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Landmark Kennan Biography Chronicles Complex Life of Early Cold Warrior

Official biographer John Lewis Gaddis paints a fascinating and multidimensional portrait of George Kennan, the post-war diplomat who set forth containment doctrine, presaged the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, in later years, became an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, including of the war in Vietnam. At the launch Wednesday of George F. Kennan: An American Life, Gaddis revealed the personality behind one of the 20th century’s great policy minds.

Date & Time

Wednesday
Feb. 15, 2012
3:00pm – 4:30pm ET

Location

6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Landmark Kennan Biography Chronicles Complex Life of Early Cold Warrior

 

Drawing on extensive interviews with George Kennan and exclusive access to his personal papers, John Lewis Gaddis, former Wilson Center fellow and Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, will discuss his latest book, George F. Kennan: An American Life , which delivers a revelatory biography of its troubled mastermind.

In the late 1940s, George Kennan wrote two documents, the "Long Telegram" and the "X Article," which outlined the strategy of containment that would define U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union for the next four decades. This achievement alone would qualify him as the most influential American diplomat of the Cold War era. But he was also an architect of the Marshall Plan, a prizewinning historian, and would become one of the most outspoken critics of American diplomacy, politics, and culture during the last half of the twentieth century. Now the full scope of Kennan's long life and vast influence is revealed by one of today's most important Cold War scholars.

Gaddis began this magisterial history almost thirty years ago, interviewing Kennan frequently and gaining complete access to his voluminous diaries and other personal papers. So frank and detailed were these materials that Kennan and Gaddis agreed that the book would not appear until after Kennan's death.

We see Kennan's insecurity as a Midwesterner among elites at Princeton, his budding dissatisfaction with authority and the status quo, his struggles with depression, his gift for satire, and his sharp insights on the policies and people he encountered. Kennan turned these sharp analytical gifts upon himself, even to the point of regularly recording dreams. The result is a revealing view of how this greatest of Cold War strategists came to doubt his strategy and always doubted himself.

The Honorable Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center will provide introductory remarks.

George F. Kennan: An American Life  was selected by The New York Times Book Review as Notable Book of the Year.

Visit The New York Times website to read a review of the book.

Purchase the book at Penguingroup.com

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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

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, and the region through research and exchange.  Read more

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

Global Europe Program

The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting the European continent, U.S.-European relations, and Europe’s ties with the rest of the world. It does this through scholars-in-residence, seminars, policy study groups, media commentary, international conferences and publications. Activities cover a wide range of topics, from the role of NATO, the European Union and the OSCE to European energy security, trade disputes, challenges to democracy, and counter-terrorism. The program investigates European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including globalization, digital transformation, climate, migration, global governance, and relations with Russia and Eurasia, China and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.  Read more

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