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Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography

Henry Kissinger is the most famous and controversial American diplomat of the 20th century.  Most previous studies focus on Kissinger’s ideas, his realpolitik ideology of foreign policy, policies that enhanced America’s political and military power and neglected values such as human rights and democratic reform.  In contrast, author Thomas Schwartz approaches Kissinger as a political actor, an adviser to Presidents who understood the centrality of domestic politics to foreign policy within the American system, and who adjusted his perspectives and recommendations accordingly.  

Date & Time

Thursday
Sep. 10, 2020
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET

Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography

The Annual Wm. Roger Louis Lecture

Space in the Zoom webinar is available on a first-come first-serve basis and fills up quickly, if you are unable to join the session or receive an error message, you can still watch on this page or on the National History Center's Facebook Page once the event begins.

Henry Kissinger is the most famous and controversial American diplomat of the 20th century.  Most previous studies focus on Kissinger’s ideas, his realpolitik ideology of foreign policy, policies that enhanced America’s political and military power and neglected values such as human rights and democratic reform.  In contrast, Schwartz approaches Kissinger as a political actor, an adviser to Presidents who understood the centrality of domestic politics to foreign policy within the American system, and who adjusted his perspectives and recommendations accordingly.   Schwartz also examines Kissinger’s skillful manipulation of the media, becoming America’s first celebrity diplomat, and enhancing his personal power and prestige.  The tension between Kissinger’s own recognition of the limits of American power with his determination to exercise that power is central to understanding the significance of Henry Kissinger for the history of American foreign policy.

Thomas Schwartz is the Distinguished Professor History at Vanderbilt University.  Educated at Columbia, Oxford, and Harvard Universities, he is the author of America’s Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany (1991), Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam (2003), and with Matthias Schulz, The Strained Alliance: U.S. - European Relations From Nixon to Carter (2009) He is a past President of the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), and served on the State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University and the National History Center) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the National History Center of 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 partners (the George Washington University History Department and the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest) for their continued support.

 


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History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program uses history to improve understanding of important global dynamics, trends in international relations, and American foreign policy.  Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

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