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Dr Jill Kastner

Visiting Research Fellow

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Dr Jill Kastner is an independent scholar and historian based in London. Her work focuses on international relations from the Cold War to the present, with an emphasis on intelligence and subversive activities both covert and overt.

Jill completed her PhD at Harvard in 1999 under the guidance of Ernest May and Philip Zelikow before joining the Presidential Recordings Project at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs. She has contributed book chapters on various Cold War crises, including Suez and Berlin, and written for The Nation and Foreign Affairs. She served as the executive editor and collaborator for Hope and History: A Memoir of Tumultuous Times, the political memoir of Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel. She is currently collaborating with William C. Wohlforth on a book about the history of subversion, due out with Oxford University Press next year.

Prior to her PhD, Jill worked as a television news producer on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

She is a member of Chatham House, the Pilgrims of the US/UK, and the Harvard Club of New York.


BA, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1988.

MA, Regional Studies, Soviet Union, Harvard University, 1992.

PhD, History, Harvard University, 1999

Research interests

  • Subversion
  • Intelligence and espionage
  • Cybersecurity and strategy

Jill is currently researching the history of peace-time subversion from ancient Greece to the present day, with the goal of understanding why and under what circumstances states choose subversion rather than diplomacy or war. In collaboration with William Wohlforth of Dartmouth, she seeks to create a taxonomy of subversion and analyse the various cost-benefit calculations used by states in deciding whether to subvert. In particular, she is investigating the dynamics of great power subversion, which seemed to have died down during the quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but which made a stunning comeback during the US presidential cycle of 2016. She is also interested in subversion’s adaptation to new technologies, from the printing press to radio to the internet.



  • A Measure Short of War: A History of Great-Power Subversion, with William C. Wohlforth, Oxford University Press, (forthcoming) 2023.
  • Editor, Hope and History: A Memoir of Tumultuous Times, by Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2019.

Book Chapters

  • “London,” Parts One, Two and Three, in Philip Zelikow, ed. Suez Deconstructed: An Interactive Study in Crisis, War and Peacemaking. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2018.
  • “The Berlin Crisis and the FRG, 1958-62,” in John Gearson and Kori Schake, eds, The Berlin Wall Crisis: Perspectives on Cold War Alliances. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
  • Contributor, The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy – The Great Crises, Vol. 1-3, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2001.

Media articles