Alfred W. McCoy

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Alfred W. McCoy
Alfred William McCoy

(1945-06-08) June 8, 1945 (age 77)
Concord, Massachusetts, United States
Spouse(s)Mary McCoy
Parent(s)Alfred Mudge McCoy, Jr. (father)
Margarita Piel (mother)
RelativesLady Margarita Ground (sister)
Piel Brothers (ancestors) Margarita McCoy (Daughter)
Academic background
Alma materColumbia University
University of California, Berkeley
Yale University
ThesisYloilo: Factional Conflict in a Colonial Economy, Iloilo Province, Philippines, 1937-1955 (1977)
Doctoral advisorHarold C. Conklin
Academic work
InstitutionsYale University
University of New South Wales
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Doctoral studentsTemario Rivera (1994)
Main interestsHistory of the Philippines
Foreign policy of the United States
European colonisation of Southeast Asia
Illegal drug trade
Central Intelligence Agency covert operations
Notable worksThe Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972)

Alfred "Al" William McCoy (born June 8, 1945) is an American historian and educator. He is the Fred Harvey Harrington Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[1] He specializes in the history of the Philippines, foreign policy of the United States, European colonisation of Southeast Asia, illegal drug trade, and Central Intelligence Agency covert operations.


Born in Concord, Massachusetts to Alfred Mudge McCoy, Jr. and Margarita Piel, a noted urban planner, educator, and descendant of the originators of Piels Beer, McCoy graduated from the Kent School in 1964, where he earned varsity letters in football, rowing, and wrestling.[2] He earned a Bachelor of Arts in European History from Columbia University in 1968, a Master of Arts in Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 1969, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Southeast Asian History from Yale University in 1977. His dissertation, advised by Harold C. Conklin was entitled Yloilo: Factional Conflict in a Colonial Economy, Iloilo Province, Philippines, 1937-1955, which examined the region of Iloilo.

McCoy began his teaching career as a lecturer at Yale, while he was still a doctoral student (1976-1977). He spent the next academic year as a research fellow at the Australian National University. McCoy remained in Australia at the University of New South Wales as a lecturer (1978-1981), senior lecturer (1981-1985), and was eventually promoted to associate professor (1985-1989). He returned to the United States in 1989 as a full professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has since spent his career. McCoy has been given two endowed chairs during his tenure: John R.W. Smail (2004-2015) and Fred Harvey Harrington (2015-present).

Congressional testimony[edit]

On June 2, 1972, while studying at Yale, McCoy testified before the United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of which Senator William Proxmire was chairman, and accused American government officials, such as G. McMurtrie Godley and Nelson G. Gross, of covering up drug trafficking in Southeast Asia.[3] Soon after, McCoy reaffirmed these beliefs in a letter to Congressman Les Aspin.[4]

McCoy uncovered drug trafficking methods for heroin and opium throughout Southeast Asia and to American troops stationed there by high-ranking government officials: Commander Ouane Rattikone and General Vang Pao (Laos); and President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu and General Đăng Văn Quang (Vietnam). McCoy also cited their ties with the Mafia, namely a visit to Saigon in 1968 by Santo Trafficante Jr. Senator Gale W. McGee dismissed the allegations and accused McCoy of McCarthyism, which was immediately rebutted. Senator Proxmire requested additional evidence and documentation to which McCoy responded his forthcoming book on the topic would serve as such. In that same year, McCoy's book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, was published by Harper and Row. He restated that the Central Intelligence Agency was knowingly involved in the trade of heroin in the Golden Triangle.

Documenting the Marcos dictatorship[edit]

McCoy's work on the administration of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos has influenced not only the academic documentation regarding the dictatorship, but in some cases had a direct impact on the actual events - such as the publication in the New York Times of his investigation on Marcos' "fake medals," just week before the 1986 Philippine presidential election and Marcos' eventual ouster during the People Power Revolution.[5][6]



Film credits include:[7]

Year Film Role
2003 Plan Colombia: Cashing In on the Drug War Failure Self
2007 Ghosts of Abu Ghraib Self
2007 Taxi to the Dark Side Self
2011 War on Terror Self
2019 Clean Torture: An American Fabrication Self

Television credits include:[7]

Year Television show Role
2009-2022 Democracy Now! Self
2017 On Contact Self




  • "Flowers of Evil: The CIA and the Heroin Trade." Harper's Magazine (July 1972), pp. 47–53.
  • "A Correspondence with the CIA." New York Review of Books, vol. 19, no. 4 (Sep. 21, 1972).
  • "The Afghanistan Drug Lords." Convergence (Fall 1991), pp. 11–12, 14.
  • "Lord of Drug Lords: One life as lesson for US drug policy." Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 30, no. 4 (Nov. 1998), pp. 301–331.
  • "Searching for Significance among Drug Lords and Death Squads: The Covert Netherworld as Invisible Incubator for Illicit Commerce." Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan. 14, 2019), pp. 9–22. doi:10.31389/jied.8
  • "Nuclear reaction : how an article about the H-bomb landed Scientific American in the middle of the Red Scare". Scientific American. 323 (3): 71. September 2020.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Alfred W. McCoy." Department of History, University of Wisconsin. Archived from the original.
  2. ^ Van Gelder, Lindsy. "Daily Closeup: He Almost Joined Them". New York Post, August 25, 1972.
  3. ^ "Heroin Charges Aired". Daytona Beach Morning Journal, June 3, 1972, p. 6.
  4. ^ Letter to Congressman Aspin from Alfred McCoy. CIA FOIA Electronic Reading Room.
  5. ^ "Marcos Blasts U.S. Reports He Was a Phony War Hero : American Records Fail to Back Him". Los Angeles Times. 1986-01-23. Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  6. ^ "McCoy, Alfred W." Department of History. 2017-05-15. Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  7. ^ a b "Alfred W. McCoy". IMDb.
  8. ^ Online version is titled "How an article about the H-bomb landed Scientific American in the middle of the Red Scare".

External links[edit]