Edward Segel

Professor of History and Humanities,
Reed College, Portland, Oregon

Photo: Carole Archer
(Reed Magazine, August 1994)

I have been at Reed College in the History Department since 1973, after graduate school and teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. For more biographical and professional information see my curriculum vitae and my personal page.

My central professional interest is European diplomatic history: the history of the relations between the European (and later world) Great Powers from the late 18th century through the present. This includes how foreign policies are made and carried out within each state, how those foreign policies interact in the international arena, and the gradual transformations within the international balance of power. I am especially concerned with the interplay between a country's perceived 'concrete' interests (strategic, economic, political) and the more intangible factors likeworld view, ideology, the sometimes unspoken values and assumptions which influence how policy-makers, their contemporaries, and later historians see the world. As one of my mentors (Raymond Sontag) put it, 'The study of diplomatic history gathers up and focuses all the forces at work in an age' - or, with more presumption and less gravity, Segel's First Law: 'All problems are essentially problems of diplomatic history.'

The historical characters and authors who have had the most influence on my cast of mind are those likewise concerned with how people's values and perceptions influence their approach to power and policy: Winston Churchill, Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, E. H. Carr, Henry Kissinger, Raymond Sontag (my dissertation director at Berkeley) - all of them, in one way or another, skeptical of the attempt to apply ordinary moral or domestic political values to international relations. In my professional vocabulary, 'Wilsonian' - with all its implications for foreign policy in the past and present - is a very problematic term.

So my courses at Reed cover different aspects of the relationships and conflicts between (mainly) the Great Powers in the past two hundred years:

From time to time I have given talks and interviews on current issues of foreign policy and international relations (you can see a list of some of them in my curriculum vitae), and on untoward occasions I have been known to write comic verse.
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