Joseph Ledford

Graduate Student

North America

I am an historian who specializes in U.S. foreign relations, with a general focus on the formulation of foreign policy and the exercise of American power in the world. My research interests also include presidential power and the relationship between domestic politics and foreign affairs. I am chiefly concerned with diplomacy, law, statecraft, and strategy.

My current project is on the Iran-Contra Affair. I examine why Iran-Contra resulted from Ronald Reagan's statecraft and how it affected American constitutional and political order. I address the policies and constitutional controversies animating the affair while exploring the domestic and international consequences.

I am the founder and lead-organizer of the Berkeley Working Group on Strategy and Statecraft. For more information, please contact

Research Interests

  • American Foreign Policy
  • Politics
  • The Cold War
  • Strategy
  • International Relations

Awards & Fellowships

Congressional Research Grant, The Everett M. Dirksen Congressional Center

Selected Participant, Summer Seminar in Statecraft and History, William P. Clements Jr. Center for National Security, UT-Austin

Pre-Dissertation Research Grant, Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Peter and Edith O'Donnell Grant, Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, Bush School of Government and Public Service

Tisch Library Research Fellowship in the Humanities and the Arts

Department of History Research Award, Tufts University

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Research Award, Tufts University

Publications & Presentations

“A Reagan Revolution: The Iran-Contra Affair and American Statecraft, 1981-1993,” LSE International History Research Seminar (HY509), London School of Economics, 2018. 

"Piercing the Teflon-Presidency: The Iran-Contra Affair and Presidential Power," PCB-AHA Annual Meeting, 2018

"The Most Important Place in the World": Central America during the Reagan Era, SHAFR Annual Meeting, 2018

"The Risky Business of Rollback: Anti-Communist Americans, the Contra War, and the Reagan Doctrine," SHAFR Annual Meeting, 2017

"The Risky Business of Rollback: Anti-Communist Americans, the Contra War, and the Reagan Doctrine," WSSA Annual Meeting, 2017

The Iran-Contra Affair and the Cold War: A "Neat Idea" and the Reagan Doctrine (2016)

"The Ills of Democracy: The Ronald Reagan Administration and Chile's Transition to Democracy," NECLAS Annual Meeting, 2015