Nick Cullather

Professor, Department of History

University of Indiana, Bloomington

Nick Cullather is an historian of United States foreign relations specializing in the history of intelligence, development, and nation-building. The United States uses aid, covert operations, diet, statistics, and technology to reconstruct the social reality of countries around the world, and he is interested in these subtle mechanisms of power. His most recent book, The Hungry World (2010), explores the use of food as a tool of psychological warfare and regime change during the Cold War.  His first book, Illusions of Influence (1994), described the process through which a former American colony negotiated its conditional independence. In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency developed a capacity to replace unsuitable governments, elected or otherwise, as he showed in Secret History (2006).

Currently, he is investigating the early history of the CIA, and asking why a country so committed to pluralism and the marketplace of ideas staked its security on the novel notion of central intelligence.  Putting vital information under control of a single authority has never fit comfortably with democratic ideals, and in a perennial political ritual, the “intelligence failure,” Americans question and reaffirm the CIA compromise.  Cullather's current project, First Line of Defense, follows this debate from 1947 to the present day.