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    Inoguchi, Takashi 2018. The Wilsonian moment: Japan 1912–1952. Japanese Journal of Political Science, Vol. 19, Issue. 4, p. 565.

  • Volume 3: The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945
  • Akira Iriye, Harvard University, Massachusetts

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    The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations
    • Volume 3: The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945
    • Akira Iriye
    • Online ISBN: 9780511980589
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Since their first publication, the four volumes of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations have served as the definitive source for the topic, from the colonial period to the Cold War. This third volume of the updated edition describes how the United States became a global power - economically, culturally and militarily - during the period from 1913 to 1945, from the inception of Woodrow Wilson's presidency to the end of the Second World War. The author also discusses global transformations, from the period of the First World War through the 1920s when efforts were made to restore the world economy and to establish a new international order, followed by the disastrous years of depression and war during the 1930s, to the end of the Second World War. Throughout the book, themes of Americanisation of the world and the transformation of the United States provide the background for understanding the emergence of a trans-national world in the second half of the twentieth century.


‘A clear overview of American ascendance - cultural, military, and economic - in an era punctuated by war and economic crisis. Iriye’s global perspective helps us understand the rise of the United States in the context of wider challenges to European power; his analysis of deglobalizing forces and reglobalizing efforts casts new light on American leadership in this tumultuous time.’

Kristin Hoganson - author of Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity

‘No one has done more than Akira Iriye to promote the study of U.S. foreign relations in a global frame that includes civil society actors and institutions. Skilfully bridging the domains of politics, economics, and culture, The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945 charts the United States’ interwar rise as a world power largely defined by its pursuit of economic interdependence, in the context of global crises and struggles over the nationalizing and internationalizing of power. Far from isolated in the decades prior to World War II, he shows that the United States possessed a growing presence abroad, particularly in the fields of investment, commerce, philanthropy, education and popular culture, that would come to transform both the world and the United States itself.’

Paul A. Kramer - author of The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines

‘Iriye has no peer as an international historian, as attested to by this revision of his third volume of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations. With command and complexity he highlights America’s role from the First World War to the end of the Second in restructuring the global system without neglecting the agency of other states and non-state actors. The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945 is history at its best: a multidimensional study of power that is as accessible as it is challenging.’

Richard H. Immerman - Temple University, Philadelphia

‘Akira Iriye’s volume, now updated with recent scholarship, continues to represent the best of historical interpretation and writing on its period. Scholars and students will continue to benefit from the provocative insights and graceful style of America’s most distinguished international historian.’

