David Lesch, Ph.D.
- Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of History , History
David W. Lesch is the Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of History in the Department of History at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He received his M.A. and PhD in Middle East History from Harvard University.
He is the author or editor of 17 books and overall has over 140 publications. Among his books are the following: A History of the Middle East Since the Rise of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2023), Syria: A Modern History (Polity Books, 2019); The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History (Oxford University Press, 2009, 2019); Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (Yale University Press, 2012, 2013); The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria (Yale University Press, 2005); 1979: The Year That Shaped the Modern Middle East (Westview Press, 2001); his popular edited volume, first published in 1996 and now in its 6th edition, The Middle East and the United States: History, Politics and Ideologies (Westview Press, 2018); his co-edited two-volume work (with Mark Haas), The Arab Spring: Change and Resistance in the Middle East (Westview Press, 2012) and The Arab Spring: The Hope and Reality of the Uprisings (Westview Press, 2017); and Syria and the United States: Eisenhower’s Cold War in the Middle East (Westview Press, 1992).
A biography of Dr. Lesch's life, personal and professional, is currently being written by renowned biographical writer, Catherine Nixon Cooke, with a scheduled 2024 publication date. He has also published numerous articles in leading journals, chapters in books, and essays in such noted publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, CNN.com, and Time Magazine.
Dr. Lesch has been a consultant to the White House at the highest levels in the last four presidential administrations, from President George W. Bush to President Joe Biden. Dr. Lesch has consistently met with and advised high level officials in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and the United Nations on diplomatic issues. He has frequently testified in front of Senate and House committees. Dr. Lesch has been quoted in over 500 newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has appeared frequently on national and international television and radio programs such as CNN, ABC, PBS Newshour, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, Al-Jazeera, NPR, and the BBC, and he has appeared in over a dozen documentaries, including those for The History Channel, the BBC, Frontline on PBS, and film productions by studios/news organizations in France, Germany, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Turkey.
He is on the board of and/or an adviser to a number of organizations involved in Middle East affairs, including the Syrian Studies Center (St. Andrews University, Scotland), the Damascus Foundation, and Cure Violence (Washington, DC). As a Senior Adviser to the Abraham Path Initiative (API), Dr. Lesch has spearheaded attempts to establish the API in Syria and Lebanon. The API is an ambitious multinational project sponsored by Harvard University to construct a touristic walking trail throughout the Middle East in order to enhance cross-cultural dialogue and understanding and economic development.
Dr. Lesch also initiated and developed the Harvard University-NUPI-Trinity University Syria Research Project, funded by the governments of Norway and Switzerland. He led a team of researchers in 2012-13 to meet with most of the leading players involved in the Syrian civil war that began in 2011. The data provided necessary insights into the dynamics of the conflict in order to formulate possible pathways toward conflict resolution. He completed in the Fall 2013 an 850-page Final Report for the project and presented his findings at the highest levels in Europe, the US and at the UN. He completed Phase 2 of the project in 2016, Trinity partnering in this phase with Conflict Dynamics International (CDI). It was funded by the government of Denmark. Currently he is involved in the next phase of his diplomatic engagement in Syria, working with CDI and The Carter Center (TCC) in the TCC-TU-CDI Syria Initiative. He met regularly with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad between 2004 and 2009, in part as an attempt to improve US-Syrians relations.
Dr. Lesch is involved in a number of San Antonio city programs including the Violence Prevention Division and Stand Up SA, the San Antonio World Affairs Council, and a number of initiatives working closely with the Mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg.
He was also the #1 draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1980 winter baseball draft and played in the minor leagues before a rotator cuff injury ended his career. He is married to Judy Dunlap, and he has one 33-year old son, Michael.