Philip Zelikow

White Burkett Miller Professor of History

Fast Facts

  • Former Miller Center director
  • Executive Director of 9/11 Commission
  • Former State Department Counselor
  • Expertise in American foreign policy, military history, European military history, Cuban missile crisis

Areas Of Expertise

  • Foreign Affairs
  • American Defense and Security
  • War and Terrorism
  • Domestic Affairs
  • Governance
  • Congress
  • Leadership
  • Politics
  • The Presidency

Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History. He has also served at all levels of American government, including as an elected member of a town school board. He began his professional career as a trial and appellate lawyer in Texas, including work for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. After returning to graduate school and then teaching for the Navy, he joined the Foreign Service and served as a career diplomat, posted overseas and in Washington, including service on the NSC staff for President George H.W. Bush. 

His Ph.D. is from Tufts University's Fletcher School. Since leaving regular government service in 1991, he has taught and directed research programs at Harvard University and at the University of Virginia. At UVA, he directed the Miller Center of Public Affairs from 1998 to 2005. While at the Miller Center, he directed the 2001 commission on national election reform, chaired by former Presidents Carter and Ford. This work led directly to congressional passage of the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002. In later academic service at UVA, Zelikow was also the dean for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2011-2014).

His books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Harvard UP, 1995, with Condoleezza Rice); The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Norton ed., 2001, with Ernest May); Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Longman, rev. ed., 1999, with Graham Allison); and America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age (Norton, 2015, drafted on behalf of the Markle Foundation group, "Rework America").  

He took two public service leaves from academia to return full-time to government service. The first of these leaves was in 2003-04, to direct the 9/11 Commission. The commission's landmark report was published in 2004. The second leave was in 2005-07, to serve as Counselor of the Department of State, a deputy to Secretary Rice. 

He is a member of the Defense Policy Board, where he advised Secretary Ash Carter, and he has also been a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board for President Bush (2001-03) and President Obama (2011-13). He advised the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s program in global development (2007-12).

Philip Zelikow News Feed

For the last three years, the author has made his NCAA tournament picks based on a school’s history department. How does Virginia win it all?
Philip Zelikow SBNation
The Miller Center's Philip Zelikow reconstructs the U.S. decision to take the Philippines
A closer examination of what led President William McKinley to take the Philippines reveals a series of deliberate and thoughtful choices that have often been overlooked or ignored.
Philip Zelikow Texas National Security Review
The Miller Center's Philip Zelikow inspired a new lawsuit intended to prevent another violent white supremacist rally
Philip Zelikow The Washington Post
There have already been a number of changes in the president's national security staff. But while the circumstances of Trump's administration may appear especially chaotic, historians say first-year tumult isn't unexpected. The Miller Center at the University of Virginia has been documenting the first year of each of the last six administrations, offering some lessons and guidance on what should be avoided.
Philip Zelikow NPR
Rex Tillerson has differed with his boss over significant issues since being named secretary of state. Now he has distanced himself from the president's comments regarding violence in Charlottesville.
Philip Zelikow NPR Morning Edition