Emily S. Rosenberg - editor of A World Connecting, 1870–1945

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  • 6 - The 1920s – The Economic Aspect
    pp 89-103
  • View abstract
    The globalizing of America started long before 1913. This chapter traces the history of U.S. foreign relations from 1913 to 1945. It recalls that the nation had come into existence and conducted its external affairs in a world in which technological and economic globalization had begun to connect different parts of the globe. Growing American assertiveness in foreign affairs was buttressed by certain ideologies that stressed power, order, and civilization. Much of this was part of the trends in European thinking. It may be noted that while Western cultural dominance in the world continued, there was now also a greater degree of self-consciousness, even of defensiveness, in the age of imperialism. Even before 1914 the ideas both of economic interdependence and of peaceful settlement of disputes were sufficiently advanced in the United States to constitute a vision of American leadership in international relations.
  • 7 - The 1920s – The Cultural Aspect
    pp 104-118
  • View abstract
    The coming of the Great War had little or nothing directly to do with the United States. One consequence of the growing importance of the American question in the European war was the need to persuade the Americans themselves of this fact, that is, to make them realize that, despite their official neutrality and widespread aversion to becoming involved in the conflict, they were in fact playing an increasingly vital role in it and that their actions even as nonbelligerents would have serious implications for the outcome of the struggle. The United States had prepared itself economically and intellectually for a crucial role in the European conflict. In the meantime, as the United States was preparing itself for an ultimate involvement in the European war, it was pursuing active, interventionist policies in East Asia and the Caribbean, something of a rehearsal for what was to come in Europe.
  • 8 - The Collapse of International Order
    pp 119-133
  • View abstract
    By far the greatest reason for the ultimate success of the American war effort was the nation's economic resources, which it shared generously with its allies. The impressive performance of American military power and economic resources was matched, and sustained, by an ideological offensive led by President Wilson. This was not surprising in view of his keen interest, prior to 1917, in shaping the world to come after the war. Now that the United States was in the war, however, the aspirations of a neutral nation's leader developed into official enunciations of principles that were to guide the deliberations of the belligerents as they groped for peace. When the belligerents met in Paris at the beginning of 1919 to consider peace terms, American and Japanese forces were still in Siberia. Lenin, for his part, considered it prudent to retain some connection with the Western nations, in particular the United States, the country that would have the most to offer economically.
  • 9 - Totalitarianism and the Survival of Democracy
    pp 134-151
  • View abstract
    The Paris peace conference was convened on January 18, 1919, and lasted until June 28, when a peace treaty with Germany was signed at the Versailles palace. Aspects of the peace were extremely harsh toward Germany, but some of the arrangements for the postwar world reflected the Wilsonian vision. It is not strange that, even given Wilson's well-known interest in the economic foundations of world order, he gave so little thought to this aspect of the Versailles peace. Perhaps he was too preoccupied with the more immediate political and military issues to give due attention to the question of transnational migration raised by China and Japan. Because the globalizing of America has been a major historical event of the past several decades, Wilsonianism should be seen not as a transient phenomenon, a reflection of some abstract idealism, but as a potent definer of contemporary history.
  • 10 - The Emergence of Geopolitics
    pp 152-171
  • View abstract
    The postwar world began in 1919, with the signing of the Versailles peace treaty. This chapter explores aspects of the international system of the 1920s and the role played by the United States in its evolution and preservation. First of all, despite the confusion of the immediate postwar years, the major powers showed remarkable readiness to undertake programs of disarmament. Disarmament could not be separated from other questions of Asian-Pacific security, in particular the future of the Anglo-Japanese alliance and the fortification of the powers' bases in the Pacific Ocean. The peace of the 1920s was built on more than merely disarmament agreements. It was sustained through various other arrangements, including the League of Nations, the Locarno Conference treaties in Europe, and the Washington Conference treaties for Asia. In the meantime, in Europe the postwar peace remained fragile in the immediate aftermath of the Versailles conference.
  • 11 - The Road to Pearl Harbor
    pp 172-192
  • View abstract
    American capital was the main sustainer of the international economic system during the 1920s. The role of American financial resources has sometimes been referred to as the diplomacy of the dollar. In some such fashion, a revitalized global economy came to hinge on a relationship of financial interdependence between the United States and Europe, and indeed the rest of the world as well. The penetration of world markets by American goods as well as capital and technology was providing a basis, the economic foundation, for the postwar international order. If American economic influence was linking different parts of the world closer together, thereby creating a greater sense of global interdependence, there was a contrary trend as well: the new immigration policy of the United States. Both the 1921 and the 1924 immigration laws established a quota system on the basis of nationality.
  • 12 - The Global Conflict
    pp 193-218
  • View abstract
    Peace as a dominant idea was a distinctive feature of the postwar decade. Peace was such an ideology in the 1920s. It is relevant to note in this context that women in various countries played an active part in promoting ideas about peace. One of the earliest transnational women's organizations, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, had been established on the eve of the Great War. The proposition that peace was an intellectual engagement led to a major contribution of the postwar period: the idea that cultural and intellectual cooperation among nations was an effective way of promoting peace. Americans were very much part of the cultural internationalism. Cultural and intellectual cooperation represented an earnest activity by the world's leaders to contribute to internationalism and peace, and Americans were very much part of the movement. American missionaries continued to engage in humanitarian work in China and India.
  • Bibliographic Essay
    pp 219-238
  • View abstract
    The postwar global economy had some advantages over the prewar globalization, such as its functioning in a better international political climate, but it had one serious problem, its excessive dependence on the United States. The world had become so accustomed to depending on American financial resources that it would be faced with a threat of total collapse unless the United States now did something to alleviate the situation. The American and British representatives believed that to grant Japan's request would jeopardize their Pacific possessions' security. The economic and diplomatic crises of the Hoover years witnessed a severe challenge to the ideological foundations of American foreign policy and of postwar international relations. Capitalism and democracy at home, and economic interdependence and cultural exchange abroad, had been visualized as essential elements of a reglobalized world. To be sure, many colonies remained, and not all countries espoused liberalism or democracy.

