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Bevan Sewell

Associate Professor in American History, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

Bevan Sewell is an Associate Professor in American History and Co-Editor of the Journal of American Studies (Cambridge University Press). His main areas of interest lie in American and British political and foreign relations history during the twentieth century. He is the author of The U.S. and Latin America: Eisenhower, Kennedy and Economic Diplomacy in the Cold War, which was published by I.B. Tauris in 2016, and has published articles in Diplomatic History, the English Historical Review, International History Review, Intelligence and National Security, and is the co-editor of Foreign Policy at the Periphery: The Shifting Margins of US International Relations since World War II. Presently, he is working on an intellectual biography of John Foster Dulles and is just beginning a new project on the contested concept of human rights in 1970s and 1980s Britain.

Expertise Summary

My basic area of expertise is that of US foreign relations during the twentieth century and the domestic, cultural, transnational and global interconnections that have influenced the US role in the world. More specifically, I have worked on the evolution of US policy toward Latin America during the early Cold War, which my first book was on, and I am presently writing an intellectual biography of John Foster Dulles and the way that his attempts to shape a sustainable international order were shaped by his perception of, and engagement with, pragmatism and transnationalism. I have an emerging interest, too, in the transnational contest over the idea of human rights and, in particular, the way it served to drive political, social, labour, and intellectual debates about the future of Britain in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

I am happy to supervise post-graduate students who are interested in any aspects of US foreign policy since 1900, especially those interested in working on the post-1945 era; and students interested in working on American political history in the twentieth century.

Research Summary

I am presently working on a project that will result in an intellectual biography of Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. Originally believed to have been the leading figure in… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

I am presently working on a project that will result in an intellectual biography of Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. Originally believed to have been the leading figure in guiding US policy in the 1950s, Dulles's star has waned in the last twenty years due to studies placing the president at the centre of US decision making. Yet as a figure involved in many of the major events in US foreign relations in the first sixty years of the twentieth century--from the peace talks at the end of World War One, to a role as a very prominent non-state figure working on both sides of the Atlantic, to his role in shaping US policy during a crucial phase of the Cold War--he is someone whose life and experiences provide a superb lens by which to chart the evolving nature of US internationalism during this era. This project, then, will result in an intellectual biography that moves significantly beyond the familiar accounts of Dulles and that reconsiders the key influences that shaped Dulles's engagement with the problem of international peace throughout his lifetime.

In particular, it will highlight his engagement with the American philosophical tradition of pragmatism and demonstrate the important role that a perception of transnational forces played in his efforts to determine a viable, and sustainable, structure of world order. Together, the two arguments help to provide a much sharper understanding of Dulles and the reasons that his life-long effort to shape a viable international order ultimately failed. His adherence to Pragamatist working methods helps us to understand his numerous inconsistencies and divergences; his perception of, and constant struggle with, transnationalism helps us to get a clear sense of why he proved unable to resolve the problem of international order and why, in the 1950s, he adopted a series of positions so at odds with those he had outlined in previous decades. Of course, he was not alone in this endeavour and an equal feature of the book is the role that other thinkers and events played in shaping his thinking. Overall, this reassessment of Dulles not only helps us to better understand an important and controversial figure in the history of US foreign relations; it also helps us to see more clearly the profound challenges that confronted US internationalists in the twentieth century and to make sense of the nation's capacity to adopt violent and repressive policies, especially in the global south, during the Cold War.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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