OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Julia F. Irwin

Portrait of Julia F. Irwin
Image Credit: Edward Perry

Julia F. Irwin is an associate professor of history at the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on the place of humanitarian aid in twentieth-century U.S. foreign relations. Her first book, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (2013), is a history of U.S. international relief efforts during the World War I era; the dissertation on which it is based won the Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. Her second book, Catastrophic Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in the American Century is forthcoming in 2023. This book is a history of U.S. foreign disaster assistance during the first three quarters of the 20th century. Examining the U.S. government’s responses to scores of catastrophes around the world, it analyzes the politics of these humanitarian operations while tracing the evolution of disaster aid as an instrument of American foreign relations. Her work has also appeared in The Journal of American History, The American Historian, Diplomatic History, First World War Studies, The Bulletin of the History of Medicine, The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Moving the Social, History of Education Quarterly, and Nursing History Review. Irwin was also the recipient of the 2020 Stuart L. Bernath Lecture Prize. Awarded annually by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, it recognizes excellence in teaching and research in the field of foreign relations by younger scholars.

NEW IN 2023: Catastrophic Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in the American Century (University of North Carolina Press)

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

In this lecture, Dr. Julia Irwin discusses the important history of U.S. foreign aid during the First World War era. Focusing on the unprecedented role that the American Red Cross and its volunteers played in delivering U.S. humanitarian assistance to war-torn Europe, she examines the political, diplomatic, and cultural relevance of foreign relief to U.S. foreign relations.
This talk examines the history of U.S. foreign disaster assistance in the 20th century. More specifically, it considers the ways that the U.S. government, military, and private organizations have historically responded to major natural disasters abroad, as well as the political and diplomatic implications of these humanitarian efforts.