Bibliographic Essay


This book has sought to place the history of American foreign relations in the context of global developments. Of course, there are many ways of understanding world history during 1913–45, but one key theme would be globalization, or – to be more appropriate for most of these years – deglobalization and reglobalization. The term “globalization” refers to technological advances and economic transactions that establish connections among countries and regions of the world. There are political, social, and cultural aspects of these phenomena, all of which have implications for a country’s foreign affairs. As yet few comprehensive histories of globalization exist, but readers may gain insight from such books as Jeffry B. Frieden, Global Capitalism (New York, 1996), Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization (New York, 1998), James H. Mittelman, ed., Globalization (London, 1996), Pamela Kyle Crossley, Lynn Hollen Lees, and John W. Servos, Global Society (Boston, 2004), and Thomas W. Zeiler, Free Trade, Free World (Chapel Hill, 1999).

On the implications of a fast globalizing world for international politics in the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century, see Sebastian Conrad and Dominic Sachsenmaier, eds., Competing Visions of World Order (New York, 2007). The basic text for European international relations during 1919–33 is Zara Steiner, The Lights That Failed (Oxford, 2005). There are several excellent studies of global cultural developments in this period, notable among which is Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918 (Cambridge, Mass., 1983). Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings (Cambridge, Mass., 1998), Kristin Hoganson, Consumers’ Imperium (New York, 2007), Victoria De Grazia, Irresistible Empire (Cambridge, Mass., 2005), Jessica Gienow-Hecht, Sound Diplomacy (Chicago, 2009), and Frank Ninkovich, Global Dawn (Cambridge, Mass., 2009), show cultural linkages between America and Europe (as well as the rest of the world) even while the nation remained uninvolved in world geopolitics. See also Ian Tyrrell, Woman’s World, Woman’s Empire (Chapel Hill, 1991), and Leila Rupp, Worlds of Women (New York, 1997), both of which demonstrate the transnational character of women’s movements in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Somewhat different in subject but equally important is a study of racial attitudes that Americans shared with Australians, Canadians, and others, presented in Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line (Melbourne, 2008). Carol Chin, Modernity and National Identity in the United States and East Asia (Kent, Ohio, 2010), describes how the United States and the nations of East Asia contributed to each other’s identity formation at the turn of the century.

Books continue to be published on the origins of World War I. One of the best summaries of various factors and interpretations is offered by James Joll, The Origins of the First World War (London, 1984). Among more recent works that add significantly to our understanding of the July (1914) crisis is Jon Sumida, In Defence of Naval Supremacy (London, 1989), David Stevenson, Cataclysm (London, 2005), Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (New York, 1998), and Sean McMeekin, Russia’s Aims in the First World War (Cambridge, Mass., 2011). A useful military history is Edward M. Coffman, The War to End All Wars (New York, 1968). For an intriguing observation on the war of global telecommunications, see Jonathan Reed Winkler, Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I (Cambridge, Mass., 2008). A useful complement to both studies by international relations scholars is Steven E. Miller, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Stephen Van Evera, eds., Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War (Princeton, 1991).

Battles fought in Europe, the Middle East, the Atlantic, and elsewhere are beyond the scope of this book, but mention may be made of some significant works outside the genre of military history. For instance, Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (London 1975), offers a fascinating study of the impact of the war on European artists and intellectuals. Xu Guoqi, Strangers on the Western Front (Cambridge, Mass., 2011), details the story of the Chinese laborers who worked in France during the war, while Frederick R. Dickinson, War and National Reinvention (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), establishes a connection between war and politics in Japan.

On U.S. neutrality during 1914–17, the standard work is Ernest R. May, The World War and American Isolation (Cambridge, Mass., 1959). There is a voluminous amount of writings on President Woodrow Wilson’s diplomacy both during the period of neutrality and after the decision for war. The most detailed and reliable study is the multivolume biography by Arthur S. Link, of which two volumes are particularly relevant: Wilson: The Struggle for Neutrality (Princeton, 1960), and Wilson: Campaigns for Progressivism and Peace (Princeton, 1965). For a more compact survey, see Robert H. Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson and World War I (New York, 1985). An extremely interesting contrast between Wilson and former president Theodore Roosevelt is drawn in John Milton Cooper, The Warrior and the Priest (New York, 1983). See also the same author’s The Vanity of Power (Westport, Conn., 1969) for a discussion of antiinterventionism during the war.

