I grew up in a small town named Jackson (population about 2,000) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California. My father was a car salesman and my mother was what used to be called a ‘homemaker.’ The town was in the middle of ‘Gold Rush country.’ The two gold mines on the outskirts of town, the Kennedy and the Argonaut, yielded some of the most impressive amounts of gold in the country, until they were shut down during World War II. My maternal great-grandparents arrived in Jackson in the early 1850s from Italy. The next two generations of grandfathers worked in the mines.

Continue reading

Scholars and policymakers are increasingly focused on understanding how coercion can take place in non-military domains. At the same time, China’s expanding military and economic clout has drawn greater attention to its use of coercive measures.[1] Against this backdrop, Ketian Zhang provides a timely contribution toward understanding the conditions under which states decide to use coercion and which coercive tools they choose to employ, with particular application to understanding China’s use of coercion.

Continue reading

I arrived in New York Harbor in the autumn of 1942 as part of a group of 100 Jewish refugee children from France. We were off-loaded furtively at night after the immigration officials made themselves scare. Once ashore we were dispersed to orphanages. I had been kicked around and was in poor health and stunted in growth. To assist in my adoption the agency assigned me a birth date commensurate with my size. It worked. I was quickly adopted by a Jewish couple who had married in 1927 and were unable to have children. They were wonderful parents and I was extraordinarily fortunate in every step of my war-time journey, especially the final one.

Continue reading

Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann’s book Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy provides a sustained case against the use of nuclear weapons as a tool for compelling actors to do something they would not otherwise want to do. In their reviews, three eminent scholars, Kyle Beardsley, Dan Reiter and Nina Tannenwald, are united in their praise, calling the book “important,” “powerfully argued,” and “compelling.” They diverge significantly in their critiques, however.

Continue reading

I was born of working-class, French-and-English-speaking, Catholic parents on 14 December 1941 at French Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. When they were youngsters in the late twenties at the onset of the rural economic depression, my parents, Pearl Roy and Burnett Kimball, had separately fled rural Avoyelles Parish (north of Baton Rouge) in search of a better life in the Crescent City. They later met during at a dance party of fellow and sister economic refugees in the city’s Ninth Ward. At the time, both worked at the Chase Bag Co. factory on the west bank of the Industrial Canal, which links Lake Pontchartrain with the Mississippi River. After they married, they ran a small start-up grocery in the Mid-City district but could not make a success of it. My father then went to a welding school just before U.S. entry into the Second World War and subsequently worked constructing Liberty and Victory Ships at the Poland Ave. dock on the Mississippi riverfront. He later became a union foreman for Dixie Machine Welding and Metal Works, repairing and upgrading cargo ships berthed on the river. My mother worked outside the home at varying intervals at Chase Bag Co. and Morrison Cafeteria. My grandmother, Lydia, stayed at home doing house chores, cooking, and caring for the three young children.

Continue reading

The centenary of World War I has been a significant stimulus to new research about that conflict. Like any historical era, the meaning and consequences of the war have been reinterpreted in light of our own twenty-first century concerns. The perception that in recent years the world has witnessed a ‘return to geopolitics,’ ending the relative calm of the post-Cold War period, has made the tensions that produced the Great War appear freshly relevant. It has also refocused attention on the early twentieth-century roots of present-day conflicts. In this new international environment, U.S.-China rivalry begins to look similar to Anglo-German competition in the years before 1914, and the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement and the treaties of Brest-Litovsk (1918) and Versailles (1919) seem to contain clues about contemporary conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Continue reading

Do we really need another analysis of NATO enlargement? Hasn’t the topic been done to death? According to M. E. Sarotte’s article, “How to Enlarge NATO: The Debate inside the Clinton Administration, 1993–95,” there are some compelling reasons to reopen the debate on one of the most pivotal decisions of the post-Cold War era. Investigating the decision to enlarge NATO, Sarotte zooms in on a critical period of the history of the alliance between 1993-1995, when many of the key decisions were made within the Bill Clinton administration. She argues that another investigation of this period is essential, not just because of what was at stake in Europe—in Clinton’s own words “the first chance ever since the rise of the nation state to have the entire continent live in peace” (9) – but also due to the release of newly declassified sources including records of conversations between Presidents Clinton and Russia President Boris Yeltsin about the timing and process of the enlargement policy. The article thus largely avoids the more studied historical debate about whether NATO should have been expanded, and the implications of that decision for relations with Russia, and focuses on the important questions of when and how.

Continue reading

Chance seems to have played a very big part in the accounts of fellow historians who have been writing reflective pieces for H-Diplo on their formative years. So it has been for me. But I am aware that chance and serendipity are less likely to shape the careers of younger scholars today, for the formal and informal demands upon young scholars are much more relentless. A while ago, I gave an informal talk to a group of young female scholars, post docs and lecturers in Humanities and Social Scientists based at ETH Zurich. They were genuinely shocked that I had not paid more systematic attention to my career trajectory and ambitions. It made me rather embarrassed, but also very grateful that the cards had fallen in the unplanned way they did.

Continue reading

My home town in Texas has two claims to fame. Cotulla, founded in 1881 and located halfway between San Antonio and Laredo, quickly became notorious for its feuds, shootouts, and murders: it was, the El Paso Times reported five years later, “the toughest place” in the state.[1] In due course, though, it settled down, and by 1928 when the twenty year old Lyndon B. Johnson arrived to teach in its segregated “Mexican” school, Cotulla was on the way to earning its second claim—its very own chapter in Robert Caro’s epic biography.[2] It was, by then, a placid backwater. Or would have been if it had rained more often.

Continue reading

When I entered Colgate University in 1956, I arrived with the vaguest of vocational goals. In secondary school, I had picked up a love of history, in part prompted by assiduous stamp collecting, and I entered college with the nebulous aspirations (in order of preference) of being a high-school history teacher-cum-track coach, journalist, lawyer, or Protestant minister. Not long after my first term began, I set my sights on teaching on the college level, thanks in large measure to a remarkable group of professors: Rodney Mott, who could argue both sides of any Supreme Court case with equal rigor; Charles Ray Wilson, whose dynamic lectures on the Gilded Age gave me a lifelong fascination with the subject; Arnold Sio, a sociologist whose knowledge of the American past made him the peer of many in the discipline of history; and William Askew, whose excitement about Europe’s diplomatic past was contagious. (Askew loved to describe ‘secret papers’ he had found in the Italian archives).

Continue reading