Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

Lisa Brady, Ph.D.


Leslie Madsen-Brooks, Ph.D.


David Walker, Ph.D.


After working on construction projects in Boise, Idaho, Morris Hans Knudsen and Harry Morrison combined their resources and skills to form Morrison-Knudsen Company (M-K) in 1912. The two of them built a world-class construction and engineering company that, at one time, was the industry leader in their field. Their success relied upon fast, cost-effective, construction and an uncanny ability to match their company’s mission to the goals of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. When Harry Morrison moved to the position of president in 1939, he took M-K international by presenting his company as the deliverer of modernization to the developing world. Afghanistan was the most prominent, and toughest, experiments in U.S. efforts to aid a foreign country’s develop and M-K was the contractor. When the U.S. committed to defending the Republic of South Vietnam against Ho Chi Minh, M-K was there to provide construction services, without wasting the military’s time or money. By 1979, U.S. foreign policy failed to deliver peaceful allies in Afghanistan or Vietnam and M-K once again needed to shift its priorities. Without strong leadership, and because of difficult economic times for M-K, the company failed to produce a new cohesive mission and was sold to another company by the late 1990s.