Joseph A. Ledford

PhD Candidate

North America


I specialize in the history of U.S. foreign relations, with an interest in the presidency, political development, war, strategy, and intelligence. My research and writing generally concerns the exercise of American power in the world, but I also focus on presidential power and the relationship between domestic politics and foreign affairs.

Provisionally entitled "Restoring the Presidency: A Reagan Revolution and the Iran-Contra Affair," my dissertation examines the intersection of domestic politics and foreign affairs that produced the Iran-Contra affair. It shows how the resulting crisis of the presidency transformed post-Cold War American government.
Visit my personal website for additional information and blog.

For the 2021-2022 calendar,
I will be an America in the World Consortium Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin.


Research Interests

  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • American Political Development
  • The American Presidency
  • Covert Operations and Intelligence
  • Law
  • War
  • Strategy
  • International Relations

Publications

Review of Cowboy Presidents: The Frontier Myth and U.S. Politics since 1900, by David A. Smith, South Dakota History 51, No. 4 (Winter 2021) (forthcoming).

"Sex, Drugs, and Mind Control," International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Fall 2021.

Review of Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and US Strategy from the Korean War to the Present, by Donald Stoker, H-War, H-Net Reviews, August 2020.

Review of The Mayaguez Crisis, Mission Command, and Civil-Military Relations, by Christopher J. Lamb, Journal of Military History 84, No. 2 (April 2020): 652-653.


Awards & Fellowships

Predoctoral Fellow, William P. Clements Jr. Center for National Security, UT-Austin

Predoctoral Fellow, America in the World Consortium

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

Townsend Center Working Group Award, Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California, Berkeley

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


Presentations

“Lawyers, Guns, and Money: The Contra War and American Political Order,” The Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Annual Meeting, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19)

“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," The Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association Annual Meeting, 2018

"'The Most Important Place in the World': Central America during the Reagan Era," The Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Annual Meeting, 2018

"The Risky Business of Rollback: Anti-Communist Americans, the Contra War, and the Reagan Doctrine," The Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Annual Meeting, 2017

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

"The Ills of Democracy: The Ronald Reagan Administration and Chile's Transition to Democracy," The New England Council of Latin American Studies Annual Meeting, 2015