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Catastrophic Diplomacy: US Foreign Disaster Assistance in the American Century

Date & Time

Apr. 15, 2024
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET


Online Only
Zoom Webinar


Decades before the Marshall Plan, foreign aid had already become a routine and valuable instrument of US foreign policy. In Catastrophic Diplomacy, Julia Irwin traces the history of US foreign disaster assistance operations across the early- to mid-20th century. Examining US governmental and military responses to scores of catastrophes around the world, she analyzes the messy politics of these humanitarian operations, showing the importance of natural hazards and disaster relief to US foreign relations.

Julia Irwin (B.A. Oberlin College, Ph.D. Yale University) is a Professor of History at Louisiana State University. She is the author of two books, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (2013) and Catastrophic Diplomacy: US Foreign Disaster Assistance in the American Century (2023). In these and other publications, she examines the role humanitarian assistance played in 20th century US foreign relations and international history.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partner (the George Washington University History Department) for their continued support.


Megan Black

Megan Black

Associate Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sarah B. Snyder

Sarah B. Snyder

Member, History and Public Policy Program Advisory Board

Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

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