Promise and Peril

Promise and Peril

by Christopher McKnight Nichols
     
 

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Spreading democracy abroad or taking care of business at home is a tension as current as the war in Afghanistan and as old as America itself. Tracing the history of isolationist and internationalist ideas from the 1890s through the 1930s, Nichols reveals unexpected connections among individuals and groups from across the political spectrum who developed new visions

Overview

Spreading democracy abroad or taking care of business at home is a tension as current as the war in Afghanistan and as old as America itself. Tracing the history of isolationist and internationalist ideas from the 1890s through the 1930s, Nichols reveals unexpected connections among individuals and groups from across the political spectrum who developed new visions for America’s place in the world.

From Henry Cabot Lodge and William James to W. E. B. Du Bois and Jane Addams to Randolph Bourne, William Borah, and Emily Balch, Nichols shows how reformers, thinkers, and politicians confronted the challenges of modern society—and then grappled with urgent pressures to balance domestic priorities and foreign commitments. Each articulated a distinct strain of thought, and each was part of a sprawling national debate over America’s global role. Through these individuals, Nichols conducts us into the larger community as it strove to reconcile America’s founding ideals and ideas about isolation with the realities of the nation’s burgeoning affluence, rising global commerce, and new opportunities for worldwide cultural exchange. The resulting interrelated set of isolationist and internationalist principles provided the basis not just for many foreign policy arguments of the era but also for the vibrant as well as negative connotations that isolationism still possesses.

Nichols offers a bold way of understanding the isolationist and internationalist impulses that shaped the heated debates of the early twentieth century and that continue to influence thinking about America in the world today.

Editorial Reviews

History News Network
In this important new book, Christopher McKnight Nichols invites a broad reconsideration of [isolationism] by tracing its origins back to the debates over U.S. imperialism at the end of the 19th century and its surprising continuities--and surprising bedfellows--over the next-half century...Nichols has done us a valuable service in providing us with tools to see history anew--and to wield it responsibly.
— Jim Cullen
H-Net
[A] highly perceptive work...Promise and Peril is a provocative study, demolishing many stereotypes and offering new patterns concerning liberal anti-interventionism. It deserves a wide readership.
— Justus Doenecke

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674061187
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
08/11/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
706 KB

What People are saying about this

Glenda Gilmore
This is a book whose time has come. Largely forgotten by historians and political leaders alike, early twentieth-century isolationism has never been more important than it is today. Nichols' lively prose and strong narrative account of the isolationist path not taken will offer readers alternative ways of seeing the U.S. role in the world.
Glenda Gilmore, author of Defying Dixie
Walter A. McDougall
Nichols makes a valuable contribution to the intellectual history of American foreign relations at the dawn of the nation's career as a crusader state. In so doing he rehabilitates in convincing fashion the mental universe of the first unabashed-and often prophetic-isolationists.
Walter A. McDougall, author of Promised Land, Crusader State
Andrew J. Bacevich
Isolationism as turning inward? In this vivid and brilliantly conceived book, Nichols demolishes that canard, demonstrating that the isolationist tradition actually signifies the search for ways to engage the world consistent with authentically American principles.
Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War
Paul S. Boyer
Debates over the U.S. global role, Nichols convincingly argues, have always involved differing visions of the kind of society America should be. Promise and Peril recasts familiar foreign-policy controversies and finds fascinating affinities among surprisingly diverse public figures. Not only first-rate intellectual history, it is also a welcome contribution to contemporary discussions of America's place in the world.
Paul S. Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More
Michael Kazin
A deeply thoughtful study about the power of ideas in the making of U.S. foreign policy during the critical period from the 1890s to the Great Depression. Nichols demonstrates how intertwined were isolationist and internationalist views about the use of American power abroad.
Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

Meet the Author

Christopher McKnight Nichols is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in U.S. History at the University of Pennsylvania.

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