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Jacobs Wins New England Historical Association Book Prize

Seth Jacobs

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Sept. 10, 2013

Associate Professor of History Seth Jacobs has won the James P. Hanlan Book Award from the New England Historical Association (NEHA) for his 2012 work, The Universe Unraveling: American Foreign Policy in Cold War Laos. 

In The Universe Unraveling, Jacobs throws a spotlight on the events, circumstances, and in particular the perceptions and attitudes that shaped American decision-making in Laos — which for a time appeared would be the key Cold War flashpoint in Southeast Asia, rather than Vietnam.

Under Eisenhower and Kennedy, according to Jacobs, Laos became a “testing ground” for strategies that came of age in Vietnam, and which produced similar problems — support of unpopular but pro-Western despots, clashes between US civilian and military bureaucracies, and ignorance of the native population’s needs.

A political and cultural historian of 20th-century United States — especially post-World War II — Jacobs centers his research interests on the connection between US domestic culture and foreign policy. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in American military and diplomatic history, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and America in the 1950s.

Jacobs is teaching Vietnam: America’s War at Home and Abroad as part of Semester Online, a consortium including BC and other top-ranked universities that offers for-credit online courses to academically qualified undergraduate students.

A winner of the 2006 Teacher of the Year Award from the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Boston College, Jacobs was selected by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) for its Stuart Bernath Prize recognizing the best article published in the field of diplomatic history; he won SHAFR's Bernath Book Prize in 2006.

The NEHA is a professional association of more than 700 historians living and working in New England, with a focus on all areas of historical scholarship. The Hanlan Book Award has been presented annually since 1985; the NEHA welcomes nominations on any historical topic, time period, or geographic region. Previous winners include Clough Millennium Professor in History James M. O’Toole, for his book The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America.