A Saltzman Institute Lecture Report has been made available for this event. Click here to read it.

There is a widely held belief that we are at a profound and critical juncture in world politics.  Nuclear proliferation, strategy and policy have risen to the top of the global policy agenda, and issues ranging from a nuclear Iran to the global zero movement are generating sharp discussion and debate. What is the best way to understand these problems and recommend the best policies to deal with these questions?

The key is to examine the historical origins of our contemporary nuclear world.  Surprisingly, this is rarely done.  This talk will challenge key elements of the widely accepted, stylized narrative about the history of the atomic age and the consequences of the nuclear revolution.  On a wide range of issues, from the strategy of flexible response to the origins and motivations for U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy, we have gotten our history wrong.  More importantly, we know far less than we think we do about our nuclear history.  Rigorous historical work cannot only tell us what happened in the past; as importantly, it offers a powerful but often underutilized tool to explain how nuclear weapons influence international relations, and provide the foundations for both better theories and policies. 

A historian by training, Francis J. Gavin’s teaching and research interests focus on U.S. foreign policy, global governance, national security affairs, nuclear strategy and arms control, presidential policymaking, and the history of international monetary relations. Gavin is the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the first Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs at Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He was also the director of “The Next Generation Project – U.S. Global Policy and the Future of International Institutions,” a multi-year national initiative sponsored by The American Assembly at Columbia University.  Previously, he was an Olin National Security Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, an International Security Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a Research Fellow at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, where he started “The Presidency and Economic Policy Program.”

Gavin received a Ph.D. and M.A. in Diplomatic History from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Studies in Modern European History from Oxford, and a B.A. in Political Science (with honors) from the University of Chicago. His publications include numerous scholarly articles, book reviews and editorials. His book, Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958-1971, was published in 2004 by the University of North Carolina Press under their New Cold War History series.

The event will be moderated by SIPA Professor and SIWPS Affiliate Austin Long.