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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded approaches to enduring geopolitical problems.
Smoke Filled Room

Donald Trump's recent suggestion that he might not accept the outcome of the forthcoming presidential election in November 2020 has provoked further controversy after what has already been a notably stormy tenure. However, the United States has been here before, albeit in different ways and in different contexts. The election of 1800, which followed a brutal campaign, was resolved by the House of Representatives. So was that of 1824. The 1876 election was settled by a deal at the expense of African-American rights. In 1960, Nixon (rightly) suspected fraud in a razor-thin election defeat but, for the good of the country, decided not to pursue it and just concede. Forty years later, in 2000, the election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. The Centre for Geopolitics and Cambridge in America bring together a distinguished panel of historians to explore how history might repeat itself. The panel will examine the factors that enabled these past contested elections to be resolved peacefully, despite widespread polarisation, and whether the same forces can be relied on to keep the peace today.


Chair: Andrew Preston is Professor of American History and a Fellow of Clare College at Cambridge University. He is the author or editor of eight books, most recently American Foreign Relations: A Very Short Introduction (2019) and Rethinking American Grand Strategy (with Elizabeth Borgwardt and Christopher McKnight Nichols, forthcoming 2021). His writing has also appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, The New Republic, The Globe & Mail, London Review of Books, USA Today, and Foreign Affairs. In 2020-21 he will serve as president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Dr. Daniel Larsen holds a fixed-term University Lectureship in International Relations at the University of Cambridge, and a fixed-term College Lectureship in History at Trinity College, Cambridge. He previously held a Junior Research Fellowship also at Trinity College, Cambridge, and received his Ph.D. from Christ's College, Cambridge. His first book, Plotting for Peace: American Peacemakers, British Codebreakers, and Britain at War, 1914-1917, is set to be released in January 2021 with Cambridge University Press, and he has published a number of journal articles in Diplomatic History, Intelligence and National Security, and the International History Review.

Dr. Ruth Lawlor is a Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, and, for the academic year 2020-2021, a lecturer in the History Faculty. She has previously been a Visiting Fellow at Boston University (2017) and a Fox International Fellow at Yale (2018-2019). She received her PhD from Cambridge in 2019. Her doctoral dissertation, "American Soldiers and the Politics of Rape in World War II Europe", was awarded an honourable mention in the Oxford University Press USA Dissertation Prize by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (2020), and an article based on one of its chapters was a finalist for the Louis Pelzer Memorial Prize, awarded by the Organization of American Historians (2019), for the best graduate student essay. Her article on the state of the field, “Contested Crimes: Race, Gender, and Nation in GI Histories of Sexual Crime, World War II”, was published by the Journal of Military History in April, 2020.

Gary Gerstle is the Paul Mellon Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge, Vice-Master of Sidney Sussex College, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include two prizewinners, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2001; expanded edition 2017) and Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present (Princeton, 2015). Gerstle will publish States of Exception in American History next month, and will wrap up work on The Rise and Fall of America’s Neoliberal Order, 1970-2020 early next year. He has created a four-part radio series, America: Laboratory of Democracy, for BBC World Service, and is a regular guest on the UK-based podcast, Talking Politics.

Click here to register for the event **Please note: Registration closes 5pm on 30 September, and there are limited spaces remaining.  Also, when registering for the event if you do not have a University of Cambridge college affiliation, please choose "Centre for Geopolitics" from the drop-down menu. 

Thursday, 1 October, 2020 - 18:00 to 19:00
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