Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Legal History, Foreign Relations History, and Our Founder!

Mary L Dudziak (credit)
We are very pleased to announce that LHB Founder Mary Dudziak, the Asa Griggs Candler Emory University School of Law and, this year, the Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance at the Library of Congress, has been elected Vice President of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.  That would in itself be notable, but consider that in SHAFR whoever prevails in the competitive election for the vice presidency runs unopposed for the presidency the following year.  That means before very long, a leading legal historian will head the leading learned society on the history of foreign relations.  Legal historians should note another sign of the growing influence of their field–and this unusual opportunity for collaboration between historians of law and historians of foreign relations.

We may have, in effect, a preview in the lecture Professor Dudziak will deliver as Kluge Chair,  A Bullet in the Chamber: The Politics of Catastrophe and the Declaration of World War I, on December 10, 4:00 pm, in Room 119 of the Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress:
As members of Congress gathered in April 1917 to decide whether to declare war on Germany, some legislators arrived with battle scars. For Civil War veterans, the memory of that catastrophic war would inform their understanding of a new conflict. But their experience of war was overtaken as 20th century American wars moved offshore. Distance made war a matter of choice in 1917. This lecture will reveal what it would take to generate sufficient support to enter a faraway war: a politics of catastrophe. Dramatic stories of the deaths of small numbers of Americans who chose to cross an ocean war zone ultimately drove the country to commit soldiers to fight in European trenches. Over one hundred thousand American soldiers died. In World War I and after, dramatic events like torpedoed ocean liners were not a president’s sole reason for entering a war. But broad political mobilization and congressional authorization for distant war, in World War I and after, required a politics of catastrophe.