Kenneth A. OsgoodArchives
tags: Top Young Historians
Kenneth A. Osgood, 35
Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Director, Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency, Florida Atlantic University
Area of Research: US History, US Foreign Relations, Propaganda, Media & Culture
Education: Ph.D., History, University of California at Santa Barbara, 2001.
Major Publications: Osgood is the author of Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad(University Press of Kansas, 2006), the winner of the Herbert Hoover Book Award, and the co-editor with Klaus Larres of The Cold War after Stalin's Death: A Missed Opportunity for Peace? (Rowman and Littlefield, Harvard Cold War Series, 2006).
He has written articles and book reviews for Diplomatic History, The Journal of Cold War Studies, The Journal of American History and other anthologies and journals, including: "Hearts and Minds: The Unconventional Cold War [review essay]" Journal of Cold War Studies 4:2 (Spring 2002): 85-107; "Form before Substance: Eisenhower's Commitment to Psychological Warfare and Negotiations with the Enemy," Diplomatic History 24:3 (Summer 2000): 405-433.
He has also contributed book chapters including: "The Perils of Coexistence: Peace and Propaganda in Eisenhower's Foreign Policy," in Kenneth Osgood and Klaus Larres, eds. The Cold War after Stalin's Death: A Missed Opportunity for Peace?, (Rowman and Littlefield, Harvard Cold War Series, 2006); "Words and Deeds: Race, Colonialism, and Eisenhower's Propaganda War in the Third World," in Andrew L. Johns and Kathryn Statler, eds. Eisenhower, the Third World, and the Globalization of the Cold War (Rowman and Littlefield, Harvard Cold War Series, 2006), 3-25; "Waging Total Cold War: Eisenhower and Psychological Warfare," in Malcolm Muir, Jr. and Mark F. Wilkinson, eds. The Most Dangerous Years: The Cold War, 1953-1975 (Virginia Military Institute, 2005), 79-91. "Propaganda," in Alexander DeConde, Richard Dean Burns, and Fredrik Logevall, eds. Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, 2nd. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001), 239-254.
Osgood is currently working on The Enemy of My Enemy: The United States and Iraq since 1958 [research monograph]; Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century [edited volume, under contract with the University Press of Florida], and Rethinking Public Diplomacy: Toward an International History [edited volume].
Awards and Fellowships: Osgood is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Herbert Hoover Book Award, for best book on any aspect of American history during 1914-1964, 2007;
Sponsored Research, Florida Atlantic University, Program to Enhance Scholarly and Creative Activities Research Grant, 2007;
Researcher of the Year Award nominee, College of Arts and Letters, Florida Atlantic University, 2006;
University Award for Excellence in Teaching, Florida Atlantic University, 2004;
Writing Across the Curriculum workshop and grant, Florida Atlantic University, 2004;
Grant from the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace (Columbia University) to attend the Summer Workshop on Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy held at Cornell University, 2004;
Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Mershon Center (for the Interdisciplinary Study of International Security and Public Policy), Ohio State University, 2003-4;
Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation research grant, 2003;
Predoctoral Fellowship, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, 1999/00 & 2000/01;
Richard Mayberry Award for top graduate student in history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 2000;
Research Fellowship, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1999;
Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1999 Brython Davis Research Fellowship, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1999;
Research Grant, Rockefeller Archive Center, 1999;
University of California Regents Fellowship, 1999;
William J. Ellison Prize for outstanding research paper in history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1998;
J. Bruce Anderson Award for excellence in teaching history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1998;
Robert Kelley Award for excellent graduate work in public policy history, U.C. Santa Barbara, 1998.
During the 2006-2007 academic year, Professor Osgood held the Mary Ball Washington Chair in American History at University College Dublin. Previously, he was a research fellow at the Mershon Center for international security studies at the Ohio State University, and a fellow with the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California. He also served as associate coordinator of the Center for Cold War Studies at the UC Santa Barbara, and as a representative on the council for the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations.
