15 Events

Satiric drawing from the Catalan newspaper "La Campana de Gràcia" in 1896 satirizing the USA's intentions about Cuba. Upper text (not displayed) reads (in old Catalan): "Uncle Sam's craving (by M. Moliné)." Text below (not displayed) reads: "Saving the island so it won't get lost."

"La Campana de Gràcia" in the May 23, 1896 edition

Seminar - Open to the Public

1898: "Precautionary War" and the Three Myths of American Empire

Thu., Feb. 28, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Aroop Mukharji, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

President William McKinley's foreign policy ranks among the most consequential of all U.S. presidents. At the start of his first term, the United States was primarily hemispheric in its foreign policy orientation. By the start of his second term, the United States had brought down a European colonial power, had begun governing seven new overseas territories, and had fought two additional wars in Asia.

This presentation focuses specifically on the Spanish-American War and why McKinley decided to intervene. Three myths about his motivations continue to persist: (1) that the United States waged an economically imperialist war to open up trade opportunities, (2) that the rhetoric of manliness pressured McKinley into taking a more aggressive stance, and (3) that the yellow press whipped up a public frenzy that led to the declaration of war. These influences are greatly overstated. Instead, this presentation will argue that the Spanish-American War was partly a humanitarian war, but also a "precautionary war" (author's term) that was based on a general fear of disorder, uncertainty, and instability and waged to ensure conditions that better facilitated regional stability and peace.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

U.S President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at the Hofdi House in Reykjavik, Iceland, during the Reykjavik Summit, 11 October 1986.

The Official CTBTO Photostream

Seminar - Open to the Public

Nuclear Abolitionism and the End of the Cold War

Thu., Feb. 7, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Stephanie Freeman, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

During most of the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet officials built a broad consensus among their publics that nuclear weapons provided essential security by deterring the actions of hostile states. In the 1980s, however, the radical goal of nuclear abolition enjoyed staunch support from both grassroots movements across the globe and the leaders of the two superpowers, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. This presentation will examine nuclear abolitionists' influence on the trajectory of the Cold War's last decade, from 1979 to 1989. It will assess anti-nuclear activists' impact on elite decision-makers and consider how their shared interest in nuclear disarmament transformed U.S. and Soviet foreign policy in the 1980s. This talk will demonstrate that nuclear abolitionists played a decisive yet unappreciated role in ending the Cold War.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Memorial to the Fighters for Soviet Power in the Far East, 1917–1922, Vladivostok, Russia

Paul Behringer

Seminar - Open to the Public

Reconquering the Russian Far East: Civil War, Intervention, and Centralization

Thu., Jan. 17, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Paul Behringer, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

In 1917–1918, the Russian state collapsed and its empire disintegrated. The Bolsheviks, having seized power in November 1917, managed to hold onto authority amid repeated challenges from domestic and foreign opponents in all directions. In October 1922, Lenin's party emerged victorious from the rubble of one of the most destructive civil wars in history. Historians have put forward several convincing arguments for why the Bolsheviks were able to win the overall struggle. But the fact that the new regime was also able to reconstitute much of the Russian Empire, extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean, is as astounding today as it was unlikely in 1918. This presentation attempts to explain this accomplishment by framing the civil war in the Russian Far East as a contest between geopolitical, social, ideological, and international forces of centralization and decentralization. Building on the most recent historiographic trends in the study of the Russian Civil War, it also speaks to political science research on the broader issues of intrastate conflict, foreign intervention, and violence.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

