William Roe Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author, and relation of president James K. Polk. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He studied in Latin America and worked on a Rome newspaper before matriculating and earning a BA and PhD from Harvard University, and BA and MA from Oxford University. Polk taught at Harvard from 1955–61, when he joined the State Department's Policy Planning Council specializing in Asian and African issues. While there he served as a member of the Cuban Missile Crisis management team. Polk joined the University of Chicago faculty as Professor of History in 1965 and taught there for ten years. During that period he established their Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and in 1967 became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. He served as an advisor to McGeorge Bundy during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Polk is senior director of the W.P. Carey Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives and writes in southern France.
- Backdrop to Tragedy: The Struggle for Palestine (1957). coauthors William R. Polk, David M. Stamler, and Edmund Asfour. Beacon Press online edition
- The Opening of South Lebanon, 1788-1840: A Study of the Impact of The West on the Middle East (1963). Harvard University Press
- The United States and the Arab World (1965). Harvard University Press, 3rd edition 1975: ISBN 0-674-92718-4
- The Arab World. 4th edition 1980, hardcover: ISBN 0-674-04316-2, paperback: ISBN 0-674-04317-0
- The Arab World Today. 5th edition 1991, ISBN 0-674-04319-7
- Beginnings of Modernization in the Middle East: The Nineteenth Century (1968). University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-67425-8
- Passing Brave (1973). Alfred Knopf, ISBN 0-394-47893-2
- The Elusive Peace: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century (1979). Palgrave McMillan, ISBN 0-312-24383-9
- Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs (1997). University Of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-67329-4
- Polk's Folly: An American Family History (2000). Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-49150-6, Anchor paperback ISBN 0-385-49151-4
- Understanding Iraq: The Whole Sweep of Iraqi History from Genghis Khan's Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to the American Occupation (2005). HarperCollins hardcover: ISBN 0-06-076468-6, paperback: ISBN 0-06-076469-4
- The Birth of America: From Before Columbus to the Revolution (2006). HarperCollins hardcover: ISBN 0-06-075090-1
- Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now (2006) Simon & Schuster paperback: ISBN 1-4165-3456-3