Elizabeth Cobbs

Senior Fellow

Elizabeth Cobbs,  a historian, novelist, and documentary filmmaker, holds the Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M and is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. She specializes in US foreign relations and also writes more broadly on world and American history for the general public. She is the author of seven books, the latest of which are The Hello Girls: America’ First Women Soldiers (Harvard 2017), about the First World War and women’s suffrage, and The Hamilton Affair: A Novel (Arcade 2016), about the American Revolution.

Cobbs’s first book, The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil (Yale 1992) won the Allan Nevins Prize and the Stuart L. Bernath Prize. Her first novel, Broken Promises: A Novel of the Civil War (Random House 2011) won the San Diego Book Award and received Director’s Mention for the David J. Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. In 2016 American Public Television broadcast her first documentary film, American Umpire, on the history and future of US grand strategy. Sponsored by WETA-Washington, it won Best Short Documentary at the San Diego GI Film Festival in 2017. Her other books include American Umpire (Harvard 2013), All You Need Is Love: The Peace Corps and the 1960s (Harvard 2000), and four editions of the textbook Major Problems in American History (Cengage 2002–15). She has written essays and articles for the New York Times, Reuters, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, San Jose Mercury, San Diego Union, Washington Independent, Politico, and The Hill, as well as various academic journals.

Elizabeth Cobbs earned her PhD at Stanford University in 1988. She served on the Historical Advisory Committee of the US State Department from 1995 to 2005 and the jury for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in History. From 1999 to 2015, she held the Dwight E. Stanford Chair in American Foreign Relations at San Diego State University, where she twice won the departmental award for Most Influential Teacher. Previously, she was chair of the History Department at the University of San Diego. 

Her current projects include a documentary for public television on the history and future of work in the age of artificial intelligence, an article on patterns of American diplomacy, and a novel on the Civil War military service of Harriet Tubman.

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Recent Commentary

In the News

Number, Please? 'Hello Girls' Answered The Call In World War I

featuring Elizabeth Cobbsvia North Jersey
Friday, July 5, 2019
Grace Banker served in some very high places during World War I. For 20 months, she lived like a soldier at a time when the Army didn't allow women in the ranks.
In the News

‘Tubman Command’ Fleshes Out Harriet Tubman’s Role In The Civil War

featuring Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Saturday, June 22, 2019

In May, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the planned redesign of the $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman would not be unveiled in 2020. With or without having her face on the $20, Tubman is the kind of historical figure who deserves more public attention.


Elizabeth Cobbs: Local Author Tells Story Of Harriet Tubman In New Novel

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia KPBS
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs discusses her new book, The Tubman Command, and how Harriet Tubman changed America, and why Cobbs is pushing for Tubman's face to be on the $20 bill.

The Tubman Command: A Novel

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Books by Hoover Fellows
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

It’s May 1863. Outgeneraled and outgunned, a demoralized Union Army has pulled back with massive losses at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Fort Sumter, hated symbol of the Rebellion, taunts the American navy with its artillery and underwater mines.


What Took So Long For Women To Win The Right To Vote? Racism Is One Reason.

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Washington Post
Sunday, June 2, 2019

One hundred years ago, on June 4, 1919, Congress approved by joint resolution a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, sending the amendment to the states for ratification. After seven decades of campaigning, the women’s suffrage movement was on the cusp of realizing its goal.

Analysis and Commentary

Harriet Tubman, America’s Foremost Female Patriot, Belongs On The $20 Bill Now

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Harriet Tubman won an Internet vote in 2015 to decide which American woman should appear on the nation’s currency by 2020. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump denounced the choice as “political correctness.” Now, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has canceled the plan’s implementation, at least until President Trump leaves office.


Elizabeth Cobbs: ‘The Tubman Command’ Explores Harriet Tubman’s Life As A Spy For The Union Army

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia WABE 90.1
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs discusses her historical novel, The Tubman Command, and talks about how the woman known as “Moses” devised one of the largest plantation raids of the Civil War.


Harriet The Spy: Author Brings Tubman's Civil War Espionage To Life In New Novel

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia GPB Radio
Monday, May 20, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs talks about Harriet Tubman's involvement as a nurse and scout serving the US Army during a critical point of the Civil War.

In the News

Fiction: Tales Of History And Imagination

featuring Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Wall Street Journal
Friday, May 17, 2019

‘The most preposterous things in this narrative are true,” writes Roxana Robinson in an endnote to “Dawson’s Fall” (Sarah Crichton/FSG, 332 pages, $27), her potent amalgam of fiction, genealogy and archival transcripts. Ms. Robinson’s central character, the newspaperman Francis Dawson, is also her great-grandfather, and by envisioning his life and death she conjures the conditions of post-Reconstruction South Carolina, a place defined by its “twinned tendencies toward violence: one from seven hundred years of savage border fighting, and one from two hundred years of that peculiar institution, slavery.”


Elizabeth Cobbs: Harriet Tubman Like You've Never Read Her Before

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia WUNC
Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs talks about her book The Tubman Command, and brings to life Tubman’s lesser known historical feats, while also providing readers some romance to keep them intrigued.