LaFeber, Walter 1933- (Walter Fredrick LaFeber)
LaFeber, Walter 1933- (Walter Fredrick LaFeber)
Born August 30, 1933, in Walkerton, IN; son of Ralph Nichols (a grocer and merchant) and Helen LaFeber; married Sandra Gould, September 11, 1955; children: Scott Nichols, Suzanne Margaret. Education: Hanover College, B.A., 1955; Stanford University, M.A., 1956; University of Wisconsin—Madison, Ph.D., 1959. Religion: Presbyterian.
Home—Ithaca, NY. Office—Department of History, Cornell University, McGraw Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4601.
Writer, historian, scholar, foreign relations expert, and educator. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, assistant professor of history, 1959-63, associate professor, 1963-67, professor, 1967-68, Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History, 1968-2001, Stephen Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow, 1994-2006, Andrew Tisch and James Tisch Distinguished University Professor, 2002-06. University of London, London, England, commonwealth lecturer, 1973; University of Aberdeen, Callander lecturer, 1987; Johns Hopkins University, Shaw lecturer, 1989; Amherst University, Landmark professor, 1992; University of California, Jefferson lecturer, Berkeley, 1992. Member of advisory committee historical division of the State Department, 1971-75. Guest on television and radio programs. U.S. Department of State, Historical Division, member of advisory committee.
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Society of Historians of American Foreign Policy (served as president).
Albert J. Beveridge Prize for best manuscript submitted to American Historical Association, 1962, for The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898; Gustavus Myers prize, 1985, for Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America; Guggenheim fellow, 1990, 1992; Bancroft Prize in American History and Ellis Hawley Prize, Organization of American Historians, both for The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japanese Relations; John M. Clark Teaching Award, Cornell University.
The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898, published for American Historical Association by Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1963, 35th Anniversary Edition, 1998.
America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1966, Wiley (New York, NY), 1967, 9th edition published as America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2002, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 2004, 10th edition published as America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2006, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 2008.
Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947, Wiley (New York, NY), 1971.
(With Lloyd Gardner and Thomas McCormick) Creation of American Empire, Wiley (New York, NY), 1973, revised edition, 1976.
(With Richard Polenberg and Nancy Woloch) The American Century: A History of the United States since the 1890s, Wiley (New York, NY), 1975, 4th edition, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1992, 6th edition, M.E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 2008.
The Third Cold War, Baylor University Press (Waco, TX), 1981.
Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, Norton (New York, NY), 1983, 2nd edition, 1993.
The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad since 1970, Norton (New York, NY), 1989, 2nd edition, 1994.
The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations, Norton (New York, NY), 1997.
Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, Norton (New York, NY), 1999, expanded edition, 2002.
The Deadly Bet: LBJ, Vietnam, and the 1968 Election, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lanham, MD), 2005.
John Quincy Adams and American Continental Empire, Quadrangle (Chicago, IL), 1965.
America in the Cold War: Twenty Years of Revolution and Response, 1947-1967, Wiley (New York, NY), 1969.
(With William Appleman Williams, Thomas McCormick, and Lloyd Gardner) America in Vietnam, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Thomas McCormick) Behind the Throne: Servants of Power to Imperial Presidents, 1898-1968, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1993.
Contributor to books, including The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, edited by Warren I. Cohen, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993. Contributor of articles to professional and popular journals. Member of board of editors, Diplomatic History, International History Review, Political Science Quarterly, and World Politics.
Walter LaFeber is a writer, historian, educator, and foreign policy expert. A career academic, LaFeber spent more than forty-five years at Cornell University, starting there in 1959 and retiring in 2006. He is the author of many well-received books, including the influential America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1966, which has appeared in ten editions since it was first published in 1967. He has been a consultant to the Historical Division of the U.S. Department of State. LaFeber has also appeared on several television programs, including American Presidencies, hosted by eminent television journalist Walter Cronkite; American Experiences, on PBS; and End of the Cold War, on BBC-TV.
In The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective, LaFeber surveys the history of the Panama Canal, concentrating on the events that led to the 1974-77 treaty negotiations between Panama and the United States. In assessing the book, Daniel Oliver of National Review called LaFeber's grammar "revisionist." He added: "LaFeber arrives, predictably, at the government position…. True, past U.S. behavior may, as he says, justify the present fierce nationalistic desire of the Panamanians to own the canal. But that behavior—and this book—hardly disposes of the appropriate military concerns, and does not support provisions in the proposed treaty requiring the U.S. to pay reparations, or to forswear building a sea-level canal elsewhere."
Summarizing the book's importance, Terry Thometz of the Nation wrote: "Although [The Panama Canal was] written as a diplomatic history, evidence of ‘diplomacy’ is scant, for this is a history of treachery, colonialism, and racism, of one power's domination of another—politically, economically, militarily, psychologically.… LaFeber's recognition that U.S.-Panamanian history cannot be reduced to the Canal itself, to deadweight tonnage, toll revenues, and property titles—is an important contribution to the political polemics."
Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America contains LaFeber's analysis of America's policy failures and other errors in Central America over the course of several decades. Lester D. Langley, in a Political Science Quarterly review, remarked that "this work represents a persuasive case that Central America constitutes the most flagrant embarrassment for U.S. policy in the western hemisphere in this century." LaFeber provides an in-depth critique "not so much of actions and events, but more of how America's politicians, scholars and journalists have justified, interpreted and described their country's relations with its closest neighbors and the rest of the world that the US came to dominate," commented Maurice Walsh, writing in New Statesman & Society. LaFeber reports on instances in which the United States took actions that had a tremendously negative effect on the geographical area often called "America's Backyard." For example, the United States engaged in price fixing during the war in the 1950s that kept prices of Central American raw materials low. After the war, LaFeber notes, the price controls were removed, allowing prices of U.S. goods made with those materials to soar. In another instance, U.S. aid and financial assistance was denied to Costa Rica after it ran up a huge national debt (with U.S. help). Costa Rica's inability or unwillingness to impose severe financial restraint caused the United States to turn its attentions and aid elsewhere, even though much of Costa Rica's spending had been used to create large-scale and effective social welfare and education programs for its citizens. Walsh called Inevitable Revolutions "one of the few worthwhile books published about Central America during the wars and revolutions of the 1980s," while Langley declared it to be "probably the best known work in English on Central America published in the 1980s."
In The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations, LaFeber "chronicles the often tumultuous relationship between the United States and Japan over the past 150 years with an eye toward understanding contemporary tensions," commented Robert G. Kane in ORBIS. LaFeber begins his account with the storied opening of Japan in the 1850s by Commodore Perry, and traces the interactions between the two countries from this tense beginning through gradual development, war, reconstruction, and economic competition. The author explores three significant themes that he believes lie at the heart of U.S. and Japanese relations. The first is mutual perceptions held by each country, such as the perception of being partners in East Asian affairs, which have not always been accurate as reflected by the reality of contentious relations. Second, the dramatically different forms of capitalism practiced by the two countries almost ensure conflict. Third, the United States and Japan have frequently clashed over the potentially vast markets in China, each country seeing itself as having the right to advance its own economic expansion into the country. "The primary strength of The Clash is its author's ability to explain the continuities that have affected the relationship over the long term," Kane stated. "LaFeber is right on target in asserting that U.S.-Japan relations can only be understood in light of their deep historical roots." Nicholas D. Kristof, writing in Foreign Affairs, called the book "serious and scholarly, the kind that you can put down," but also "gracefully written, with an eye for an amusing phrase or colorful quote, and … sober in [its] judgments." Reviewer Mark Beeson, in a Journal of Contemporary Asia assessment, noted that "this book can be recommended to anyone who wants to gain a greater insight into this relationship, be they specialist or novice." A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that LaFeber's "history of the two lands makes a significant contribution to the field."
LaFeber combines sports-star biography with international economic analysis in Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism. LaFeber tracks the rising popularity of the talented basketball player Jordan in tandem with the development of transnational commerce and the global business strategies employed by companies such as Nike and international news outlets such as CNN. For LaFeber, "Jordan is both a prime player and a mere reflection of the cultural-economic phenomenon of globalization," commented Vernon Ford in Booklist. LaFeber considers Jordan's role as both sports icon and international media star. He analyzes American dominance of global media and how this commanding role has benefited American companies, such as Nike, that want to compete successfully in the international market. In the end, LaFeber "views Jordan as the harbinger of a new kind of capitalism fueled by information-age media," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, in which cultures at home and abroad are rendered sterile and homogenized by acquiescence to the message of the market. Library Journal contributor Norman B. Hutchinson called the book a "marvelously original cultural history."
