Author Archives: Dane Kennedy

About Dane Kennedy

Dane Kennedy is the Director of the National History Center and the Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University, where he has taught British, British imperial, and world history since 2000. Prior to that he was a member of the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The past president of the North American Conference of British Studies, he has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2003-4) and a National Humanities Center Fellowship (2010-11). He has written five books, most recently The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia (Harvard UP, 2013), and edited several others, including Reinterpreting Exploration: The West in the World (Oxford UP, 2013) for the National History Center’s Reinterpreting History series. He has also been one of the faculty members for the Center-sponsored International Decolonization Seminar since its founding in 2006.

Will Robots Rule the World?

On a recent cover of the New Yorker (October 23, 2017), robots purposefully stride to their jobs; the only human in sight is unemployed and begging for change. We are warned: this could be our future. The illustration perfectly captures the current anxiety about automation’s impact on the workplace. 

What Should We Do with Confederate Monuments?

The current controversy over Confederate monuments is about how we remember the past and interpret its meaning. These issues are the stock in trade of historians, and many have written op-eds and done interviews with reporters for national and local news outlets. Others have given talks to civic groups, testified to government agencies, and spoken at public forums. The American Historical Association has issued a widely endorsed statement on Confederate monuments. Last week, the National History Center brought the issue to Capitol Hill as a congressional briefing

Is Civilian Control of the Military Eroding?

Three of the leading figures in the Trump administration are military men. When President Trump refers to “my generals,” he has Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly foremost in mind. By holding powerful positions almost always staffed by civilians, they have provoked widespread concern that civilian control of the military is eroding. As part of its ongoing Congressional Briefing series, the National History Center brought several prominent historians to Capitol Hill to provide perspectives on this subject. 

US-China Diplomacy: Historical Perspectives on Challenges Confronting the People’s Republic

As Donald Trump and Xi Jinping prepared for what Trump has warned will be a “very difficult” meeting at his Florida resort, several leading historians of modern China gave a richly informative briefing on March 27 at the Capitol about the underlying issues that shape the Chinese government’s engagement with the United States and the world. Sponsored by the National History Center, the purpose of the briefing was to give historical context to current tensions between the United States and China, with a particular focus on Chinese aims and anxieties. 

The Paradoxes of Presidential Power: A Brief History of Executive Orders

We’ve all seen the photo ops over the past few weeks: President Donald J. Trump sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, signing executive orders with a flourish, then proudly displaying his handiwork to the cameras. This flurry of controversial orders has given new attention to an old presidential practice. Earlier this month, the National History Center sponsored a briefing on Capitol Hill that examined the history of executive orders (EOs). Three leading authorities on the subject traced the evolution and exercise of this presidential power, placing the present moment in a context that offered both reassurance and concern.

Putting Zika in Historical Context

The Zika virus has recently announced its unwelcome arrival in the continental United States. In addition to over 2,500 individuals who have contracted the disease abroad, some 50 locally generated cases have been confirmed in Florida. Many more cases are anticipated. With the public health resources needed to combat the disease running dry, the administration has requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding. As usual, however, Congress is gridlocked, and it’s anybody’s guess whether a funding bill will pass before members leave Washington to campaign for reelection.

The Opioid Crisis in Historical Perspective

Prince is just the latest high-profile victim of an opioid addiction crisis that has devastated families and communities across the country in recent years. The problem has drawn widespread media coverage and spurred Congress into action, a rarity in the current political climate. Both the Senate and the House have recently passed legislation to address the crisis. Yet this is hardly the first time the United States has grappled with drug epidemics. What can we learn from past problems and the policies instituted to combat them?

Is the European Refugee Crisis Unprecedented? Symposium at the German Historical Institute Provides Historical Perspective

A few weeks ago the European Union (EU) signed a controversial agreement with Turkey to staunch the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe. The agreement is a testament to Europe’s failure to cope with the millions of refugees who have reached its shores from Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East over the past few years. This crisis seems unprecedented, but is it? The German Historical Institute took up this issue the other evening, hosting a fascinating panel discussion titled “Learning from the Past?