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 eight books, the latest of which are The Tubman Command (Arcade 2019), about the story of Harriet Tubman at the height of her powers, 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

Analysis and Commentary

The Urgency Of Peaceful Protest

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Washington Post
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Holding the moral high ground is crucial to advancing a cause, as Bayard Rustin’s life showed.


Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow Reflect On Cold War In Virtual Discussion

interview with Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow, Elizabeth Cobbsvia Texas A&M University
Friday, May 29, 2020

Hoover Institution fellows Condoleezza Rice, and Philip Zelikow discuss their latest book, To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth, with Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs.

FeaturedNational Security

Why Did The U.S. Kill Suleimani?

by Elizabeth Cobbs, Kimberly C. Fieldvia The New York Times
Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The attack illustrates America’s lack of a clear grand strategy — and why we need one immediately.

Analysis and Commentary

How The Center Can Reclaim Feminism

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia The Washington Post
Thursday, November 14, 2019

Feminism wasn’t always so ideologically divisive and subject to partisan conflict.


Elizabeth Cobbs On City Lights: ‘Tubman Command;’ And Isabelle De Borchgrave

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia WABE 90.1
Monday, November 11, 2019

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


'The Tubman Command' Author Elizabeth Cobbs On Harriet Tubman As A Patriotic Veteran

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia NPR
Sunday, November 10, 2019

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


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

interview with Elizabeth Cobbsvia GPB Radio
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Elizabeth Cobbs talks about her book The Tubman Command: A Novel as well as about Harriet Tubman's involvement as a nurse and scout serving the U.S. Army during a critical point of the Civil War.

Historians on Trump: We've never seen anything like this

by Elizabeth Cobbs, Kyle Longley, Kenneth Osgood, Jeremi Surivia CNN
Wednesday, October 2, 2019

We are historians who have researched every president since George Washington, and we've never seen anything like this.

In the News

Book Review: 'The Tubman Command' Offers Plenty Of Civil War Buffs

quoting Elizabeth Cobbsvia Hutchinson Leader
Sunday, September 29, 2019

You are the Big Kahuna. The Boss, the One in Charge, maker of decisions and teller of things to do. You’re the Big Cheese with all the responsibility, and you ain’t bad at it. So how would you do if, as in the novel “The Tubman Command” by Elizabeth Cobbs, the very lives of soldiers, women and children were in your hands?

Analysis and Commentary

To Begin The World Over Again: How The American Revolution Devastated The Globe, By Matthew Lockwood

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Times Higher Education
Friday, September 27, 2019
Elizabeth Cobbs is unconvinced by a lively revisionist account of what the American Revolution did to the wider world.