist, among others who were said to be spreading “foreign propaganda” and undermining national security. By the time Mexico’s 1968 student movement called for the repeal of the measure, however, it had become a symbol of what critics saw as the arbitrary nature of the regime. The removal of the provision from the books in 1970 – and its replacement with a clause introducing the new crime of “terrorism” – therefore highlights the ability of an authoritarian political system to adapt to changing international and domestic political conditions.

Halbert Jones is Director of the North American Studies Programme at St Antony’s College, Oxford. He received his doctorate in history from Harvard University and is the author of The War Has Brought Peace to Mexico: World War II and the Consolidation of the Post-Revolutionary State (University of New Mexico Press, 2014). Dr Jones has previously held positions at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and at the Office of the Historian of the State Department, where he co-edited the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes covering US policy towards Latin America during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations.

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

The 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.

5/9: Jennifer Mittelstadt on “The Rise of the Military Welfare State”

After the end of the draft, the U.S. Army recruited volunteers who heeded the call to “Be All That You Can Be.” But beneath the recruitment slogans, the army promised soldiers something more tangible: a social safety net of unprecedented size and scope. The military’s social welfare programs thrived for decades, even as the U.S. dismantled its civilian welfare system. Yet the programs came under fire in the late 1990s, as opponents of military social welfare fought to outsource and privatize the system and to reinforce “self-reliance” among American soldiers.

Jennifer Mittelstadt is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University. Her books include From Welfare to Workfare, Welfare in the United States (Co-authored with Premilla Nadasen and Marisa Chappell) and most recently The Rise of the Military Welfare State. She has published widely in both scholarly journals and popular publications, including the Journal of Policy History, the Journal of Women’s History, Social Politics, the New York Times, Jacobin, and the Los Angeles Times. She was a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 2008-2009.

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

The 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.

5/2: Jeffrey Herf on “Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989”

Author Jeffrey Herf draws upon his recently published work Undeclared Wars with Israel:  East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. The book examines the spectrum of antagonism to Israel coming from the East German and West German organizations of the far left during these years – including hostile propaganda, political warfare at the United Nations in New York, military training, cooperation of secret services, and delivery of weapons to Arab states and Palestinian organizations then engaged in wars and terrorist campaigns against Israel. The book and lecture offer considerable details based on work in the archives of the former East German regime, those of the West German government, West German leftist organizations, Jewish organizations in West Germany, the U.S. State Department and the United Nations.

Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland in College Park. He received his BA from the University of Wisconsin in 1969 and PhD from Brandeis University in 1981. He taught at Harvard, and at Ohio University in Athens before coming to Maryland in 2000. His publications include Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Harvard U. Press, 1997); The Jewish Enemy:  Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard U. Press, 2006); and Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale University Press, 2009). His bookUndeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989 was published in April 2016.

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

The 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.