Best-selling historian Colin Woodard named visiting senior fellow at Pell Center
Colin Woodard, a New York Times best-selling historian and Polk Award-winning journalist, has been named a visiting senior fellow at Salve Regina’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy. The author of six books — including “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood” as well as “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” — Woodard will build a Pell Center initiative focused on the preservation of American democracy.
International observers and democracy experts have warned that the United States is experiencing “democratic backsliding” with voting restrictions, the ineffectiveness of Congress, and gerrymandering altering the prospects for responsive politics across the U.S. The “Big Lie” pushed by former President Donald Trump — that the 2020 election was stolen from him — and the Jan. 6 insurrection inspired by those claims underscore the peril to American democracy.
“We booked Colin for an episode of ‘Story in the Public Square,’” described Jim Ludes, executive director of the Pell Center. “To get ready, I read ‘Union,’ and I was blown away by its sweep, its power, and its meaning for today. Here is a scholar and a gifted storyteller who reminds us that the power of story is central to America’s national existence. But Colin isn’t just a gifted historian and author. He recognizes that America needs a story that unifies it in the 21st century, and he’s willing to help contribute to it. That project fits perfectly with what we’re doing at the Pell Center and we’re excited to work with him.”
Currently living in Maine, Woodard is one of the most respected authorities on North American regionalism, the sociology of U. S. nationhood and how our colonial past shapes and explains the present. He is a POLITICO contributing editor and the state and national affairs writer at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, where he received a 2012 George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. A longtime foreign correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Woodard has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and seven continents from postings in Budapest, Zagreb, Washington, D.C. and the US-Mexico border. He also covered the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and its bloody aftermath.
“I started my career in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during and after the collapse of the Soviet empire, where nation-states and federations were revisiting their histories and national myths, arguing over who truly belonged and who did not, and trying to build liberal democracies or consolidate ethno-nationalist regimes — by means of genocide and civil war in some cases,” Woodard explained. “Those experiences have always informed my work on North America’s history, but in recent years have become alarmingly relevant to our present trajectory, with the near-term survival of the American Experiment now far from certain.”
Woodard’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Economist, The New York Times, Smithsonian, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Newsweek and Washington Monthly, and he has been featured on CNN, the “Rachel Maddow Show,” Chuck Todd’s “The Daily Rundown,” “The PBS News Hour,” and NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” He’s also been an expert for numerous television documentaries on Discovery Channel, the History Channel, Netflix, the Smithsonian Channel and TLC. He was also a historical consultant for an Ubisoft video game inspired by “The Republic of Pirates,” a New York Times best-selling history of Blackbeard’s pirate gang that was made into a primetime NBC series with John Malkovich and Claire Foye.
Woodard is a graduate of Tufts University with a bachelor’s in history and the University of Chicago with a master’s in international relations. He had a past Pew Fellowship in international journalism at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Study. He received the 2004 Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Public Advocacy and was named 2014 Journalist of the Year by the Maine Press Association and one of the Best State Capitol Reporters in America by the Washington Post.
“I’m excited to be working with the Pell Center — with its commitment to interdisciplinary research and to connecting the worlds of scholarship and public policy — on these vital issues confronting the United States,” Woodard said.