The National History Center of the American Historical Association provides a venue in the nation's capital for all who care about the human past to make history an essential part of public conversations about current events and the shared futures of the United States and the wider world.

4/24: General George C. Marshall and the Atomic Bomb with Frank Settle

General George C. Marshall’s relationship with the atomic bomb was unique – he was the only senior-level official who participated in all of the major decisions involving nuclear weapons from 1942 to 1952. Author Frank Settle provides the first full-length narrative of General George C. Marshall’s crucial role in the decade-long development of the first atomic bombs.  He explores Marshall’s deep involvement with nuclear weapons as Army chief of staff, secretary of state, and secretary of defense.

Frank Settle, professor emeritus of chemistry at Washington and Lee University, also taught at Virginia Military Institute from 1964 to 1992.  Before coming to Washington and Lee in 1998, he was a visiting professor at the US Air Force Academy, a consultant to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a program officer at the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Settle developed and taught interdisciplinary courses on nuclear history, weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear power.  He currently directs the ALSOS Digital Library for Nuclear Issues (http://alsos.wlu.edu).

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.

4/17: The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture with Courtney Fullilove

While the contemporary United States is a patchwork of large-scale monocultures, this talk will explore unrealized alternatives, from a Midwestern prairie harvested for production of botanic medicines to an American South populated by smallholders cultivating tea. Understanding why these futures were unrealized, and at what cost, conjures the histories of diverse people, plants, and knowledge on the move. Weaving together the lives of German and Russian immigrant farmers, prairie plant collectors, and Ohio pharmacists, Fullilove recasts the amber waves of grain immortalized in “America the Beautiful” not as an inherited Eden, but rather a novel landscape constructed by transplanted seeds and the skilled labor of willing and unwilling immigrants.

Courtney Fullilove is Assistant Professor of History, Environmental Studies, and Science in Society at Wesleyan University, where she teaches US history of science and technology in global perspective.  She is author of The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

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.

4/3: War Against War: The Rise, Defeat, and Legacy of the Peace Movement in America, 1914-1918 with Michael Kazin

Historian Michael Kazin narrates how a group of Americans tried to stop their nation from fighting in one of history’s most destructive wars, and then were hounded by the government when they refused to back down. It was the largest, most diverse, and most sophisticated peace coalition up to that point in US history. Members of the coalition came from a variety of backgrounds, and their political ideologies ranged from socialist and anarchist to populist and white supremacist. They mounted street demonstrations and popular exhibitions, attracted prominent leaders from the labor and suffrage movements, ran peace candidates for local and federal office, and founded new organizations, some of which, like the ACLU, endured beyond the cause. For almost three years, they helped prevent Congress from authorizing a massive increase in the size of the US army—a step advocated by ex-president Theodore Roosevelt. Soon after the end of the Great War, most Americans believed it had not been worth fighting. And when its bitter legacy led to the next world war, the warnings of these peace activists turned into a tragic prophecy—and the beginning of a surveillance state that still endures today.

Michael Kazin is a professor of history at Georgetown University and editor of Dissent magazine. He received his PhD from Stanford University. His most recent books are War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918 (2017); American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (2011), and A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan (2006). He is a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review, Foreign Affairs, The Nation, Politico, and other publications and websites.

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.