Robert Karl is Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University. A historian of modern Latin America, his research concentrates on the political history of mid-twentieth century Colombia. His current book manuscript, “Colombia’s Forgotten Peace: Reform and the Politics of Expectation, 1957-66,” examines how rural actors and the Colombian state pursued a variety of novel domestic peace initiatives in the late 1950s, amidst a broader democratic conjuncture in Latin America. Disillusionment with the state’s response to questions of citizenship and property contributed to the eventual breakdown of this peace. The book posits that such localized conditions, rather than the Cold War, prompted the emergence of Colombia’s most famous armed group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), in the mid-1960s. In highlighting the social meaning of politics and development in post-1945 Colombia, the book proposes an alternative set of origins to the country’s conflict, as well as historical parallels to current efforts at achieving a sustainable peace.
Karl’s other research and teaching interests include the history of inter-American relations and digital/spatial history. He is currently assembling several databases on violence, land disputes, and frontier land titling in twentieth-century Colombia.
Karl holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Fulbright Colombia, and the Eisenhower and Johnson presidential libraries