Jefferson Scholars Foundation and UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences announce the hiring of esteemed historian specializing in U.S. foreign relations

June 27, 2024

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation and UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences are pleased to announce that Andrew Preston, an internationally renowned scholar in the field of U.S. foreign relations history, has been appointed the W.L. Lyons Brown Jr. Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor in Diplomacy and Statecraft. 

Specializing in American history since 1898, Preston’s expertise spans three key areas: America’s global actions, foreign policymaking in Washington, D.C., and the intersection of national and international spheres, with an emphasis on the influence of domestic politics and culture, particularly religion, on U.S. foreign policy. 

Preston holds an undergraduate degree in history and political science from the University of Toronto, a master’s degree in history from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. He brings a wealth of academic experience from institutions such as the University of Victoria and Yale University, culminating in his tenure at Clare College, Cambridge, where he spent the last 19 years. 

Jefferson Scholars Foundation President Jimmy Wright said Preston’s appointment embodies the ideal qualities sought by the Foundation in its Distinguished Professors. 

“His body of work signifies that he is as accomplished as a researcher and writer as he is a teacher and educator,” Wright said.

Preston’s published works include the critically acclaimed Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (New York: Knopf, 2012), winner of the 2013 Charles Taylor Prize in Non-Fiction Books, and The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam (Harvard University Press, 2006), which is highly regarded for its keen insight into the Vietnam War. He also played a leading role in the publication of the influential Cambridge History of America and the World

Preston’s forthcoming work on national security further solidifies his reputation as a leading voice in American foreign relations. 

In addition to four books, Preston has authored numerous articles and edited other influential works that have contributed to his field of study. A frequent contributor to The (Toronto) Globe & Mail, he also has written columns for The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, New Statesman, and the London Review of Books, among other prominent publications. His leadership in historical societies, namely the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), underscores his dedication to advancing the field. 

Expressing his anticipation for joining UVA’s faculty, Preston highlighted the University’s esteemed faculty and the honor of following in the footsteps of renowned historians like Norman Graebner and Melvin Leffler. 

“Those are big shoes to fill,” Preston said, “but one of the things that appeals to me is the opportunity to work as part of a cluster of scholars who are just as excited as I am about studying U.S. diplomatic history. I look forward to joining William Hitchcock, Penny Von Eschen, and so many more.” 

The James Madison Professor of History at UVA, Hitchcock praised the addition of such an accomplished and influential historian of 20th century American foreign relations to the University faculty. 

“From his scholarship on the Vietnam War, to his field-defining study of religion as it shaped U.S. foreign policy, to his most recent exploration of American politics and diplomacy in the 1930s, Preston connects the long sweep of U.S. history to broader global forces and trends,” Hitchcock said. “UVA has a long tradition of excellence in this field, and has been home to all-star professors like Norman Graebner, Melvyn Leffler, and Philip Zelikow. Working with the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and the Department of History, Preston will teach students about America’s impact on the world over the past century and help generate ideas about how to address the many global challenges of our time.”

Pending tenure and immigration approval, Preston is scheduled to join UVA’s Corcoran Department of History in fall 2025. 

Lee Brown

Preston’s professorship is named in honor of the late W.L. Lyons Brown Jr., a devoted UVA alumnus and longtime supporter of both the Foundation and the University. His contributions to the nation and to UVA were numerous as a tireless leader, philanthropist and public servant. Brown served as American Ambassador to Austria and was a member of the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations under three administrations. He also served as president of UVA’s Alumni Association and as a member of its Board of Visitors.