The events related to the “Ideologies and U.S. Foreign Policy” International History Conference are free and open to the public (with on-site registration) and will include public forums, scholarly panels, and a keynote address, all confronting crucial issues in U.S. foreign policy, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Contributors from around the world, representing a diversity of approaches to the study of foreign policy, will elaborate their visions of U.S. involvement with the world by engaging with large public audiences in Corvallis and Portland over the course of several days. Oregon State University is proud to host this important conference and series of events.

Portraits of the present White House demonstrate unequivocally the clash of ideologies that inform U.S. foreign-policy decisions. Since its inception, the United States has been a self-consciously ideological project. It was conceived as a revolutionary republic in a world of monarchies and its leadership has continuously struggled to remain consistent with its ideals while also meeting the country’s material and security concerns in a complex and capricious world. Ever since those republican origins, the country’s trajectory has been profoundly shaped by the unfolding development and application of a variety of ideas at the intersection of domestic and foreign policy.

This conference brings together renowned and rising scholars from around the world to Oregon State University to explore this history and the ideas that guided it. This is not an abstract exercise. In the past, discussions about U.S. foreign policy have too often revolved around facile oppositional binaries—internationalism and isolationism, unilateralism and multilateralism, idealism and realism, civilization and barbarism, protectionism and free trade—but the historical record reveals far more complicated and imbricated concepts than these simple dichotomies suggest. After all, ideas and ideologies undergird virtually everything we do and frame the worldviews  that make principle into policy.

Our mission will be to map the ideological dimensions of US foreign policy: the ideas, their instantiation in particular historical moments, and their repercussions. We aim to expose the concepts that generate US foreign policies, as well as the beliefs, assumptions, and commitments that those policies reinforce and reproduce. Not only does US foreign policy serve an ideological function within the United States and internationally, it also produces new ideas and frameworks that occasionally work to undermine, counteract, or dismantle dominant narratives about the U.S. role in the world.

On the Conference

Co-organizers Christopher Nichols, Danielle Holtz, and David Milne developed this conference as a project intended to investigate the profound ideas that have led to the production of U.S. foreign policies. With this unprecedented intervention, the participants in the conference will help to establish the state of the field, make a vital scholarly contribution, and promote vigorous discussion and debate. In addition to making significant inroads in the fields of history and international relations, the conference, panels, and resulting book will make also foster a public conversation about the U.S.’s role in the world, and could become a key educational resource for the public, for foreign policy practitioners, and for college-level classes on the topic.

The co-organizers are motivated by the notion that contemporary ideas about the sources and mechanisms of power need to be reconsidered with the lessons of history in mind, particularly regarding the relationship between domestic and international policy. This is the very essence of OSU's land grant mission and represents the very best aspirations of the public humanities.

For the conference, we are thrilled to bringing together to Oregon a group of renowned and rising scholars and thinkers from around the world – (see the list of confirmed scholars attending the conference) – to investigate, discuss, and elaborate new approaches that illuminate a historically rich account of how ideologies have developed and operated in the history of the U.S.’s relationship to and with the world.

In short, the conference will be comprised of top scholars presenting accessible versions of their provocative findings and new insights, which, taken together, will consolidate the state of the field of ideas and the history of U.S. foreign policy to propel the scholarship in new directions. We hope to encourage contrasting analyses to spark off of each other as we delve into the historical record to discuss, debate, and rethink the development of a wide variety of ideologies as they have developed and affected the U.S.’s role in the world and thereby also shaped domestic policies.

Keynote: “Donald Trump and Ideology”

Dr. James Lindsay, Council on Foreign Relations

Friday, May 31, 2019, 7 p.m.

LaSells Stewart Center C&E Hall

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Free and open to the public

The major keynote address of the conference is the annual 2018-19 Governor Tom McCall Memorial Lecture on Friday May 31 at 7pm on "Donald Trump and Ideology” in the LaSells Stewart Center C&E Hall, which will be delivered by Dr. James Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, and co-author of the recently published Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership (Public Affairs, Fall 2018). Major media coverage is likely for this event. Interviews can be arranged.













All panels and talks are free and open to the public.


Direct media inquiries to Professor Christopher Nichols at

This event is primarily funded by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, Patrick and Vicki Stone, and the OSU Citizenship and Crisis Initiative. Major sponsorship and support has been provided by the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion and the Center for the Humanities.