Stalin’s Foreign Policy – Waiting for Hitler

Stephen M. Kotkin, Princeton University

What do we really know about Stalin’s foreign policy – from the new documents, especially the military and police archives?  What was behind his intervention in the Spanish Civil War?  Did he seek collective security with Britain and France?  What explains the pact with Hitler?  How should we understand Stalin and the Soviet Union’s record at fighting war – Spain (1936-9), Japan (1938-39), Poland (1939), Finland (1939-40)?  What explains June 1941?

American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

Eliga H. Gould, University of New Hampshire

For most Americans, the Revolution’s main achievement is summed up by the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet far from a straightforward attempt to be free of Old World laws and customs, the American founding was also a bid for inclusion in the community of nations as it existed in 1776. America aspired to diplomatic recognition under international law and the authority to become a colonizing power itself. As Eliga Gould shows in this reappraisal of American history, the Revolution was an international transformation of the first importance. To conform to the public law of Europe’s imperial powers, Americans crafted a union nearly as centralized as the one they had overthrown, endured taxes heavier than any they had faced as British colonists, and remained entangled with European Atlantic empires long after the Revolution ended. No factor weighed more heavily on Americans than the legally plural Atlantic where they hoped to build their empire. Gould follows the region’s transfiguration from a fluid periphery with its own rules and norms to a place where people of all descriptions were expected to abide by the laws of Western Europe—“civilized” laws that precluded neither slavery nor the dispossession of Native Americans.

Planning against Planning:  The Mont Pelerin Society and the Origins of Neoliberalism

Angus Burgin, Johns Hopkins University

As a result of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the idea of economic planning by governments was very popular after World War II.  In 1947, economist Friedrich Hayek founded the Mont Pelerin Society to make a fresh case for classical liberalism.  Burgin will talk about his recent book “The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Great Depression” (Harvard University Press, 2012) that examines the revival and evolution of thought about free markets after the 1930s.

Toward a New Understanding of the Vietnam War

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Columbia University

While most historians of the Vietnam War focus on the origins of U.S. involvement and the Americanization of the conflict, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen examines the international context in which North Vietnamese leaders pursued the war and American intervention ended. The presentation, based on her award-winning book Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace, renders transparent the internal workings of America’s most elusive enemy during the Cold War and shows that the war fought during the peace negotiations was bloodier and much more wide ranging than it had been previously. Using never-before-seen archival materials from the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as materials from other archives around the world, Nguyen explores the politics of war-making and peace-making not only from the North Vietnamese perspective but also from that of South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, presenting a uniquely international portrait.