Frank Ninkovich offers an important examination of the ideological foundations of Wilsonian foreign policy in Modernity and Power (Chicago, 1994) and The Wilsonian Century (Chicago, 1999). Wilson’s struggle to go beyond traditional patterns of diplomacy is given excellent treatment in Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars (Princeton, 1992), and Frederick Calhoun, Power and Principle (Kent, Ohio, 1986). N. Gordon Levin, Woodrow Wilson and World Politics (New York, 1968), places Wilsonianism squarely in the middle between traditional power politics and Bolshevik radicalism. The relationship between Wilsonianism and Leninism is given further elaboration in such works as Klaus Schwabe, The World War, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking (Chapel Hill, 1985); Arno J. Mayer, Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking (New York, 1967); and John M. Thompson, Russia, Bolshevism, and the Versailles Peace (Princeton, 1967). On America’s expedition to Siberia, the most authoritative historian has been George F. Kennan. See his Russia Leaves the War (Princeton, 1956) and The Decision to Intervene (Princeton, 1958). The Siberian intervention is put in the framework of American relations with the Czechs and wartime developments in Central Europe in Betty Miller Unterberger’s massive The United States, Revolutionary Russia, and the Making of Czechoslovakia (Chapel Hill, 1989).

The scholarly literature on Woodrow Wilson at the Paris peace conference and on the making of the treaty of Versailles continues to grow. See Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919 (New York, 2003), for a comprehensive treatment of the conference. Daniela Rossini, Woodrow Wilson and the American Myth in Italy (Cambridge, Mass., 2008), explores Wilson’s impact on Italy, while Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment (New York, 2007), examines the implications of the Wilsonian principle of self-determination for Egypt, India, Korea, and China. Wilson’s close adviser Colonel House has found new attention in Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson’s Right Hand (New Haven, 2006). See also Mark Bradley, Imagining America and Vietnam (Chapel Hill, 2000), for a look at Vietnamese nationalism exemplified by Ho Chi Minh’s presence in Paris after the war.

There are many accounts of American relations with specific countries and regions of the world in the era of World War I. Anglo-American relations are treated extensively in such works as Lloyd C. Gardner, Safe for Democracy (New York, 1984); Seth P. Tillman, Anglo-American Relations at the Paris Peace Conference (Princeton, 1961); and W. B. Fowler, British-American Relations (Princeton, 1969). The literature on U.S. involvement in Latin America and East Asia is very rich. On Mexico, see Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico (Chicago, 1981), a study of U.S.-German rivalry in that country. The American expeditions to Santo Domingo and Haiti are chronicled in David Healy, Gunboat Diplomacy in the Wilson Era (Madison, 1976); and Hans Schmidt, The U.S. Occupation of Haiti (New Brunswick, N.J., 1971).

Regarding the wartime friction with Japan and Wilson’s pro-Chinese orientation, see Tien-Yi Li, Woodrow Wilson’s China Policy (New York, 1969); James Reed, The Missionary Mind and American East Asian Policy (Cambridge, Mass., 1983); and Roy Watson Curry, Woodrow Wilson and Near Eastern Policy (New York, 1959). On U.S.-Chinese relations during the war, the best recent study is Xu Guoqi, China and the Great War (Cambridge, 2005). There is less work on the Middle East, but some useful data may be obtained in John A. DeNovo, American Interests and Policies in the Middle East (Minneapolis, 1963); Laurence Evans, United States Policy and the Partition of Turkey (Baltimore, 1965); Daniel Yergin, The Prize (New York, 1991); and Burton Kaufman, Efficiency and Expansion (Westport, Conn., 1974).

This last, in addition to discussing the American pursuit of Middle Eastern oil fields, presents an interpretation of Wilsonian foreign policy in terms of the movement in the United States for government-business cooperation in the interest of efficiency and maximization of overall national interests. This theme – that the development of a framework for state-society cooperation steadily came to characterize American national and international affairs – is known as a “corporatist” interpretation and has informed such other important works as Michael J. Hogan, Informal Entente (Columbia, Mo., 1977), and Emily Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream (New York, 1982). Both stress the initiatives taken by the nation’s political and business leaders to reform domestic institutions and decision-making mechanisms so as to realize the efficient use of resources at home and the expansion of interests and opportunities abroad. The external manifestation of this ideology is sometimes referred to as “developmentalism,” the transformation of other, less developed countries into modern societies through U.S. initiatives. Although developmentalism becomes a basis of American foreign affairs only in the wake of the Second World War, David Ekbladh offers a good discussion of its historical background in The Great American Mission (Princeton, 2010). See also Jerry Israel, Progressivism and the Open Door (Pittsburgh, 1971), and Carl P. Parrini, Heir to Empire (Pittsburgh, 1969).

Women’s activism in war and peace has received increasing attention by historians. See, for instance, David Patterson, The Search for Negotiated Peace (New York, 2008), and Erika Kuhlman, Reconstructing Patriarchy after the Great War (New York, 2008).


