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

Analysis and Commentary

Trump Age: New Possibilities For The New World Order

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Defence Matters
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Defence Matters launched an inquiry about the consequences of the American elections for the larger international system. In the first part of our series, Elizabeth Cobbs, professor of American History at Texas A&M University will discuss the potential impact of a Trump Presidency for the broader US engagement in the world, for NATO and the US allies in Asia as well as for the future of the rules-based liberal international order.


American Umpire

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Policyed.org
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Since the end of World War II, the United States has played a unique security role in the world. During that time, democratic nation states have proliferated, combat deaths have plunged, and global trade has boomed.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Today's Victors Don't Want The Spoils

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia San Diego Union-Tribune
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

At the end of my first semester as a professor many years ago, a student studying for the final exam sought me out. “I think I understand the Revolution,” she said. “But I’m not sure about the Civil War. Who won?”

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Cobbs: Trump Is A Terrible Representative Of A Worthy Idea

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia San Jose Mercury News
Monday, September 12, 2016

History will assess Donald Trump as a terrible representative for a worthy idea. He dismisses military leaders as an embarrassment. He advocates stealing the riches of other countries. He is so inconsistent there is no guarantee he would attempt half his proposals. 

Analysis and Commentary

For U.S. Foreign Policy, It's Time To Look Again At The Founding Fathers' 'Great Rule'

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Los Angeles Times
Monday, July 4, 2016

People who don’t get heard have a tendency to shout. Eventually they get mad. For too long, foreign policy experts have stuck their fingers in their ears when confronted by citizens ambivalent about playing global police officer.

Analysis and Commentary

Brexit Vote Has Global Consequences

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia San Diego Union-Tribune
Saturday, June 11, 2016

President Barack Obama has urged the British electorate to think hard about consequences. In a letter to the London Times, 13 U.S. foreign policy experts, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and George Shultz, expressed concern that “the UK’s place and influence in the world would be diminished” and Europe weakened.

Analysis and Commentary

How Donald Trump Has Already Shaken U.S. Relations With Friends And Foes

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Reuters
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Donald Trump says he doesn’t care what the world thinks of him. The whole world. Has any presidential candidate ever exhibited such boorishness? Does it matter?

Analysis and Commentary

The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest For The American Presidency, By Ellen Fitzpatrick

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Times Higher Education (UK)
Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hillary Clinton is not the first woman run for the White House. Elizabeth Cobbs enjoys an entertaining look at her and her predecessors.

Analysis and Commentary

Kuwait Showed The Value Of Limited Intervention

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia The New York Times
Sunday, February 28, 2016

Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait, a textbook case of successful military intervention for one primary reason: The United States government forswore regime change. That Middle Eastern event contrasts dramatically with those since 9/11.

Analysis and Commentary

Which President Had The Best Last Year In Office?

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Politico
Sunday, December 27, 2015

And what are the lessons for Obama? 12 top historians weigh in.