Odd Arne Westad is the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University and the Director of International Security Studies at Yale’s Jackson School of Global Affairs. Within the Council for Global Cooperation, he is a member of the Board of Governors and is the Co-Chair of The Cold War Project vertex.
Westad is a scholar of modern international and global history, with a specialisation in the field of Cold War studies, great power competition and East Asian history. He is particularly known for his re-evaluation of the history of the Cold War. His interpretation emphasizes the role of the conflict on a global scale, and not just in Europe or North America. He also underlines the ideological origins of the Cold War and the long-term effects it had in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The term ‘global Cold War’ is often associated with Westad’s work, and has been taken up by many historians and social scientists.
In the first part of his career, Westad’s works mainly focused on the history of the Cold War, China-Russia relations, and the history of the Chinese civil war and the Chinese Communist Party. Since the mid-2000s, he has been concerned with more general aspects of post-colonial and global history, as well as the modern history of China. And today he is mainly interested in researching histories of empire and imperialism, first and foremost in Asia, but also world-wide. Westad is also trying to figure out how China’s late twentieth century economic reforms came into being and how their results changed the global economy.
Westad is the winner of 2006 Bancroft Prize. His award winning publications include Cold War and Revolution: Soviet-American Rivalry and the Origins of the Chinese Civil War (1993), Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1945-1950 (2003), The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2006), Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 (2017), The Cold War: A World History (2017) and Empire and Righteous Nation: 600 Years of China-Korea Relations (2021). He also edited and co-edited several books on Sino-Soviet and Cold War history topics including Brothers in Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1963 (1998), Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory (2000), The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (2003) with Jussi Hanhimaki, The Third Indochina War (2006) with Sophie Quinn-Judge and The Cambridge History of the Cold War 3 Volume Series (2010) with Melvyn P. Leffler.
He was appointed the Director of Research at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Oslo in 1991. In 1998, Westad joined the International History Department at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he also worked in the LSE Asia Research Centre before becoming Head of Department in 2003. At LSE, Westad set up LSE IDEAS, the LSE’s centre for international affairs, diplomacy and strategy, together with Professor Michael Cox in 2008. In 2014, he became the inaugural holder of the S.T. Lee Chair of US-Asia Relations at Harvard University. At Harvard, Westad taught international affairs and global history at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was also a Senior Scholar at the Harvard Academy of International and Area Studies. In 2019, Westad joined Yale University, where he now teaches courses in global and international history at both in the Yale History Department and in the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs. In the spring semester 2019, he was Boeing Company Chair in International Relations at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University.
Westad speaks and writes in a number of languages, including his native Norwegian, English, French, German, Mandarin and Russian. He was an undergraduate studying history, philosophy and modern languages at the University of Oslo and obtained a Ph.D. in US and international history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.