The tumultuous political realities of the Vietnam era are the subject of The Deadly Bet: LBJ, Vietnam, and the 1968 Election. The bet that LaFeber refers to is Lyndon Johnson's belief that he could sustain involvement in Vietnam while also accomplishing his domestic goals. The 1968 presidential election and the social and political atmosphere in which it was held demonstrate how Johnson lost that precarious bet. In addition to Johnson, LaFeber considers the actions of eight other significant personalities of the time period, including Vietnam commander General William Westmoreland; Senator Eugene McCarthy; pastor, civil rights pioneer, and peace activist Martin Luther King; U.S. senator Robert Kennedy; presidential candidates Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace; and Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu. Library Journal reviewer Karl Helicher called the book an "accessible account" of the politics, players, and events of 1968. LaFeber provides "an intriguing external perspective on both the war and the U.S. electoral process, not to mention the candidates seeking the White House," commented Andrew L. Johns in the Canadian Journal of History.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1997, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations, p. 185; July, 1999, Vernon Ford, review of Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, p. 1890; February 15, 2000, Bonnie Smothers, review of Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, p. 1060.
Canadian Journal of History, spring-summer, 2006, Andrew L. Johns, review of The Deadly Bet: LBJ, Vietnam, and the 1968 Election, p. 164.
Contemporary Review, March, 1998, Raymond Lamont-Brown, review of The Clash, p. 158.
English Historical Review, June, 1995, Callum MacDonald, review of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, p. 672.
Foreign Affairs, May-June, 1994, Stephen F. Ambrose, review of Behind the Throne: Servants of Power to Imperial Presidents, 1898-1968; November-December, 1997, Nicholas D. Kristof, review of The Clash, p. 140.
Harvard Business Review, September 1, 1999, review of Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, p. 166.
Historian, autumn, 1994, Thomas Zoumaras, review of Behind the Throne, p. 141.
History Today, June, 1995, Esmond Wright, review of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, p. 51.
Journal of Contemporary Asia, May, 2002, Mark Beeson, review of The Clash, p. 267.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, fall, 1995, Thomas G. Paterson, review of Behind the Throne, p. 342.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1997, review of The Clash, p. 1189.
Library Journal, September 15, 1997, Scott K. Wright, review of The Clash, p. 90; July, 1999, Norman B. Hutcherson, review of Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, p. 108; March 15, 2005, Karl Helicher, review of The Deadly Bet, p. 96.
Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1984, review of Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, p. 36.
Nation, March 11, 1978, Terry Thometz, review of The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective, p. 278; November 24, 1997, Patrick Smith, review of The Clash, p. 25.
National Review, February 17, 1978, Daniel Oliver, review of The Panama Canal, p. 230.
New Republic, May 1, 1989, review of The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad since 1970, p. 43.
New Statesman & Society, April 16, 1993, Maurice Walsh, review of Inevitable Revolutions, p. 38.
Newsweek, April 16, 1984, review of Inevitable Revolutions, p. 85.
New York Times Book Review, November 6, 1983, review of Inevitable Revolutions, p. 12; March 5, 1989, review of The American Age, p. 30; September 21, 1997, review of The Clash, p. 34.
ORBIS, summer, 1998, Robert G. Kane, review of The Clash, p. 480.
Political Science Quarterly, winter, 1993, Lester D. Langley, review of Inevitable Revolutions, p. 731.
Publishers Weekly, July 21, 1997, review of The Clash, p. 193; June 14, 1999, review of Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, p. 57.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of The Deadly Bet.
Whole Earth Review, spring, 1987, Dick Fugett, review of Inevitable Revolutions, p. 27.
World Policy Journal, fall, 1994, Michael Mandelbaum, review of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, p. 95.
American Studies,http://www.americansc.org.uk/ (April 5, 2008), Jonathan Colman, review of America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2002.
Cornell University Web site,http://www.cornell.edu/ (April 5, 2008), biography of Walter LaFeber.
University of Vermont Web site,http://www.uvm.edu/ (April 5, 2008), biography of Walter LaFeber.