Skip to main content

LaFeber-Silbey Lecture to look back on 1970s U.S. power

Historian Francis J. Gavin will discuss the importance of the 1970s in U.S. and world history in this year’s LaFeber-Silbey Lecture, Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in Kaufmann Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.

Francis J. Gavin

Gavin’s talk, “California Dreaming – The Crisis and Rebirth of American Power in the 1970s,” is sponsored by the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences. It is free and open to the public.

“Francis J. Gavin is a renowned historian,” said Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Studies. “He will bring a dynamic energy and viewpoint about American history and its interface with American politics to Cornell.”

Gavin – professor and inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies – will explore how scholars have increasingly recognized the 1970s as a pivotal decade in world history.

“The situation in the United States reflected a puzzle,” said Gavin. “America seemed in crisis – stagnating economy, socio-cultural division, political cynicism, declining military and foreign policy power abroad. But the United States was reinventing itself in profound and consequential ways that would reshape and reinvigorate American culture, its economy, technology, and its ability to project power abroad and influence international relations.

“This story is best reflected in the story of California in the 1970s,” he said. “Coming to terms with ‘California Dreaming’ and the rebirth of American power forces us to come to terms with how we think about the past, what matters and how we should think about power in the world.”

Gavin has taught at the University of Texas and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has written two books – “Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958-1971” (2004) and “Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age” (Cornell University Press, 2012).

The LaFeber-Silbey Endowment in History Lecture is held yearly and is given by speakers who are active in public life, policymaking or academic scholarship, and who are often Cornell alumni. Several alumni underwrite the series, named for Cornell professor emeritus of history Walter LaFeber and the late Cornell historian Joel Silbey.

Claire Perez is communications assistant in the Department of History.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli