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Ben Coates
Associate Professor

Phone: 336.758.4517
Office: Tribble B-111


Ben Coates grew up in California and attended Stanford University before moving to the East Coast. After earning his PhD in History from Columbia University he spent a year as a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, MA. His research and teaching focus on the history of the United States in the World, especially topics of law and empire. His first book, Legalist Empire, explores the role of international lawyers in the emergence of the United States as a world power in the early twentieth century. His articles have appeared in Diplomatic History, the Journal of American History, and Modern American History. Professor Coates is a co-editor of the United States in the World Series from Cornell University Press. He is currently investigating the history of economic sanctions in the twentieth century.


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B.A. Stanford University 2002
M.A. Columbia University 2004
Ph.D. Columbia University 2010

Academic Appointments
Associate Professor, Wake Forest University, 2018-Present
Assistant Professor, Wake Forest University, 2012-2018


  • HST 108 – The Americas and the World
    This course explores the history of the Western hemisphere in global perspective since 1500. This includes the story of U.S. domination and Latin American resistance, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. We will also focus even more on how global forces have shaped the development of North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean. How have political, economic, and cultural developments enhanced or inhibited the ability of individuals and groups to shape their own lives? Topics covered include the “first globalization” of goods, germs, and peoples; slavery, resistance, and emancipation; colonialism and independence; the industrial, market, and transportation revolutions; international migration; and war (revolutionary, civil, “Cold” and otherwise). We will also think about how the very terms that people use to describe the region (e.g., the “New World,” the “Americas,” “Latin” or “Hispanic” America, etc.) reflect and make possible particular national goals and political projects. (CD)
  • HST 256 – The U.S. and the World, 1763-1914. 
    The first half of a two-semester survey on U.S. foreign relations. Major topics explore the economic, political, cultural, and social currents linking the U.S. to Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia between 1763 and 1914. Particular attention is given to the influence of the world system—ranging from empire, war, and migration to industrial competition and economic interdependence—on U.S. diplomacy, commerce, and domestic politics and culture.
  • HST 257 – The U.S. and the World, 1914-2003. 
    The second half of a two-semester survey of U.S. foreign relations. Major topics explore the economic, political, cultural and social currents linking the U.S. to Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia between 1914 and 2003. Particular attention is given to the influence of the international system—ranging from hot and cold wars, to decolonization, economic interdependence and transnational businesses and institutions—on U.S. diplomacy, commerce, and domestic politics and culture.
  • HST 331 – The United States as Empire, 1877-1919.
    Explores the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the United States joined in the global scramble for empire.  Course examines the domestic and international causes of American imperial expansion; the modes of rule that the U.S. exercised in its formal and informal possessions; and the political and intellectual debates at home and abroad about America’s expansion as a world power.
  • HST 311 – The United States and World War I at Home and Abroad
    This special topics course analyzes the experience of Americans at home and abroad during World War I, and investigates how the war shaped American society and its position in the world.
  • HST 384 – Global Outlaws in History since 1500.
    This course examines the motivations, ideologies, goals, and behavior of those who have been deemed “outlaws” to international society since 1500, including pirates, terrorists, smugglers, and war criminals.  It also analyzes the role of power in creating the global regimes that define and target such activities.
  • HST 390 – The United States and Empire.
    This research seminar uses the concept of empire to explore the history of the United States since 1776. Readings will explore themes including: the design and conduct of American foreign policy; how the movement of people, ideas, and goods across borders reflected and created networks of power; how people at home and abroad reacted to the spread of American influence; and how historians have examined the concept of “American empire” in thematic, empirical, and comparative terms. Students will complete the course by producing a research paper on a topic of their choice related to some aspect of the history of US relations with the world.

Monographs and Edited Collections

  • Legalist Empire: The United States, Civilization, and International Law in the Early Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Paperback ed. 2019. **Honorable Mention, Vincent P. De Santis Prize, Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, awarded every two years for best first book
  • Editor, “The United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, 1815-1900,” Chapter 5 in The SHAFR Guide: An Annotated Bibliography of U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1600, gen. ed. Alan McPherson. (Brill, 2017 (online))
  • “Strategists and Rhetoricians: Truman’s Foreign Policy Advisers,” in The Blackwell Companion to Harry S. Truman, ed. Daniel S. Margolies. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, 159-187.
  • “‘Upon the Neutral Rests the Trusteeship of International Law’: Legal Advisers and American Unneutrality,” in Caught in the Middle: Neutrals, Neutrality, and the First World War, ed. Johan den Hertog and Samuël Kruizinga. Amsterdam: Aksant / Amsterdam University Press, 2011, 35-51.

See CV for a complete list of publications.

Articles and Essays

  • “International Law and the United States, 1776-1939,” in A Companion to U.S. Foreign Relations, Colonial Era to the Present, ed. Christopher Dietrich (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020), 1:400-417.
  • “A Century of Sanctions,” Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective 13, no. 4 (January 2020).
  • “The Secret Life of Statutes: A Century of the Trading With the Enemy Act,” Modern American History, vol. 1, no. 2 (2018): 151-172.
  • “Securing Hegemony Through Law: Venezuela, the U.S. Asphalt Trust, and the Uses of International Law, 1904-1909,” The Journal of American History 102:2 (2015): 380-405. Winner of the 2016 Binkley-Stephenson Award from the Organization of American Historians
  • “The Pan American Lobbyist: William Eleroy Curtis and U.S. Empire, 1884-99,” Diplomatic History 38:1 (2014): 22-48.

For a complete list of publications, click here.



  • Theodore Roosevelt’s Politics of Empire: A Review of John M. Thompson, Great Power Rising: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). Published by H-DIPLO, September 2019.
  • Review of James Crossland, War, Law and Humanity: The Campaign to Control Warfare, 1853-1914 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). Diplomatica, 1, no. 2 (2019): 302-304.
  • Review of Robert McGreevey, Borderline Citizens: The United States, Puerto Rico, and the Politics of Colonial Migration(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018). Published by H-DIPLO. March 2019.
  • Review of Jennifer Pitts, Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 2018). The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 49:4 (Spring 2019): 650-51.
  • The Lover of the Game: A Review of Charles E. Neu, Colonel House: A Biography of Woodrow Wilson’s Silent Partner(New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). Passport: The SHAFR Review, April 2017.
  • Review of Katherine Unterman, Uncle Sam’s Policemen: The Pursuit of Fugitives across Borders (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015). History: Reviews of New Books 44:6 (2016): 187-88.
  • “Confronting a Philanthropic Past.” Review of Patricia L. Rosenfield, A World of Giving: Carnegie Corporation of New York A Century of International Philanthropy (New York: Public Affairs, 2014). HistPhil, 21 December 2015.
  • Review of Patrick Hagopian, American Immunity: War Crimes and the Limits of International Law (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013). Journal of American Studies 49:3 (2015): e56.
  • “Synthesizing the Wartime Industrial State.” Review of Kathryn Steen, The American Synthetic Organic Chemicals Industry: War and Politics, 1910-1930 (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2014). Published by H-DIPLO. March 2015.
  • “The International as Imagined Community.” Review of Glenda Sluga, Internationalism in the Age of Nationalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). Published by H-DIPLO. June 2014.
  • “Exploring the Transnational Origins of International Order.” Review of Nicole Phelps, U.S.-Habsburg Relations from 1815 to the Paris Peace Conference: Sovereignty Transformed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Passport: The SHAFR Review, 2014.
  • “The Rusty and Rancid Origins of the Fulbright Program.” Review of Sam Lebovic, “From War Junk to Educational Exchange:  The WWII Origins of the Fulbright Program and the Foundations of American Cultural Globalism,” Diplomatic History 37:2 (April 2013): 280-312. Published by H-DIPLO, September 2013. reviews/PDF/AR423.pdf
  • “Small Place, Big Story?” Review of James C. Knarr, Uruguay and the United States, 1903-1929: Diplomacy in the Progressive Era. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2012. Published by H-DIPLO, January 2013.
  • Review of Bonnie M. Miller, From Liberation to Conquest: The Visual and Popular Cultures of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011. The Journal of American Culture 35:3 (2012): 278-279.
  • “Reconsidering the Tafts.” Review of Lewis L. Gould, The William Howard Taft Presidency. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2009; and Lewis L. Gould, Helen Taft: Our Musical First Lady. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2010. Published by H-SHGAPE, September 2011.
  • Review of John Hepp, “James Brown Scott and the Rise of Public International Law,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 7:2 (April 2008): 151-179. Published by H-Diplo, July 2008.

For a complete list of publications, click here.

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