Top Young Historians: 41- Mark Atwood Lawrence

TOP YOUNG HISTORIANS

Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

41: Mark Atwood Lawrence, 1-22-07

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin.
Area of Research: History of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, and Vietnam War
Education: 1999 Doctor of Philosophy, history, Yale University.
Major Publications: Lawrence is author of Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment
to Mark Lawrence JPGWar in Vietnam
(University of California Press, 2005), which won the 2006 George Louis Beer Prize and Paul Birdsall Prize of the American Historical Association. He has also written many chapters, articles, and reviews on the Vietnam War and other topics in U.S. diplomatic history. He is co-editor (with Fredrik Logevall of Cornell University) of The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis, a volume of essays about the French war in Indochina (forthcoming from Harvard University Press in January 2007). He is also the editor, The New York Times Twentieth Century in Review: The Vietnam War (Fitzroy-Dearborn Publishers, 2002), a Two-volume collection of New York Times material (news stories, features, editorials, photos, and graphics) connected to the Vietnam War. Lawrence is currently working on a number of book project including: The Vietnam War: A Very Short Introduction, under advance contract with Oxford University Press for publication in 2007, The United States and the World: A History in Documents co-edited with Jeffrey Engel and Andrew Preston), under advance contract with Princeton University Press, and Broken Promises: American Politics and the Crumbling of the U.S. Relationship with the Third World, under advance contract with Princeton University Press.
Awards: Lawrence is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
American Historical Association’s Paul Birdsall Prize in European military and strategic history for Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam, 2007;
American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize in European international history for Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam, 2007;
Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2006-2008, Department of History, Yale University (two-year residential fellowship in New Haven), 2006;
President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award, University of Texas at Austin. 2004;
Grant from Instructional Technologies Services, College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas at Austin, for development of on-line teaching materials for U.S. history. 2003;
Research grant from the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts, 2003;
Nominated for Dad’s Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin, 2002;
Dean’s Fellowship (one-semester research leave), College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas at Austin, 2002;
Summer Research Assignment (summer research funding), Office of Graduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2001;
Theron Rockwell Field Prize from Yale University Graduate School for outstanding dissertation (one of Yale’s two highest dissertation prizes, with $10,000 fellowship), 1999;
Hans Gatzke Prize from Yale University Department of History for outstanding dissertation related to European history, 1999;
John M. Olin Postdoctoral Fellowship in International Security Studies, Yale University, 1998.
Additional Info:
Formerly Lecturer, Department of History (1998-2000) and Teaching Fellow (1992-1994) at Yale University.
Lawrence worked for the “New York Times” and as a correspondent for the “Associated Press” in Brussels and Strasbourg in the early nineties. He also covered the European Union, NATO, Council of Europe, issues included European integration, reform in Eastern Europe and Russia, U.S.-European relations, Persian Gulf War, human rights, agriculture (1995-1996).

Personal Anecdote

“So you’re writing about the origins of the Vietnam War? Do we really need another study on that?” Coming from an accomplished historian of U.S. foreign relations, this was an unsettling question for a slightly insecure third-year graduate student just setting out on his dissertation research. I was aware, after all, that the matter had received more than its fair share of scholarly attention. It seemed like the Civil War or the Third Reich: niches for new research were few and far between, if they existed at all.

And yet I pressed ahead, partly, I can see now, out of naïveté about just how vast the Vietnam scholarship really was. (A trip to Barnes & Noble might have been enough to stop me in my tracks.) But my perseverance sprang, too, from a sense of genuine enthusiasm about the subject and a belief that it was somehow important to lots of people outside the academy. This was well before the Iraq War pushed Vietnam back to the center of popular debate about U.S. foreign policy. During the mid-1990s, the debate was about something different: how the global order should be reshaped after the end of the Cold War. It seemed worth exploring the behavior of the United States and its allies in another period of uncertainty, the years immediately following the Second World War. How in the process of establishing the trans-Atlantic alliance – the cornerstone of Western policy thereafter – did U.S. and West European leaders respond to simmering tensions in the colonial world? More specifically, how did decisions concerning the most economically developed parts of the world contribute to flawed decisions about other areas, not least Vietnam? These were the sorts of questions I hoped to answer.

