Top Young Historians: 105 – Jeffrey A. Engel

Top Young Historians

Jeffrey A. Engel, 37

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor and Verlin and Howard Kruse ’52 Founders Professor and the Director of Programming, Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School of Texas A&M University.
Area of Research: Engel teaches courses in American foreign policy and the evolution of international strategy, with primary research interests including diplomacy’s domestic and localized effects, technology and foreign policy, and economic warfare.
Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ph.D. in American History, 2001
Major Publications: Engel is the author of Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007). American Historical Association’s 2008 Paul Birdsall Prize, awarded biannually to the outstanding work published in European Military and Strategic History. Jeffrey Engel JPG Engel is the editor of Rethinking Leadership and “Whole of Government” National Security Reform, with Joseph R. Cerami, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2010).” Authored the chapter: “Change is Hard… But Even Small Steps Matter,” 187-208;
Diplomatic History, Guest Editor of Special Edition, “The End of the Cold War: New Evidence and Interpretations from the First Bush Administration,” 34(1), January 2010;
The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989, Jeffrey A. Engel, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Excerpted in Foreignpolicy.com, November 9, 2009, authored the chapter: “1989: An Introduction to an International History,” 1-35;
The China Diary of George H.W Bush: The Making of a Global President (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). Excerpted in Newsweek, December 24, 2007;
Local Consequences of the Global Cold War, Jeffrey A. Engel, ed. (Palo Alto and Washington, DC: Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2008), authored with Katherine Carté Engel the chapter: “On Writing the Local within Diplomatic History: Trends, Historiography, Purpose,” 1-32.
Engel is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “‘A Better World…but Don’t Get Carried Away’: The Foreign Policy of George H.W. Bush Twenty Years On,” Diplomatic History, 34(1), January 2010, 25-46;
“Leadership and National Security Reform,” A Strategic Studies Institute Colloquium Brief, Joseph R. Cerami, Jeffrey A. Engel, and Lindsey Pavelka,” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, December 2009;
“Forty-One Minus Forty-Three is Not a Negative Number: Thinking Like an Historian about the First Bush Presidency,” Historically Speaking (Forthcoming, 2010);
“The Democratic Language of American Imperialism: Race, Order, and Theodore Roosevelt’s Personifications of Foreign Policy Evil,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 19(4), December 2008, 671-689;
“Over There…To Stay this Time: The Forward Deployment of American Basing Strategy in the Cold War and Beyond,” in Luis Rodrigues and Sergiy Glebov (eds.), Political and Social Impact of Military Bases: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Challenges (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2008), 17-28;
“A Shrinking World: Transport, Communication, and Towards a Global Culture,” in Gordon Martel, ed., Companion to International History, 1900-2001 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 52-64; “The American Tendency to Personify Foreign Threats, from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush: A Note on American Diplomatic Rhetoric,” Political Internacional 25(2), 2002, 197-230;
“‘Every Cent from America’s Working Man’: Fiscal Conservatism and the Politics of International Aid after World War II,” The New England Journal of History 58(1), 2001, 20-60.
Engel is currently writing Seeking Monsters to Destroy: Language and War from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
Awards: Engel is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Texas A&M University System Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award, 2010;
Verlin and Howard Kruse ’52 Founders Professor, 2009-Present;
Program to Enhance Scholarly and Creative Activities Grant, Texas A&M University, 2008;
2008 Paul Birdsall Prize in European Military and Strategic History for Cold War at 30,000 Feet, American Historical Association;
Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Summer Institute Participant, 2008;
Bush Faculty Excellence Award (Annually Awarded to Outstanding Faculty Member), 2007;
Evelyn and Ed F. Kruse ’49 Faculty Fellow, Awarded to Outstanding GBS Assistant Professor, 2006-2009;
Visiting Fellow, International Security Studies, Yale University, 2007;
Silver Star Award, Awarded by Graduating Students to Outstanding Bush School Professor, 2006;
John M. Olin Postdoctoral Fellow, International Security Studies, Yale University, 2001-2003;
Visiting Fellow, Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy, Temple University, 2000-2001;
Guggenheim Research Fellow (renewed), National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2000;
Guggenheim Research Fellow, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1999-2000;
W. Stull Holt Memorial Fellowship of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, 2000;
United States Military Academy, West Point, Summer Teaching Fellow in Military History, 1999;
Research Fellow, Harry S Truman Presidential Library Institute, 1999;
Dissertation Research Fellow, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, 1999;
Visiting Research Fellow, Eisenhower World Affairs Council (Eisenhower Library), 1999;
University of Wisconsin-Madison Vilas Fellow, 1997;
Blattberg Writing Award, University of Wisconsin Department of History, 1997;
Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanistic Studies, 1995-1996.
Additional Info:
Formerly a lecturer in history and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania (2003-2004), a Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College (2004), and an Olin Postdoctoral Fellow in International Security Studies at Yale University (2001-2003).
Engel is the Co-Director, Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Summer Institute, 2010, “Decision-making and the Uses of History”;
Engel serves on the Editorial Board for Diplomatic History and the Journal of Transatlantic Studies, and has published in numerous journals including Diplomatic History, The International Journal, and Enterprise & Society.