U.S. foreign relations after World War I used to be dismissed as little more than a story of isolation, a less than honorable period in the nation’s history when it abdicated its responsibility in the world arena. This view has been steadily undermined by scholarly publications since the 1960s, and today it is much more common among historians to stress continuities rather than discontinuities between wartime diplomacy and the foreign affairs of the 1920s.

Much of this is due to changing perceptions of postwar history. The period after 1919 through 1939 has traditionally been put in the framework of “interwar,” but to do so is to assume that everything in the aftermath of the Great War pointed to the coming of another global conflict. Such a simplistic and deceptively teleological view does not allow for serious discussion of developments that had little or nothing to do with the geopolitical narrative. In particular, we need to view the political, economic, and cultural history of the 1920s in its own terms, not only as a prelude to the Second World War. See, in this regard, Charles Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe (Princeton, 1975), which chronicles the emergence, in the second half of the decade, of a Europe that was more or less peaceful and prosperous, each country pursuing its own domestic agendas without fear of another war. For Asia, see Akira Iriye, After Imperialism (Cambridge, Mass., 1965). By far the most significant historiographic achievement in the past twenty years, however, has been the growing volume of studies focusing on the League of Nations and other international organizations, updating the classic study by F. P. Walters, A History of the League of Nations (Oxford, 1952). Rather than treating postwar history in the framework of separate nations, these works examine nonstate actors, ranging from intergovernmental organizations such as the League to private foundations and associations as well as individuals, all of whom together contributed to the making of an emerging international community. See, for instance, Paul Weindling, ed., International Health Organizations and Movements, 1918–1939 (Cambridge, 1995); Akira Iriye, Global Community (Berkeley, 2002), and Susan Pedersen, “Getting Out of Iraq – in 1932,” American HistoricalReview 115 (October 2010).

Students of American foreign relations have made their own contributions to the recasting of post-1919 history. Probably the best place to start is Warren I. Cohen, Empire Without Tears (New York, 1987), a scholarly synthesis and a comprehensive survey. Further factual details on American-European relations, particularly on the thorny debt question, are provided by Melvin Leffler, The Elusive Quest (Chapel Hill, 1979), and Frank Costigliola, Awkward Dominion (Ithaca, 1984). As the titles of these books suggest, there was something tentative about American involvement in postwar European affairs, but one could argue that the United States was much more self-confident and less hesitant in its relations with other parts of the globe.

A great deal has been written on postwar America’s role in stabilizing Asian-Pacific affairs. The Washington Conference, the point of departure, is well analyzed by Roger Dingman, Power in the Pacific (Chicago, 1976). More critical assessments of the disarmament initiatives of the interwar period are offered by Robert E. Osgood, Ideals and Self-Interest in American Foreign Relations (Chicago, 1953), and Betty Glad, Charles Evans Hughes and the Illusions of Innocence (Urbana, Ill., 1966). James J. Busuttil, Naval Weapons Systems and the Contemporary Law of War (New York, 1998), explains the foundational significance of the conference in international law. For the London Conference of 1930, see Raymond O’Connor, Perilous Equilibrium (Lawrence, Kans., 1962). On the response to the growth of Chinese nationalism and the emergence of the Nationalists as the new leaders in China, see Dorothy Borg, American Policy and the Chinese Revolution (New York, 1947); Paul A. Varg, Missionaries, Chinese, and Diplomats (Princeton, 1958); L. Ethan Ellis, Frank B. Kellogg and American Foreign Relations (New Brunswick, N.J., 1961); and Russell D. Buhite, Nelson T. Johnson and American Policy Toward China (East Lansing, Mich., 1968). Warren I. Cohen, The Chinese Connection (New York, 1978), is a study of three Americans representing different backgrounds and interests in China. Karen J. Leong, The China Mystique (Berkeley, 2005), explores China’s popular representation in the United States by women, while Frank Ninkovich, The United States and Imperialism (Oxford, 2001), discusses U.S.-Chinese relations in the framework of U.S. assistance to China’s modernization.

On Latin American relations, Bryce Wood, The Making of a Good Neighbor Policy (New York, 1961), is still useful as a history of the redefinition of the Monroe Doctrine in the 1920s, as is Alexander DeConde, Herbert Hoover’s Latin American Policy (Stanford, 1951). Responses to Mexico’s radical nationalism are given a masterful treatment in Robert Freeman Smith, The United States and Revolutionary Nationalism in Mexico (Chicago, 1972). The continued intervention in Nicaragua is discussed in William Kamman, A Search for Stability (Notre Dame, Ind., 1968). On the overall commercial links between North and South America, see Joseph Tulchin, Aftermath of War (New York, 1971).