My risky choices paid off. As I completed my dissertation, I discovered that the Vietnam War had strong appeal to job committees and publishers – perhaps the two most important constituencies for a young scholar. But more important I believe that I was correct in judging relations with the “third world” as the major problem for the United States in the years ahead. The September 11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war have generated a fascination with the developing world among policymakers, students, and the general public unparalleled since the 1960s. To elucidate the historical background of present-day dilemmas strikes me as a more vital task than ever before.

In a sad but also exhilarating way, then, it is a good time to be a historian of the Vietnam War. When handled with care, the numerous parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq conflicts can help illuminate risks and opportunities in the current situation. Few of us – present company included – have been able to resist the temptation to write about the analogy. But our more pressing task is to show that Vietnam and Iraq, far from historical oddities that echo one another across a chasm of decades, are part of the same broad historical process that has played out across a century – the eclipse of European colonialism and the struggle to establish viable and just postcolonial orders in successor states. The end of the Cold War was just a turn in the story, not a beginning or an end. Viewing the global history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in this way opens up a research agenda that will keep many of us busy for a long time to come.

Quotes

By Mark Atwood Lawrence

  • “This book seeks to explain the origins of American involvement in Vietnam, but it also Assuming the Burden JPG endeavors to contribute to a new body of American history that, inspired by globalizing currents, attempts to place the United States within an international context. How, it asks, was the United States affected by the rest of the world even as it was affecting the world in ways that are relatively familiar? Answering this question is a considerable challenge, not lease because it requires intensive work in the archival holdings of multiple nations — a process that entailed many months of research, a good deal of travel, and mastery of the political cultures and decision-making processes of each government. The outcome, I hope, is a fresh way of understanding the roots of America’s war in Vietnam and some new ideas about how nations interact with each other to produce policy.” — Mark Atwood Lawrence in “Assuming the Burden Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam”

About Mark Atwood Lawrence

  • “Rigorously researched and carefully argued. . . . Utilizing British, French, and American diplomatic, military and political records between the final years of the Second World War and 1950, Lawrence offers a broad-based and genuinely original analysis both of the role of foreign policy within and foreign pressure on America in this period.” — “The Journal of Military History” reviewing “Assuming the Burden Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam”
  • “It would not be an exaggeration to call this one of the soundest international histories of any aspect of the World War II/early Cold War era.” — Robert McMahon, author of “The Limits of Empire” reviewing “Assuming the Burden Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam”
  • “This is the new international history at its best, drawing on prodigious research in French, British and American primary sources and an imaginative and persuasive conceptual framework to fundamentally recast how we view this critical period in the history of the Vietnam wars and the Cold War.” — Mark Bradley, author of “Imagining Vietnam and America” reviewing “Assuming the Burden Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam”
  • In this important book an impressive international group of historians sheds fresh light on the First Indochina War. The years 1945 to 1954 are not just a crucial, formative period for the Vietnamese-American relationship, but also a significant chapter in the international history of the twentieth century. This work will prove most welcome to scholars and general readers alike. — Robert J. McMahon, Ohio State University reviewing “The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis”
  • The most important contribution in decades to the international history of the First Vietnam War. These essays by leading specialists The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis JPG show how the Indochina War connected key participants and historical forces in the making of the post-1945 international system. This book belongs in the library of anyone interested in the Cold War, decolonization, Asian history, Vietnamese studies, and international history. — Christopher Goscha, Université du Québec à Montréal reviewing “The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis”
  • A fresh collection of stimulating and impressive essays on the First Vietnam War. Lawrence and Logevall have brought together the leading scholars of the period in what will be essential reading for anyone interested in colonialism and the early Cold War. — Robert K. Brigham, Vassar College reviewing “The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis”
  • A splendid collection of essays based on sources from across the world and covering a wide range of topics. An indispensable addition to the literature on the First Vietnam War. — George C. Herring, University of Kentucky reviewing “The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis”
  • The First Vietnam War beautifully illustrates the complex interplay between the emerging Cold War, the disintegrating colonial order, and the vibrant social, political, and cultural forces inside Indochina. The volume confirms the promise of the new international history?-multi-archival, multi-national, and multi-causal. — Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia reviewing “The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis”
  • “His approach is really in-depth, but that just makes this course better. Very interested in students and open to suggestions.” — Anonymous Student

Posted on Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:17 PM

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