Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants During the First World War

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Among the Americans who joined the ranks of the Doughboys fighting World War I were thousands of America's newest residents. Good Americans examines the contributions of Italian and Jewish immigrants, both on the homefront and overseas, in the Great War. While residing in strong, insular communities, both groups faced a barrage of demands to participate in a conflict that had been raging in their home countries for nearly three years. Italians and Jews "did their bit" in relief, recruitment, conservation, and war bond campaigns, while immigrants and second-generation ethnic soldiers fought on the Western front. Within a year of the Armistice, they found themselves redefined as foreigners and perceived as a major threat to American life, rather than remembered as participants in its defense. Wartime experiences, Christopher Sterba argues, served to deeply politicize first and second generation immigrants, greatly accelerating their transformation from relatively powerless newcomers to a major political force in the United States during the New Deal and beyond.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A much needed comparative and blended ethnic history...Sterba adeptly juxtaposes issues of inclusion and prejudice, anxiety and entitlement, demonstrating how these immigrants and their American-born children found ways to express both their particularistic cultures and yet participate with enthusiasm in the larger society. Good Americans shows us a new way of thinking about immigrant contributions and validates the importance of the state in the lives of very ordinary people."--Hasia R. Diner, New York University

"Sterba successfully challenges the long-standing assumption that nativist demands for 100% Americanism and government coercion dominated the immigrant experience during the First World War. He provides a unique window into both the experiences of individuals and communities during the war, eschewing generalities to detail the wide array of activities from the horror of combat along the Western Front to the street protests of New York City that together defined their 'immigrant experience.' Wonderfully written and carefully researched, Good Americans is an outstanding achievement."--Jennifer D. Keene, author of Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America

"A fascinating story, and a stunning synthesis of 'old' history and 'new.' It reveals in wonderful drama and detail the intertwining of World War I, immigrants, and American democracy, and also how ethnic pride flowed into national assimilation and a strengthened American internationalism."-Martin J. Sklar, Bucknell University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195154887
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher M. Sterba received his Ph.D. in American history from Brandeis University and lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Melting Pot Goes to War 3
1 The Heyday of the New Immigrant Enclave 9
I Your Country Needs You 31
2 "Get in Out of the Draft": Raising Volunteers and the Italian Response in New Haven 34
3 "Not as a Jew but as a Citizen": The Draft and New York Jewry 53
II Training the New Immigrant Soldier 83
4 Being Italian in the Yankee Division 86
5 Being Jewish in the National Army 105
III The Home Front 131
6 "More Than Ever, We Feel Proud to Be Italians" 133
7 "New York Jewry Must Do Its Duty" 153
8 "They Were Good Americans": Survival and Victory on the Western Front 175
Epilogue: A New Voice in Politics 202
Notes 213
Selected Bibliography 251
Index 265
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