Melvyn P. Leffler

Edward Stettinius Professor of History, Emeritus

(434) 924-6422

Field & Specialties

History of U.S. Foreign Relations


B.S. Cornell 1966
Ph.D. Ohio State 1972


Confronting Saddam Hussein: George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2023.


Safeguarding Democratic Captialism (Princeton University Press, 2017).


Peril: Facing National Security Challenges, co-edited with Will Hitchcock (e-book, University of Virginia Press, 2016)


Shaper Nations: Strategies for A Changing World, co-edited with Jeff Legro and Will Hitchcock (Harvard University Press, 2016).


In Uncertain Times: U.S. Foreign Policy After the Berlin Wall and 9/11, co-edited with Jeff Legro (Cornell University Press, 2011).


Cambridge History of the Cold War, 3 vols., co-edited with Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge University Press, 2010).


To Lead the World: American Strategy After the Bush Doctrine, co-edited with Jeff Legro (Oxford University Press, 2008).


For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War (Hill & Wang, 2007).  

  • Winner of the George Louis Beer Prize, American Historical Association, 2008.


The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953 (Hill & Wang, 1994).


A Preponderance of Power: National Security, The Truman Administration, and the Cold War. Stanford University Press, 1992.

  • Winner of the Bancroft, Hoover, and Ferrell Prizes, 1993.


The Elusive Quest: America's Pursuit of European Stability and French Security, 1919-1933. University of North Carolina Press, 1979.


Most Recent Articles and Essays:

“Iraq After Twenty Years,” Liberties, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring 2023): 162-84.


“Bush, 9/11, and the Roots of the Iraq War,” Foreign Affairs, March 23, 2023, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/bush-911-and-roots-iraq-war.


“What Really Took America to War in Iraq,” The Atlantic, January 23, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/01/fear-power-and-hubris-bush-and-iraq-war/672759/.


“Ruminating During a Pandemic,” Diplomatic History, vol. 45  No. 3 (2021): 517-24.


“The Decider: Why Bush Chose War in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, November/December, 2020 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2020-10-13/decider.


“China Isn’t the Soviet Union. Confusing the Two is Dangerous,” The Atlantic, December 2, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/cold-war-china-purely-optional/601969/.


“Avoiding Another Cold War,” China International Strategy Review, 1 (2019): 205-12.


“Divide and Invest: Why the Marshall Plan Worked,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2018-06-14/divide-and-invest.


“The Strategic Thinking that Made America Great: Europe First and Why It Still Matters,” Foreign Affairs, August 10, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-08-10/strategic-thinking-made-america-great.


“The Worst First Year of Foreign Policy Ever,” Foreign Policy, September 19, 2017.


“Trump’s Delusional National Security Policy,” Foreign Affairs, December 21, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/trumps-delusional-national-security-strategy.

Current Research

I continue to write articles and essays about the Cold War, political economy, and national security.

Awards & Honors

Miegunyah Distinguished Fellowship, University of Melbourne, Fall 2015

UVA Thomas Jefferson Award for excellence in scholarship, 2014 

Visiting Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Bologne, April-May 2014

Graebner Prize for career achievement and contributions, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, 2012

Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center, 2010-11.

Visiting Scholar, Christ College, Cambridge University, Fall 2007.

Randolph Jennings Fellow, United States Institute of Peace, 2004-2005.

Henry Kissinger Fellow, Library of Congress, 2004-2005.

Harmsworth Professor, University of Oxford, 2002-2003.

Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center, 2001-2002.

Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, 1997-2001.

President, Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, 1994.

Fellowship, Norwegian Nobel Peace Institute, 1993, 1997, 2011.

American Council of Learned Societies, Fellowships, Grants-in-Aid, 1973, 1984-85.

Lehrman Institute Fellowship, 1984-85.