Mark Atwood LawrenceArchives
tags: Top Young Historians
Mark Atwood Lawrence, 41
Teaching Position: Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin.
Area of Research: History of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, and Vietnam War
Education: 1999 Doctor of Philosophy, history, Yale University.
Major Publications: Lawrence is author of Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam(University of California Press, 2005), which won the 2006 George Louis Beer Prize and Paul Birdsall Prize of the American Historical Association. He has also written many chapters, articles, and reviews on the Vietnam War and other topics in U.S. diplomatic history. He is co-editor (with Fredrik Logevall of Cornell University) of The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis, a volume of essays about the French war in Indochina (forthcoming from Harvard University Press in January 2007). He is also the editor, The New York Times Twentieth Century in Review: The Vietnam War (Fitzroy-Dearborn Publishers, 2002), a Two-volume collection of New York Times material (news stories, features, editorials, photos, and graphics) connected to the Vietnam War. Lawrence is currently working on a number of book project including: The Vietnam War: A Very Short Introduction, under advance contract with Oxford University Press for publication in 2007, The United States and the World: A History in Documents co-edited with Jeffrey Engel and Andrew Preston), under advance contract with Princeton University Press, and Broken Promises: American Politics and the Crumbling of the U.S. Relationship with the Third World, under advance contract with Princeton University Press.
Awards: Lawrence is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
American Historical Association's Paul Birdsall Prize in European military and strategic history for Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam, 2007;
American Historical Association's George Louis Beer Prize in European international history for Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam, 2007;
Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2006-2008, Department of History, Yale University (two-year residential fellowship in New Haven), 2006;
President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award, University of Texas at Austin. 2004;
Grant from Instructional Technologies Services, College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas at Austin, for development of on-line teaching materials for U.S. history. 2003;
Research grant from the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts, 2003;
Nominated for Dad's Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin, 2002;
Dean's Fellowship (one-semester research leave), College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas at Austin, 2002;
Summer Research Assignment (summer research funding), Office of Graduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2001;
Theron Rockwell Field Prize from Yale University Graduate School for outstanding dissertation (one of Yale's two highest dissertation prizes, with $10,000 fellowship), 1999;
Hans Gatzke Prize from Yale University Department of History for outstanding dissertation related to European history, 1999;
John M. Olin Postdoctoral Fellowship in International Security Studies, Yale University, 1998.
Formerly Lecturer, Department of History (1998-2000) and Teaching Fellow (1992-1994) at Yale University.
Lawrence worked for the "New York Times" and as a correspondent for the "Associated Press" in Brussels and Strasbourg in the early nineties. He also covered the European Union, NATO, Council of Europe, issues included European integration, reform in Eastern Europe and Russia, U.S.-European relations, Persian Gulf War, human rights, agriculture (1995-1996).
"So you're writing about the origins of the Vietnam War? Do we really need another study on that?" Coming from an accomplished historian of U.S. foreign relations, this was an unsettling question for a slightly insecure third-year graduate student just setting out on his dissertation research. I was aware, after all, that the matter had received more than its fair share of scholarly attention. It seemed like the Civil War or the Third Reich: niches for new research were few and far between, if they existed at all.
And yet I pressed ahead, partly, I can see now, out of naïveté about just how vast the Vietnam scholarship really was. (A trip to Barnes & Noble might have been enough to stop me in my tracks.) But my perseverance sprang, too, from a sense of genuine enthusiasm about the subject and a belief that it was somehow important to lots of people outside the academy. This was well before the Iraq War pushed Vietnam back to the center of popular debate about U.S. foreign policy. During the mid-1990s, the debate was about something different: how the global order should be reshaped after the end of the Cold War. It seemed worth exploring the behavior of the United States and its allies in another period of uncertainty, the years immediately following the Second World War. How in the process of establishing the trans-Atlantic alliance - the cornerstone of Western policy thereafter - did U.S. and West European leaders respond to simmering tensions in the colonial world? More specifically, how did decisions concerning the most economically developed parts of the world contribute to flawed decisions about other areas, not least Vietnam? These were the sorts of questions I hoped to answer.
My risky choices paid off. As I completed my dissertation, I discovered that the Vietnam War had strong appeal to job committees and publishers - perhaps the two most important constituencies for a young scholar. But more important I believe that I was correct in judging relations with the "third world" as the major problem for the United States in the years ahead. The September 11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war have generated a fascination with the developing world among policymakers, students, and the general public unparalleled since the 1960s. To elucidate the historical background of present-day dilemmas strikes me as a more vital task than ever before.
In a sad but also exhilarating way, then, it is a good time to be a historian of the Vietnam War. When handled with care, the numerous parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq conflicts can help illuminate risks and opportunities in the current situation. Few of us - present company included - have been able to resist the temptation to write about the analogy. But our more pressing task is to show that Vietnam and Iraq, far from historical oddities that echo one another across a chasm of decades, are part of the same broad historical process that has played out across a century - the eclipse of European colonialism and the struggle to establish viable and just postcolonial orders in successor states. The end of the Cold War was just a turn in the story, not a beginning or an end. Viewing the global history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in this way opens up a research agenda that will keep many of us busy for a long time to come.
By Mark Atwood Lawrence
About Mark Atwood Lawrence
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