New Faculty Forum on CENFAD

Petra Goedde
Assistant Professor of History

Since arriving at Temple a little over a year ago I have been struck by the extraordinary intellectual vitality here. The Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy plays a prominent role in that vitality. Its frequent colloquia bring together diverse groups of scholars and students from different disciplines. The center thus enjoys the input of a broad variety of faculty and students from Temple as well as from other institutions. The center sponsors such a full schedule that in the past year I have been a consumer rather than a producer. I was taking it all in.

It was only after being approached by the editors of Strategic Visions that I began to examine more closely my own impressions of the center and my potential contributions to its future. My thoughts can be summed up in three points:

  • CENFAD is what its members do. Therefore its contours evolve with the research and interests of its faculty, associates, and graduate students. Two important changes in the CENFAD membership will undoubtedly leave their marks and usher in a period of transformation for the center. The first is the gaping hole left by the death of Russell F. Weigley in the spring of 2004. Weigley had founded the center in 1992 together with Richard Immerman and David Rosenberg. Even though I never had a chance to meet him in person, I very much felt his imprint on the center and on the History Department as I arrived on campus. His departure was followed by the arrival of a group of eight new faculty members in the department in the fall of 2004 and another five a year later. Among the new faces are several, including myself, whose interests are in the study of war, diplomacy, and international relations. CENFAD will evolve in tandem with the transformation of the History Department. I am looking forward to an exciting period in the center’s history.

  • CENFAD has made it its principal objective to play a leading role in the transformation of the fields of diplomatic and military history. It has an obligation to remain at the cutting edge of research in those fields. That includes reaching out beyond the current boundaries of those disciplines. Social, cultural, gender, and transnational historians have discovered war and international relations as fruitful areas of research. Their scholarship adds new dimensions to our understanding of the causes, experiences, and consequences of wars as well as the pursuit of global peace. Their approaches have gradually transformed the ways in which military and diplomatic historians understand their own fields.

  • CENFAD has the opportunity to become a leading center for the study of war, peace, and international relations in the current academic and political environment. Our combined strengths can attract an interdisciplinary group of scholars both from the Philadelphia area and from national and international institutions. In addition to the ongoing CENFAD colloquium, I could envision the organization of a series of conferences focusing on the interdisciplinary debates within and among the fields. Regina Gramer’s project on small arms has already blazed a trail. Sophie Quinn Judge’s conference on the Vietnam War in June of this year is another example. I am looking forward to participating in CENFAD’s continued expansion into new areas of historical inquiry that foster the dialogue among military, foreign relations, and international scholars.