Born into a military family, I spent a part of my youth abroad–in Japan, Turkey, and Vietnam. Thus began my interest in the world beyond the United States. After taking my undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, I did my doctoral work in U.S. foreign relations and Chinese history in the Yale history department (Ph.D. 1971) while also spending substantial time in Italy and Iran. I taught at Yale and Colgate before moving to North Carolina in 1980.
My scholarship falls into three overlapping clusters: U.S. involvement in eastern Asia (especially China and Vietnam); twentieth-century U.S. foreign relations; and contemporary global history. For more on my books and articles on these topics, see major publications.
An active member of the department of history at UNC for a quarter of a century, I served in virtually every position of responsibility and on every kind of committee within that department and helped in the creation of the department’s global history program. I was honored by the university’s grant of the Everett H. Emerson chair and by invitations to serve as the December 2003 commencement speaker and to deliver the 2007 University day address.
I have served as a consultant to university and commercial presses, foundations, research centers, film projects, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the State Department, and the editors of professional journals. I have also served on the editorial board of Diplomatic History, International History Review, Journal of American History, and American Diplomacy. I was honored by election as president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. My major research and conference grants have come from the National Endowment for the Humanities (twice), the Committee for International Relations Study with the People’s Republic of China, Harvard’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the National Program for Advanced Study and Research in China.
In an effort to widen the audience for history, I have spoken frequently before community and university-based groups, including notably the UNC Program in the Humanities, and collaborated in workshops for teachers. I helped create award-winning instructional software on the Vietnam War. With increasing regularity, I have been offering commentary on current U.S. foreign policy. An assemblage of that commentary can be found in “on washington & the world” on this site.