Mary Sarotte

Dean's Professor of History and Professor of International Relations

Contact Information
E-mail: sarotte@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-3480
Office: VKC 330

Personal Website


Biographical Sketch

Mary Elise Sarotte's newest book, The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, explores both the causes and the legacy of the unexpected fall of the Wall.  Based on archival research, data, and interviews from six countries, her book reveals the highly contingent and potentially dangerous circumstances that produced the opening, the iconic event that marked the point of no return in the collapse of the Cold War.  She also investigates how a young KGB agent named Vladimir Putin witnessed the upheaval in East Germany first-hand.

The Collapse was selected as a book of the week by CNN upon publication and as a book of the year by BBC History Magazine, The Economist, and the Financial Times, along with other publications.

Her third book, 1989:  The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe (Princeton University Press, 2009; updated edition, 2014) was also a Financial Times Book of the Year.  Foreign Affairs called it a new "classic" and it won three prizes: the Robert H. Ferrell Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) for distinguished scholarship on US foreign policy; the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Prize for distinguished scholarship in German and European Studies; and the Marshall Shulman Prize of the then-American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS, later renamed ASEES; co-winner).  In addition, the book received reviews in The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as in other publications.

Sarotte's previous publications include two other books (Dealing with the Devil, and German Military Reform and European Security) as well as a number of scholarly articles.  Sarotte has also written for Time, Die Zeit, and The Economist and appeared as a political commentator on the BBC, CNN International and Sky News.  

Sarotte earned her AB in History and Science at Harvard University and her PhD in History at Yale University. After graduate school, she served as a White House Fellow and subsequently joined the faculty of the University of Cambridge. She received tenure there in 2004 before returning to the US to teach at USC. Sarotte is a former Humboldt Scholar, a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She serves on the board of the Willy Brandt Foundation in Berlin. 

In 2015-6, she is a research associate at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University.  She is currently working on two books:  an edited volume on the legacy of German unification for international relations today, and a study of NATO's role in US foreign policy in both historical and current perspectives.


  • A.B. History and Science, Harvard University, 6/1988
  • M.A. History, Yale University, 5/1990
  • M.A. History M.Phil., Yale University, 5/1994
  • Ph.D. History, Yale University, 12/1998

  • Department of History
  • 3502 Trousdale Parkway
  • Social Sciences Building (SOS) 153
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 90089-0034