Alfred W. McCoy

Position title: Harrington Professor of History


Phone: 608.263.1855

Office: 5131 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 5026 Mosse Humanities
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
Office Hours: Thursdays 11:30 - 1:30 and by appointment

Alfred W. McCoy


After earning a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history at Yale, my writing on this region has focused on two topics — Philippine political history and global opium trafficking. My first book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York, 1972), sparked controversy when the CIA tried to block publication. But after three English editions and translation into nine foreign languages, this study is now regarded as the “classic” work on the global drug traffic.

My more recent work on covert operations, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York, 2006), explores the agency’s half-century history of psychological torture. A film based in part on that book, “Taxi to the Darkside,” won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2008. My latest study of this topic, Torture and Impunity (Madison, 2012), explores the political and cultural dynamics of America’s post 9/11 debate over interrogation.

The Philippines remains the major focus of my research. An investigation of President Marcos’s “fake medals,” published on page one of the New York Times (January 23, 1986) just weeks before the country’s presidential elections, contributed to the country’s transition from authoritarian rule. Analyzing the many coup attempts that followed, my book Closer Than Brothers (New Haven, 1999) documents the corrosive impact of torture upon the Philippine military.

Three of my edited volumes on Philippine historiography have won that country’s National Book Award. In 2001, the Association for Asian Studies awarded me the Goodman Prize for a “deep and enduring impact on Philippine historical studies.”

My recent book, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison, 2009), draws together these two strands in my research — covert operations and modern Philippine history — to explore the transformative power of police, information, and scandal in shaping both the modern Philippine state and the U.S. internal security apparatus. In 2011, the Association for Asian Studies awarded Policing America’s Empire the George McT. Kahin Prize, describing the work as “a passionate, elegantly written book that owes its mastery to McCoy’s narrative and analytical gifts, his years of painstaking research and his sure sense of the ominous global implications of his story.”

In 2012, the Yale Graduate School Alumni Association awarded me the Wilbur Cross Medal which is presented annually to “a small number of outstanding alumni” to recognize “distinguished achievements in scholarship, teaching, academic administration, and public service.” Simultaneously, the University of Wisconsin-Madison gave me the Hilldale Award for Arts & Humanities for 2012.

My most recent book, In the Shadow of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, focuses on the key instruments in its exercise of this hegemony—including, geopolitical dominion, control of subordinate states, covert operations, worldwide surveillance, torture, and military technology. The work concludes by analyzing China’s challenge and the complex of forces that will likely lead to an eclipse of U.S. hegemony by 2030.

My teaching interests include: Modern Philippine social and political history; U.S. foreign policy; colonial empires in Southeast Asia; global illicit drug trafficking; and CIA covert operations.


Ph.D., Yale
M.A., University of California-Berkeley
B.A., Columbia College


Selected Awards

  • Yale Graduate School Alumni Asssociaton, Wilbur Cross Medal, 2012.
  • University of Wisconsin, Hilldale Award for Arts & Humanities, 2012
  • Association for Asian Studies, George Kahin Prize, 2011.
  • University of Wisconsin Graduate School, J.R.W. Smail Chair in History, 2004.
  • Philippine National Book Award, 1985, 1995, 2001.
  • Association for Asian Studies, Grant Goodman Prize, 2001.
  • Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad, 1998-99.

Advisor To

History Courses

  • History 319 – The Vietnam Wars – Syllabus 2020 (pdf)
  • History 458 – Southeast Asia Since 1800 – Syllabus 2021 (pdf)
  • History 600 – World War II in the Pacific – Syllabus 2007 (pdf)
  • History 600 – Empire & Revolution: U.S. and European Empires in Southeast Asia – 2011 Spring – McCoy
  • History 600 – World War II in the Pacific
  • History 600 – CIA Covert Warfare and U.S. Foreign Policy – Syllabus 2021 (pdf)
  • History 600 – U.S. and European Colonialism in Southeast Asia – Syllabus 2018 (pdf)
  • History 755 – Empire & Revolution: U.S. and European Empires in Southeast Asia – Syllabus 2014 (pdf)
  • History 755 – CIA Covert Warfare and Conduct of US Foreign Policy – Syllabus 2021 (pdf)
  • History 755 – Reality of Images–Environmental Photography in Southeast Asia
  • History 755 – Islands of Southeast Asia–The Practice of Comparative History
  • History 755 – Tropical Dictators–Authoritarianism in Indonesia & the Philippines
  • History 755 – U.S. and European Colonialism in Southeast Asia – Syllabus 2018 (pdf)