Joshua Keating: Newt in the Congo

Roundup: Talking About History

Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy.

Current primary frontrunner Newt Gingrich is often referred to as one of the leading "intellectuals" of the Republican Party. Gingrich has encouraged this view, even suggesting that the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from Freddie Mac were for his services as a "historian."

In recent years, Gingrich's historical output has been mainly confined to a series of co-authored war thrillers and alternate histories. But he does indeed hold a Ph.D. in history from Tulane University and taught the subject at West Georgia College during the 1970s.

Curious about whether Gingrich's background as a historian does, in fact, shed any light on his current views, I decided to give a read to his 1971 doctoral thesis on the unlikely topic of Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960.

Several bloggers -- notably Morehouse College professor and African politics blogger Laura Seay-- have discussed the thesis before, particularly in reference to Gingrich's comments last year that President Obama's policies are evidence of "Kenyan, anticolonial behavior."   

Indeed, even considering that he was at a southern university in the early 1970s, Gingrich's attitudes toward colonialism seem remarkably benign, often drifting into "White Man's Burden" territory...

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