Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Introducing: Catherine Wood and Martijn van Ette

Catherine Wood and Martijn van Ette recently joined the Institute for History as PhD candidates in the NWO Vidi-funded project "American foreign policy and liberalism", led by Andrew Gawthorpe. Below they introduce themselves.

Catherine Wood

In January, I was very happy to join the Leiden University Institute for History as a PhD Candidate in the History and International Studies section. I’m not entirely new to Leiden, as I completed my MA in European Politics & Society (EPS) here last summer. It’s been nice to see some familiar faces and meet others at the Institute!

Like many, my path to starting a PhD has not been a straight line. Prior to joining Leiden, I completed my BA in International Relations at Boston University. There, I found myself consistently drawn to history courses, becoming interested in topics ranging from U.S.-UK relations during the Suez Crisis to the beginnings of the U.S. intelligence community. My thesis reflected my interest in European history and politics, and focused on British and French newspaper reporting on several events in pre-Second World War Nazi Germany. Wanting to take some time to decide where I wanted to go next in my career, after graduating in May 2018 I spent almost a year teaching English at a high school in Grenoble, France—a city with beautiful mountains that remind me of my home state of Colorado.

I then returned to Boston and worked for two years in fundraising (or “development” as they called it—perhaps foreshadowing my future PhD topic?) at a large hospital, but knew I wanted to find a way to pursue graduate studies. While researching MA programs, I heard about Erasmus Mundus programs from a friend, and was drawn to the European Politics & Society Joint Master Programme for its multidisciplinary nature and the opportunity to learn more about three very different EU countries by living and studying in them.

During my MA, I studied at Charles University, Jagiellonian University, and here at Leiden. I was frequently asked by peers and others why I was interested in European and EU politics when I was from the U.S.—for me, I found it important to understand the functioning of a union that includes many of the U.S.’s closest allies (and I simply enjoyed learning about the EU!). EPS provided invaluable occasions to meet students and academics studying a wide range of topics. My interest in how the EU and its member states handle foreign policy led me to write my thesis about EU sanctioning behavior since the Treaty of Lisbon under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Gawthorpe. It was also here at Leiden that I first became interested in both liberal order and development through a course taught by Dr. Vineet Thakur. Outside of my courses and thesis, I worked with Dr. Gawthorpe on his America Explained podcast and was involved in writing and editing for the EPS program’s student-run magazine, European Waves, as well as the student council.

Hearing about the “American foreign policy and liberalism” project, I found it very fascinating and relevant. I was lucky to receive a PhD position, and will write my dissertation on modernization and development ideologies in service programs such as the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America. I’m also looking forward to remaining involved in discussions regarding more contemporary U.S. foreign policy and transatlantic relations.

Outside of work, I can often be found on a café terrace or by the beach when the weather is nice (coming from a landlocked state, I try to make the most of living near the sea!), traveling somewhere by train, or watching a movie and doing embroidery on rainier days. I hope to meet you all soon!

Martijn van Ette

It has now been almost two months since my PhD officially began. I started on January 2nd when the Huizinga building was still completely empty and the coffee machines were turned off. Luckily for me though, this meant that no one noticed that I wore my shirt backwards on my first day and that I embarrassingly got lost while looking for my new office.

I did my Bachelor in History in Rotterdam (sorry, not a Leiden local). The History program at Erasmus University combined two elements that have always interested me: economic history and international relations. Although I was initially a bit distracted by the things that a new student life has to offer in my first and second year, I started to develop a sincere passion for doing (archival) research while writing my bachelor thesis about how the British public press influenced Britain’s foreign policy amidst the last time Berlin and London worked together before the advent of World War I. Roughly at the same time, I was also doing an internship at the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam, where I worked with sixteenth – eighteenth century maps. Working with such astonishing pieces, that included maps of the world and the Indies, further reinvigorated my passion for research.

After the History Bachelor, I took a small detour before doing something with History again. I first did Leiden’s International Organisation MSc in The Hague (step by step getting closer to Leiden) at a very interesting moment in time because it roughly coincided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The invasion made us reflect on the role of International Organisations within the international system and it was inspiring to see how the tutors subsequently managed to relate contemporary events to established International Relations literature on IO’s. At the end of this MSc, I wrote my thesis about the NATO-Trump conflict during the Trump administration (which I hope won’t be in for a ‘Round 2’ in a year from now). After this MSc, I did a Political Economy MA in Leiden during which I wrote my thesis about the influence of US foreign policy objectives in Southeast Asia during the Cold War on Singapore’s economic development.

My PhD is part of the NWO-funded project ‘American Foreign Policy and Liberalism’, which aims to challenge the view that the US-led liberal international order reflected America’s domestic political liberalism. The project thereby not only aims to nuance the perception that the international order was inherently liberal, it also aims to highlight the ways through which illiberal features of US domestic society, including racism, affected the way through which the order was established and maintained in the post-war era.

My project focusses on how US views of the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia influenced its strategic interpretations of the region. Being eleven million strong, dispersed across the region and sharing ethnic ties with Communist China, interpretations of the diaspora intersected with key Cold War themes in the region, such as domino theory and strategic containment. By analyzing the relation between racial perceptions and US behavior abroad, the research explores the dynamic, conflicting and often counterproductive ways through which race influenced US foreign policy during the Cold War era. The project thereby contributes to our understanding how illiberal characteristics underpinned US behavior abroad amidst the construction and establishment of the ‘liberal international order’ during the Cold War.

This website uses cookies.  More information.