Personal Anecdote

I did not set out to write my first book. At least, I did not set out to write the book that finally appeared a decade after I began graduate school. The overarching topic never changed. It remained from beginning to end a study of Anglo-American diplomatic competition for control of the vital aerospace marketplace after World War II.

The topic never changed. But the book itself changed wholly, completely, and unexpectedly. I like to think for the better.

It began, as did I in many ways, as a good example of Wisconsin new-left revisionism. Not only was a I trained by disciples of this powerful strain of diplomatic history, as an undergraduate by Walt LaFeber and in graduate school by Tom McCormick, but revisionism’s ingrained bias towards economic considerations and concerted policymaking by elite interests fit well my own red-diaper upbringing. Seminars and books that concluded, to crudely paint with a broad brush, that moneyed interests helped dictate Washington’s international priorities simply made intuitive sense following years of similar intergenerational invectives from the host of New York Jewish socialists who gathered around the family dinner table (even after we moved to Nebraska).

My dissertation proposal fit this model. Having arrived in Madison-and really, where else would a would-be leftist historian go for grad school?-determined to study what I termed the local impact of diplomacy, that is the measurable human, social, and economic costs and benefits of foreign policy upon communities, I quickly chose Anglo-American aviation diplomacy as my broad topic. Planes during the Cold War were built largely in single sites, thus ensuring that one could quickly discern the effects of plane sales, or their dearth, on the well-being of cities from Seattle to Farnborough. It had to be a topic politically-sexy enough to have garnered the attention of Prime Ministers and Presidents, thus ensuring that diplomacy and sales interacted and produced an extant documentary record. Finally, it had to be an Anglo-American study as well, because good diplomatic work of the era was invariably comparative and transnational, and having studied in England as and undergrad I was determined to get back as quick as possible.

I thus wrote what I thought to be a rather eloquent dissertation proposal befitting the best of what I understood to be the Wisconsin tradition. This would be a story of economic competition for markets, I posited. It would show British and American diplomats battling throughout the world to secure sales for their domestic producers, thereby ensuring prosperity at home and influence abroad. Policymakers would invariably ensure that trade followed the flag, I expected to show. And if their Special Relationship took a beating for the sake of national sales, well this was exactly the type of economic primacy trumping allied solidarity I expected to find once I hit the archives.

The dissertation proposal proved a beautifully constructed piece of tripe. I was not in England 48 hours, immersed in the documents for the second day of an expected year-long cruise through the archives, when I realized I had the story entirely wrong. This was not a tale of export promotion, the records revealed. It was instead one of export-constraint. The story of Anglo-American aviation diplomacy was not a tale of diplomats fighting to open markets for their own producers. It was instead a saga of policymakers vainly struggling to hold back the tide of eager salespeople, whose lust for exports paid little concern for the potential loss of strategically valuable aviation technologies to communist foes. It was a also, I ultimately discovered, a tale of divergent and contradictory British and American strategies for waging and winning the Cold War, one in which strategic concerns trumped economic considerations; though I first had to accept how wrong I’d originally been before I could see this story emerge.

In short, I had it wrong. I won’t say the experience of watching my expectations dashed and then reborn destroyed my revisionist leanings in one fell swoop, because in truth these had already begun to both decline in zeal in favor of a (hopefully) more complex worldview colored by different and even contradictory theories of analysis. At the least, it taught a valuable lesson: history is not always what we expect, but more often what we discover. First, however, one has to be willing to look. And to change one’s mind, no matter how the final product is received around the dinner table.

