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


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.


Elizabeth Cobbs: The Tubman Command

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia Commonwealth Club
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs discusses her book The Tubman Command.


Will Robots Take Over American Jobs? Elizabeth Cobbs And James Shelley Discuss Documentary, Claim “We Fear Things That Make Our Lives Better”

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia WGN Radio
Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs and James Shelley discuss their new PBS documentary, CyberWork and The American Dream.

In the News

Elizabeth Cobbs At The Tubman Command Event

featuring Elizabeth Cobbsvia Commonwealth Club
Monday, May 6, 2019

The Tubman Command is an impeccably researched historical novel that brings to light the bravery and brilliance of American icon Harriet Tubman. 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. 

In the News

Novelist D. Elizabeth Cobbs To Speak

mentioning Elizabeth Cobbsvia Texas A&M University-Texarkana
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Texas A&M University-Texarkana and the Program for Learning and Community Engagement will host novelist D. Elizabeth Cobbs for a lecture titled "Fighting on Two Fronts: World War One, The Vote, & America's First Women Soldiers."

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The Door Is Already Open

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A strong China can be a peaceable China.


Elizabeth Cobbs: PBS Documentary Explores The Future Of Automation And The American Dream

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Show (KJZZ)
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs discusses her and James Shelley's new PBS documentary, "Cyberwork and the American Dream."


An Equation To Ensure America Survives The Age Of AI

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Financial Times
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Tech investors celebrate a future of self-driving taxis and low labour costs as gig economy platform companies such as Lyft and Uber go public. But workers spy disaster. In more and more industries, the low-skilled suffer declining pay and hours. McKinsey estimates that 60 per cent of occupations are at risk of partial or total automation.

In the News

Spring Arts 2019 | Books: Catching Up With Historian Elizabeth Cobbs

featuring Elizabeth Cobbsvia The San Diego Union Tribune
Sunday, March 24, 2019

She wanted to write books her mother would read. Elizabeth Cobbs was already a successful author in her academic field — history — who penned well-regarded books about American foreign policy. Her mother proudly displayed them on the fireplace mantel, kept the covers dust-free, and had very little to say about what was inside.

In the News

Readers Recommend Books: 'The Hello Girls' And 'Code Girls'

featuring Elizabeth Cobbsvia Star Tribune
Sunday, March 17, 2019

History is always on my list. I just finished “The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers,” by Elizabeth Cobbs. It recounts the story of women telephone operators who served in World War I. While they were treated as “less-than” in terms of benefits, they were seen as superior to men in their ability to handle the calls impacting troop movements and ultimately, saving lives. Many firsthand stories.