How did I become the American international and naval historian that I am?

I suppose it all began with stories.  Bible stories on Friday afternoons at the Catholic elementary school I attended.   Stories from the Book of Mormon that my grandmother told me. Stories depicted in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists’ murals at the Santa Monica Public Library where my parents parked me and my sister while they went grocery shopping. Stories discussed in my high school American history classes taught by women who held doctoral degrees in history and education.  And stories that unfolded in a much more sophisticated way in lectures by my Stanford history professors in the late 1950s.

Continue reading

n the beginning was a name: John “Jack” Lamberton, the twin of Hugh, and one of my mother’s four brothers. They grew up in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia in the 20s and 30s. Their father, Robert E. Lamberton, was the Republican mayor of Philadelphia at the time of his death in 1941. After Pearl Harbor, the twins took different paths. Hugh became an American Field Service ambulance driver, attached to the British Eighth Army as it slogged its way up the Italian peninsula from Salerno to Udine. Jack became a tanker with the Ninth Armored Division. In early November 1944, only days after the division had been deployed in Luxembourg, he was killed by artillery fire. My curiosity from an early age about the Second World War, and the world in which my parents’ generation had come of age, began, I suspect, when I fathomed that I’d been named for Uncle Jack. I had a name to live up to. Studying, and eventually writing, history was partly a tribute to him.

Continue reading

Much of the scholarly debate about President Donald Trump’s foreign policy concentrated on whether he had renewed traditional U.S. skepticism of entangling alliances with European states. Jason Davidson’s America’s Entangling Alliances argues that such a view is inaccurate. The United States made alliances from its birth. And, in doing so, it secured important American interests over the past two hundred years.

Continue reading

This history of “the legal imagination” (1) from 1300 to 1821 describes the evolution of legal thought about matters of international significance from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. These include the rise of the state, religious diversity, colonial and imperial expansion, and the shift from agricultural to commercial economies. Each of these developments gave rise to important controversies that were framed, at least in part, in legal terms. Legal arguments provided justifications for and against various projects, beginning with the centralization of state authority. Lawyers and legal thinkers – not all legal thinkers were lawyers – drew on existing legal and philosophical vocabularies that included customary and natural law, royal prerogative, Roman law, lex mercatoria, and the emerging discourse of rights. They also turned to the emerging sciences of physics and biology for arguments and examples. Old ways of thinking seemed inadequate as did many existing norms and practices. Lawyers and legal thinkers nevertheless for the most part built on existing vocabularies but used them in novel ways; they resorted to a kind of conceptual and linguistic bricolage that over time resulted in transformations.

Continue reading

While global COVID-19 vaccination rates remain uneven and unequal, the resumption of safe and ethical in-person fieldwork has started to become possible in some parts of the world. As scholars begin considering and preparing for this, both new and seasoned field researchers would benefit from reading Stories from the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science. This book compiles 42 reflections on an eclectic range of topics related to fieldwork. The eclecticism was by design, with editors Peter Krause and Ora Szekely inviting contributors to share their “best, most insightful stories and lessons” about fieldwork.[1] The result is a volume that is honest, wise, and deeply human.

Continue reading

Teaching is often treated as the ugly step-child of academia.  Unloved, undiscussed, and often hidden from sight on the third or fourth page of one’s CV, teaching is typically relegated to an afterthought at the start of one’s career—a fact reinforced by how many graduate programs provide little to no training on how to teach.  Yet as Pedagogical Journeys persuasively argues, teaching remains one of the critical responsibilities of IR academics and, as editor Jamie Frueh reminds us, “teaching well provides a better chance to make a lasting impact on the world than disciplinary knowledge work” (4).[1]  When one couples this with the very real possibility of being employed in an institution where teaching is a primary focus, questions of pedagogy take on a new urgency and gravity.

Continue reading

I came to diplomatic history when the methods and knowledge base of my home discipline, musicology, were not quite sufficient to answer the questions I needed to ask. I am still a musicologist.  But my engagement with diplomatic history, and with history more broadly, has been formative for my work.  I believe, too, that musicology has insights to offer diplomatic history as well.

Continue reading

Becoming a historian was perhaps over-determined in my family.  My father, Brian Fitzpatrick, wrote books on Australian economic and labour history; my mother Dorothy taught history; and my younger brother, David Fitzpatrick, would become a distinguished historian (of twentieth-century Ireland) in his turn.  But both David and I tried at first to avoid our fate, he with mathematics and I with the violin.  I was well-trained as a historian at the University of Melbourne, although I did not fully appreciate this until later in life, but what hooked me was writing my history honours essay in my fourth year.[1] The topic was Soviet music and my question was whether, as claimed, it had in fact succeeded in overcoming the growing chasm between popular and “serious” music evident in the West.  I concluded that it hadn’t, which may have been partly wrong (if a reasonable conclusion at the time), but the search for an answer fascinated me.  Decades later, working in the archives of the Soviet Society for Foreign Cultural Relations (VOKS) in Moscow, I stumbled upon my own letter of enquiry to VOKS, the Soviet society for foreign cultural relations, carefully typed on a blue aerogramme and sent from Melbourne in 1960.  (They answered.)

Continue reading

My career has been, I suppose, that of a changeling – an historian trapped in a political scientist’s body, an occasional bureaucrat and diplomat, a Dean and a pundit.  My field has been that of ‘hard,’ i.e., military national security, but also military history, and some topics much further afield, to include a current project on William Shakespeare.  It has been an exceptionally fulfilling and generally (although not always) a happy one.  Much of it owes to good fortune, but the greatest part to all those who helped me along the way.  Of all these, I will say at the outset, the important have been family – grandparents, parents, my wife, children and even grandchildren.  It would be an intrusion on their privacy to say much on that score, but unquestionably they played the most important role in forming me, to include my professional career.

Continue reading

Growing up in 1970s Phoenix was hardly an obvious starting point for a career as a historian of Modern Europe.  In formal terms of American history, Arizona was one of the newest political entities of the New World, having only acquired statehood in 1912, the last territory in the contiguous United States to do so, followed by Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.  The state’s cultural identity oscillated between the poles of Texas and California, and loyalties to sports teams generally split along these lines, especially since the state only had one major sports franchise at the time.  Phoenix was a fairly sleepy town through the 1970s, mostly serving as an overland stop on the way to the beaches of San Diego and Los Angeles, or a winter holiday destination for retiree ‘snow birds’ from the Midwest looking to play golf and tennis in January.  Geographically and culturally, the East Coast was very far away, to say nothing of Old World Europe.  Local history taught in school was provincial and colonial, pivoting on recounting the glories of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, landgrabs trumpeted as triumphant tales of Manifest Destiny.  The typical diet of national(ist) history was occasionally complemented by forays into a more open-minded “world history,” usually conveyed in UNESCO-style “separate but equal” modules on Egyptian, Aztec, Greek and Roman Civilizations.  I don’t remember much of it, mainly because school knowledge of history was tested exclusively through tedious multiple-choice examinations.  I was able to memorize facts and dates quite easily, so that meant that I did well in history courses and probably carried on with them for that reason, with not much thought devoted to it.

Continue reading