The public military degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus

Public Domain/Henri Meyer

Seminar - Open to the Public

Taking the Bizarre Seriously in Diplomatic History

Thu., Dec. 20, 2018 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

Speaker: Ben Rhode, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

In 1898, France's military attaché in London recommended that his superiors make a secret agreement with his anonymous Irish nationalist informant in order to undermine the British Empire and counterbalance supposedly hostile British behavior. Most historical assessments have either overlooked or discounted this attaché's recommendation, considering him untrustworthy or unsober. Such an interpretation is initially appealing, especially given the bizarre and conspiratorial material in the informant's unpublished reports. This seminar will challenge prevailing scholarship that ignores or deprecates this recommendation or the attaché's credibility. It will locate the episode within the context of French concerns over Britain's exploitation of the Spanish-American War, the Dreyfus Affair, and Fashoda; a preoccupation with supposed national subversion; and alarm over the phenomenon of "fake news." Using this episode as a case study, it will argue for taking alarming or peculiar observations in the diplomatic record seriously: neither downplaying their strangeness nor overlooking how, within their context, they could be sincerely believed and hold deep appeal.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

 Capt Richard C. Zilmer leads his Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2/8 Marines ashore from the landing ship Saginaw (LST 1188) at the port of Beirut on 29 September 1982.

U.S. Navy

Seminar - Open to the Public

Reagan's Retreat: Lebanon and the Limits of U.S. Power, 1981–1985

Thu., Mar. 1, 2018 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Alexandra Tejblum Evans, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

This presentation will evaluate U.S. policy toward Lebanon from 1981–1985, tracing the gradual expansion and rapid contraction of American efforts to stabilize a complex civil and regional conflict. By situating the United States' diplomatic and military interventions within a broader effort to strengthen American influence in the Middle East, it will demonstrate how the experience shaped the Reagan administration's perception of threat—and opportunity—in a moment of structural change. It will identify persistent barriers to U.S. interests in a vital region and shed light on how American leaders learn through crisis.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

A street-level view of Cleveland, Ohio in 1930.

Public Domain

Seminar - Open to the Public

"Every Citizen a Statesman": Democracy and Foreign Policy in the American Century

Thu., Dec. 14, 2017 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker:  David Allen, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

In the middle of the twentieth century, foreign policy elites led a national movement to create democratic, foreign policy publics in communities across America, building what we now know as World Affairs Councils. This seminar will take Cleveland as its case study, explaining the rise and fall of the movement for "citizen education in world affairs" through the city where had seemed to have most success, in the 1930s and 1940s, and yet went through the steepest decline even before the Vietnam War. Americans, in other words, tried to build a democratic foreign policy, but they failed. This seminar demonstrates how and why.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Seminar - Open to the Public

"The Shifting Weights of World Affairs: Just How Do We Measure Them?" Lamont Lecture with Paul Kennedy

Thu., Dec. 7, 2017 | 6:15pm - 7:30pm

Belfer Building - Starr Auditorium, Floor 2.5

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs will host Paul Kennedy as the 2017 Corliss Lamont Lecturer. The Lamont Lectureship brings to Harvard a person widely recognized for leadership in diminishing the risk of nuclear war. Dr. Kennedy is internationally known for his writings and commentaries on global political, economic, and strategic issues.

"No chance to criticize." Uncle Sam sits at a table on which is a small cake on a platter labeled "Cuba," with a decanter labeled "Philippine Islands" on the table and a bottle labeled "Porto Rico" in an ice bucket. On the left, John Bull (Britain) and other colonial powers hold swords slicing a large cake on a platter labeled "China." John Bull (to the Powers): "What are you mad about? We can't grudge him a light lunch while we are feasting!"

Library of Congress

Seminar - Open to the Public

"The Spanish Question is Burning": Living and Dying Nations in 1898

Thu., Nov. 9, 2017 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Ben Rhode, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

This seminar will examine British diplomatic perceptions of Spain's defeat in 1898. It will explore British reactions to Spain's bitterness over being considered a "dying nation" and the supposedly close U.S.-UK relationship. It will discuss British concerns that Spain might fall under the influence of hostile states and that Spanish retaliatory actions could pose a strategic threat to the British Empire. In doing so, it will investigate understandings of national power, influence, and diplomacy at the fin de siècle.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.