Dr. Robert Rakove is a Lecturer in International Relations at Stanford, and a historian who studies U.S. foreign relations with a particular focus on the Cold War era. He spoke with us about his areas of interest, his favorite courses to teach, and some of his hobbies!

What are your areas of interest of study?

I study modern U.S. foreign relations. I arrived in graduate school intent on studying the Spanish-American War, but was redirected toward the Cold War by my graduate advisor. I wrote a dissertation, then a book, on U.S. policy toward nonaligned states in the 1960s. I’m presently at work on a book on U.S.-Afghan ties up until 1979. Diplomatic history generally intrigues me, but I’m inclined toward topics involving a significant disparity in power. Smaller states regularly confound great power expectations. 

What are some of your favorite courses to teach?

All of them. Well, I quite enjoy my Cold War lecture class (154), which I’ve taught here over the past decade. My research seminar on embassy-level diplomacy (174) regularly features fascinating, compelling student papers. And I’ve really enjoyed the discussions in my colloquium on the presidency and foreign policy (173).

What do you like to do outside of Stanford? What are some of your interests outside of academia?

International history involves a lot of travel and, in pre-pandemic times, I loved bringing my SLR with me. In the classroom, one appreciates the effect of a well-composed, evocative image and it’s nice to try to create them on one’s own time. Closer to home, I enjoy cooking.