Elizabeth Cobbs


Elizabeth Cobbs was a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Cobbs is a historian, novelist, and documentary filmmaker, holds the Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M. 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


The Hello Girls

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Books by Hoover Fellows
Thursday, April 6, 2017

This is the story of how America’s first women soldiers helped win World War I, earned the vote, and fought the U.S. Army. In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 women to France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, demanded female “wire experts” when he discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with troops under fire. Without communications for even an hour, the army would collapse.

At Home In The World: Women Writers And Public Life, From Austen To The Present, By Maria DiBattista And Deborah Epstein Nord

by Elizabeth Cobbs
Friday, March 31, 2017

At Home in the World rebels against the myth that the greatest female authors have “devoted themselves almost exclusively to dramas of the marriage market”. Critics may view female novelists through the narrow lens of chick lit, but intrepid scribblers have ranged far and wide outside the domestic ghetto for two centuries.

International Women's Day — American Women Behind, As Usual

by Elizabeth Cobbs
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The United States has the world’s oldest feminist movement, yet American women are behind their sisters elsewhere.

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Staying Power

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 27, 2017

Some of America’s founders would have liked Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. After all, they were the original foes of risky entanglements abroad. 

Analysis and Commentary

Woodrow Wilson's Woman Problem, A Case Study For The Trump Era

by Elizabeth Cobbsvia Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Donald Trump will not be the first president upstaged by a mass demonstration of women. The consequences depend on whether both he and modern-day feminists learn from their predecessors’ experience.

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.