William R. Polk

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William Roe Polk (born 1929 in Fort Worth, Texas) is a veteran foreign policy consultant and author. He is a former professor of history at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, and was President of the latter's Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs.



He was born in Fort Worth, Texas and grew up on a ranch in west Texas. He is a relation of president James K. Polk and of the prominent lawyer and diplomat Frank Polk He attended public school in Fort Worth and the New Mexico Military Institute. [1] He studied in Latin America and worked on a Rome newspaper before matriculating and earning a BA and Ph.D from Harvard University, and BA and MA from Oxford University. [1] He also studied at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Universidad de Chile, the University of Baghdad and the American University of Cairo. [1]


Polk taught Middle Eastern history and politics at Harvard from 1955–61, and was then appointed by President Kennedy to the State Department's Policy Planning Council focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. [1] While there he served as a member of the Cuban Missile Crisis management team.

In 1961 Polk was a Guggenheim Fellow in Near Eastern Studies. [2]

Polk resigned from the federal government to join the University of Chicago as professor of history in 1965, where he taught for ten years and established its Center for Middle Eastern Studies, serving as Founding Director. [1]

In 1967 Polk became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, which hosted the 20th Pugwash Conference on nuclear weapons problems, helped organize the “Table Ronde” meeting which laid groundwork for the European Union, and contributed to planning the United Nations Environmental Program. [1] During the 1967 Middle Eastern Six-Day War he returned to Washington to write a draft peace treaty and to serve as an advisor to McGeorge Bundy, who was President Johnson’s personal representative during that crisis. [1]

Polk was Vice Chairman of the W.P. Carey Foundation [1] and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. [3] He lives and writes in southern France and is married to Baroness Elisabeth von Oppenheimer. [1] He has lectured at the Canadian Institute of International Relations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and the Institute of World Economy and International Affairs of the Soviet (now Russian) Academy of Sciences, as well at over a hundred universities and colleges.

William Polk was also the foreign policy adviser for Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign.



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 williampolk.com, William R. Polk's Author
  2. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, William R. Polk
  3. Council on Foreign Relations, Membership Roster (as of October 24, 2013)