Research on U.S. International Relations History

I am a historian of U.S. international relations.  My research and teaching in this field draw on two broad principles.  First, any good understanding of the United States’ place in the wider world requires serious attention to perspectives and primary sources from outside the United States. The view from Washington is never enough. Second, the United States’ role in the world can be found only by examining a broad spectrum of interactions, including cultural and economic exchanges, in addition to more traditional “top-down” diplomatic history. Again, the view from Washington will not suffice.  In this sense, “international” relations is a bit of a misnomer, given the importance of transnational networks and bottom-up exchanges.

            My first book, Cold War Holidays: American Tourism in France, shows the surprising importance of private vacations to U.S.-European relations from the end of World War II through the early 1970s. For this book, I tried to weave together diverse points of view from both nations, including diplomats, airline executives, Parisian hotel workers, and American tourists.  The book sheds new light on the Marshall Plan, public diplomacy, modernization, and globalization.  It argues that mass tourism introduced a new era of private globalization that alternately thrilled and frustrated politicians who hoped to harness global forces to traditional nation-state goals.  It also addresses the all-important question of whether the French have been rude to American tourists.  Published as part of John Lewis Gaddis’s New Cold War History series, Cold War Holidayswon the Bernath Book Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.  For more information, visit the publisher's webpage.

My current research focuses on the international politics of multinational corporations from the late nineteenth century through the 1970s.  I am particularly interested in how Americans participated in global debates about the meaning of "good" or “responsible” behavior when businesses operate across national borders.  As with my tourism book, I am interested in a broad range of actors, including missionaries, social activists, diplomats, and business leaders. This project aims to explain the evolution of norms and ethics that find their expression today in debates over free trade, sweatshops, corporate social responsibility, and anti-bribery measures.  My research so far has taken me to the U.S. government archives (State, Commerce, Treasury, Justice, USIA, Nixon White House), various business archives (Hartman Center, Hagley Museum, Harvard Business School), and the German Foreign Ministry Archive—Politisches Archiv.  

I had the very good fortune to train as a PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill with Michael H. Hunt, whose extraordinary scholarship and legendary mentorship exemplified both international research and a broad exploration of cultural, economic and political relations.

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