Arne Westad As a scholar of international history, Arne Westad studies the past to better understand today’s most pressing global challenges.
It’s an approach Westad imparts to his students at Yale, and one that lies at the heart of the university’s International Security Studies (ISS) program, which he was recently appointed to direct . Established in 1988, ISS focuses on training the next generation of scholars in international security. It supports cross-disciplinary research that blends theoretical rigor with historical depth to address matters of global importance.
Westad specializes in the history of eastern Asia since the 18th century. His 2006 book, “The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times,” won the Bancroft Prize, which recognizes distinguished works on diplomacy or American history. He came to Yale in 2019 from the Harvard Kennedy School and teaches in the Department of History and at Yale’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs. His term as ISS director will begin July 1, 2021.
Westad, the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, recently spoke to YaleNews about his work and vision for ISS. The interview was condensed and edited.
Congratulations on your appointment to direct ISS. How do you feel about taking on the job?
I’m thrilled. One thing that drew me to Yale is the university’s strength in drawing on expertise from a range of disciplines to examine international security issues. Of course, like the scholars who established the ISS program, Professor Paul Kennedy first and foremost, I’m a historian with a strong interest in contemporary international affairs. My research concerns historical issues, but I try to draw on history to better understand current events. That’s exactly what ISS has been doing and why I’m excited to by the opportunity to lead it.
Nuno Monteiro, the previous director, did an excellent job of broadening the program. It’s always been strong in history, but Nuno, who is a political scientist, did an excellent job incorporating social sciences into the program, which is extremely valuable. A lot of great people have been involved in the program over the years, which is something that makes it so special.
Of course, I also see this appointment in connection with the university’s massive investment in establishing the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
What’s the most pressing issue in U.S. foreign policy?
One of the most important issues in U.S. foreign relations is the country’s relationship with China. I have a keen interest in East Asian and Chinese history as well as U.S.-China relations. Yale can bring expertise to bear on that relationship from a variety of disciplines, including history, political science, economics, comparative literature, or philosophy. Yale can bring expertise to bear on that relationship [between the U.S. and China] from a variety of disciplines. Universities have struggled to open up this conversation beyond the two countries’ political or economic relationship. That’s something I want to avoid in my work with ISS, and it’s something that Jackson wants to avoid as […]