I know why Stanley Kubrick made Dr. Strangelove a comedy. Sometimes it is just plain difficult to take the Cold War seriously. Having spent the past ten years studying Cold War propaganda, I have embarrassed myself in more than one archive by disturbing the silence with unexpected bursts of laughter.
There was, for example, the time I found a civil defense poster giving Americans straightforward advice for protecting themselves from a nuclear attack: "Don't be there!" And then there was the national security investigation into the birthplace of "Ham," the chimpanzee sent into outer space as part of the U.S. effort to catch up with the Soviet Union's lead in the space race. The classified memorandum confirmed that, yes indeed, Ham was an American-born monkey. And then there were the ideas for demonstrating American scientific prowess. Why not drop a hydrogen bomb into a typhoon to reverse its direction? Maybe dig a harbor in Alaska by exploding a thermonuclear device? Or perhaps use a rocket - i.e. a ballistic missile - to deliver the mail?
And of course there was Atoms for Peace, the program designed to make Americans less fearful of the atomic bomb by highlighting all the wonderful benefits of atomic energy. Inspired by Atoms for Peace propaganda, National Geographic comforted its readers with the knowledge that golf balls had been made radioactive so they could be more easily located when lost in the rough. And dogs benefited from atomic energy's healing power too, the magazine revealed in a caption of a photograph of a boy holding his puppy as it received radiation therapy for a cancerous tumor. Perhaps, I thought as I kept encountering references to dogs in the course of my research, I should write my next book on the "Canine Cold War."
But I'm not a satirist. I'm a historian. My task and my challenge is to take all this seriously - to understand, to explain, and to find meaning in a world that sometimes seems very different from the one I am living in now. In this endeavor I am reminded of a personal experience that was both unsettling and inspiring. I was a junior at Notre Dame looking into graduate programs in history. I arranged a meeting with Otis Graham, the eminent political historian who was then teaching at U.C. Santa Barbara. I think I expected him to be so dazzled by my brilliance that he would accept me into the program on the spot and shower me with cash. Instead he told me not even to apply to graduate school - or at least not yet.
He said I should follow "Graham's Rule." He explained that historians write about life, and that to be good historians we needed to be grounded in the real world; we needed to have many rich and varied experiences. "So take a year off," he advised me. "See the world, do the kind of things you can only do now, while you are young. And then, when you are ready, go to graduate school."
At first I was crushed. This was not the advice I expected. But an hour later I was inspired, and I soon was spending my time following Graham's rule. I worked as a chef at a ski resort and a golf club in Utah; I spent six months studying Russian in Monterey, California and St. Petersburg, Russia; I worked as an intern at the State Department in Washington, D.C., and I drove my pickup truck from California, to Florida, to Maine, to Alaska, and back. A year and a half later, I started graduate school at U.C. Santa Barbara.
I learned Graham was right. These experiences made me a better historian. They changed the way I view and interpret my study of the past. Conversely, so too has my study of history changed the way I look at the world. Even the seemingly narrow subject of my research -- the Cold War's propaganda battles -- offers broader lessons and bigger insights. It clarifies the way humans communicate and interact -- the way they represent themselves, the way they spin unpleasantness, the way they deceive others, and the way they are willingly deceived by others. It is also a subject that became strangely relevant after September 11th, 2001 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Will today's Stanley Kubrick make a film about the war on terror? Will it be as much of a cultural landmark as Strangelove was? And will it be a comedy, a tragedy, or a little of both? I know enough to know that only time will tell.
By Kenneth A. Osgood
About Kenneth A. Osgood
comments powered by Disqus
- Tom Engelhardt Writes Personal and Historical Essay: Turning 75 in the Age of Trump
- Historian Drew Gilpin Faust Pens Personal and Historical Essay: "Race, History, and Memories of a Virginia Girlhood"
- WBUR Is Belatedly Giving Credit to a Female Historian for a Segment
- Behind the men on the moon, there were thousands of women
- Professor Rebecca Gordon Pens Essay Revealing Her Abortion and Examines Ongoing History of Roe v. Wade