Quotes

By Jeffrey A. Engel

  • The world changed in 1989.
    At the start of the year, the globe’s strategic map looked much like it had since the end of World War II. The Fall of the Berlin Wall JPG Communist leaders in China and the Soviet Union held power. Their American counterparts, skeptical of the sincerity of recent calls for change throughout the Communist world, prepared for a reinvigorated Cold War of unknown duration and ferocity. Europe prepared for another year divided along fault lines imposed by conquering armies nearly a half-century before.
    A year later, communism would be dead in Eastern Europe and dying in the Soviet Union itself. China would be once more in the grip of hard-liners wary of reform, and once more on the precipice of isolation. Washington would be looking to capitalize on its Cold War victory. Europe would soon by rejoined. The future-our twenty-first century present-would be at hand. And no one had seen it coming. — Jeffrey Engel in “The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989″ (Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 1.
  • This is a story about power. Power enough to shape nations and the world. It is an examination of the bitter Cold War at 30,000 Feet JPGbattles fought by British and American officials over the proper maintenance of the international system following the horrors of World War II, and ultimately of their contest to see which nation would lead the Western crusade against global Communism during the ensuing Cold War. The contest would determine which nation was best equipped to lead the world in its long search for stability, peace, and prosperity in the second half of the twentieth century. The competitors were not always in conflict. Rarely have two allies worked more closely than the United States and the United Kingdom, bonded by a common language, political tradition, and the burdens of combating common enemies. Yet with a fervor rarely appreciated owing to their frequent and public displays of intimacy, behind closed doors they fought bitterly-not only for their different visions of their “Special Relationship,” in which the two nations famously operated as a tighter partnership than either capital enjoyed with any other nation, but more dramatically for their different visions of the future.” — Jeffrey Engel in “Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy” (Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 1.
  • About Jeffrey A. Engel

  • This brilliant book contributes to both the history of the airplane industry and Cold War history. Great Britain and the United States competed for supremacy and clashed over sales in the industry as leaders in each nation believed they alone knew how to strike the proper balance between the demands of security and the needs of commerce. It is a fascinating and important story, and Engel tells it well. — Richard S. Kirkendall, University of Washington about “Cold War at 30,000 Feet”
  • This book recounts Britain’s challenge to American hegemony in the production of airliners during the years after the Second World War. Ho hum, you’d think. But with a cast of colorful characters–among them Ernest Bevin, Dean Acheson, and John Maynard Keynes–and acute glimpses into how things worked in postwar Washington, this chronicle of an intense commercial struggle gives readers a fascinating glimpse into a forgotten cranny of history. — The Atlantic about “Cold War at 30,000 Feet”
  • Jeffrey A. Engel’s study of Anglo-American rivalry in aviation provides a fascinating look at the underlying issues that strained the alliance during the first two decades of the Cold War. Building on existing historiography regarding the allies’ different strategic visions during this period, Engel develops a fascinating new approach by demonstrating how conflicts over aviation policy illuminate these differences. Employing an impressive array of archival research, the author details how the allies endured a number of potentially serious disagreements regarding the diffusion of aviation technology. While Engel may overestimate the damage that these disputes had on the alliance, as no real crises developed from the cases he explores, he does an exceptional job of showing how important airpower was in the conflicting worldviews of the two great English-speaking powers. — Daniel C. Williamson (American Historical Review) about “Cold War at 30,000 Feet”
  • Jeffrey A. Engel’s book is a fascinating read, especially for those who maintain that international relations are defined by “high politics” (as in global alliances and security issues) that take precedent over “low politics” (such as financial and trade issues). In examining Anglo-American differences over the trade in aeronautics (engines and aircraft), Engel shows just how much low politics mattered-and how they could be defining moments of high politics when international relations collided with economic and trade interests…Cold War at 30,000 Feet is an important addition to our understanding of the Cold War. — Marc Dierikx (The Journal of American History) about “Cold War at 30,000 Feet”
  • “[B]ush’s year in China laid the foundations for the pragmatic, prudent, personal foreign policy that would characterize his presidency. With superb annotations and analysis by Jeffrey Engel, a professor of history and public policy at Texas A&M, Bush’s daily diary sheds light not only on ‘the making of a global president’ but on two nations in transition: late Maoist China, as it moved, tentatively, toward engagement with the international community; and the United States, as it absorbed the implications of defeat in Vietnam.” — Glenn C. Altschuler, Baltimore Sun about “China Diary of George H.W. Bush”
  • “George H. W. Bush’s China diary captures a pivotal moment when Americans were reintroduced to the Middle Kingdom after a generation of estrangement. It also reveals much of the humanity, humor, and light foreign policy touch of a future president and presidential father. We can be grateful to Jeffrey Engel for putting this important document into its rich historical context and making it accessible.” — Timothy Naftali, author of George H. W. Bush
  • “Engel’s historical editing is the perfect frame to this lucid window on late-Maoist China. In the Bush diary’s candid entries the reader can ‘eavesdrop’ on a statesman educating himself for the personal, pragmatic diplomacy that would change the world.” — Walter A. McDougall, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Heavens and the Earth
  • Jeffrey A. Engel’s and Katherine Carté Engel’s introduction by itself is worth acquiring the book for. Students and teachers of Cold War history alike will be grateful for such a nuanced account of methodology of and approaches to Cold War historiography. By discussing the achievements of earlier research and naming desiderata, the authors pave the way for the case studies to fill some of the voids left by traditional accounts, many of which ignore ‘small’ stories taking place in seemingly remote areas in favour of the ‘big picture’. — Corinna R. Unger, Journal of Contemporary History about “Local Consequences of the Global Cold War”
  • Posted on Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 10:41 AM

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