American relations with Bolshevik Russia are a story in themselves – or, one could say, a nonstory in that there was no formal diplomatic relationship between the two governments. But there were commercial interactions, and, besides, Americans of all political persuasions were fascinated by the Soviet experiment. These developments are described in such books as William Appleman Williams, American-Russian Relations (New York, 1952); Joan Hoff Wilson, Ideology and Economics (Columbia, Mo., 1974); and Peter G. Filene, Americans and the Soviet Experiment (Cambridge, Mass., 1967).

There is much interesting work on public attitudes toward foreign affairs during the 1920s. Warren I. Cohen, The American Revisionists (Chicago, 1967), studies the controversy on the origins of World War I; Peter Novick, That Noble Dream (New York, 1988), offers an intriguing account of the impact of that controversy on historians; and Selig Adler, The Isolationist Impulse (New York, 1957), while more traditional in interpretation, contains much valuable information on American opinion in the interwar years. Robert D. Schulzinger, The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs (New York, 1984), looks at the Council of Foreign Relations, established in 1921 as an elite organization to influence American foreign policy. The same author’s The Making of the Diplomatic Mind (Middletown, Conn., 1975) describes what may be termed the official ideology of the period concerning international relations. The increasingly active peace movement in postwar America is treated extensively in Robert David Johnson, The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations (Cambridge, Mass., 1995). Also important are Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice (Knoxville, 1971), Charles DeBenedetti, Origins of the Modern American Peace Movement (Millwood, N.Y., 1978), and Robert H. Ferrell, Peace in Their Time (New Haven, 1952). Alan Dawley, Changing the World (Princeton, 2003), highlights how worldwide developments during the First World War became the international cradle of American reform movements. Its follow-up to 1939 is Warren F. Kuehl and Lynne K. Dunn, Keeping the Covenant (Kent, Ohio, 1997).

It is not surprising that, given so much attention being paid to the study of American initiatives for disarmament, peace, and international cooperation, historians have also been exploring the cultural aspect of international relations during the 1920s. Americans played key roles in this regard, building transnational bridges with all parts of the world. The cultural activities of Americans in postwar Europe, in particular in Paris, are chronicled in Brooke Blower, Becoming Americans in Paris (New York, 2011). The export of Hollywood movies stands as another excellent example, as described in detail in such books as Thomas J. Saunders, Hollywood in Berlin (Berkeley, 1994), and John Trumpbour, Selling Hollywood to the World (Cambridge, 2002). On the popularity of jazz in the Soviet Union, see J. Frederick Starr, Red and Hot (Princeton, 1985), and on the American cultural impact on China, see Liping Bu, Making the World Like Us (Westport, Conn., 2003). Somewhat different but equally noteworthy are transnational efforts to control the world’s population, efforts in which Americans figured prominently, as exemplified by the activities of Margaret Sanger during the 1920s. See Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception (Cambridge, Mass., 2008).

Economics was a crucial medium of American foreign relations in the 1920s, and its importance is reflected in such standard works as Herbert Feis, The Diplomacy of the Dollar (Baltimore, 1950); Joan Hoff Wilson, American Business and Foreign Policy (Boston, 1971); and Joseph Brandes, Herbert Hoover and Economic Diplomacy (Pittsburgh, 1962). The collapse of economic diplomacy that came with the Depression is the subject of Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy in the Great Depression (New Haven, 1957). For a penetrating discussion of the structural problems in the global economic system during the 1920s with its heavy dependence on the United States, consult Charles P. Kindleberger, The World in Depression (Berkeley, 1973).

Concerning American attitudes toward the rise of Italian fascism, the best study remains John P. Diggins, Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America (Princeton, 1972). It shows not only how Americans responded to the rise of fascism in Italy but also how they defined their mental universes at a time of steady economic, political, and cultural interpenetration among nations.

Toward another antidemocratic development, Japanese militarism, much work exists on American responses to Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, the first overt challenge to world order during the Depression. See Robert Ferrell, American Diplomacy; Christopher Thorne, The Limits of Power (New York, 1973); Armin Rappaport, Henry L. Stimson and Japan (Chicago, 1973); Gary Ostrower, Collective Insecurity (Lewisburg, Pa., 1979); and Justus Doenecke, When the Wicked Rise (Lewisburg, Pa., 1984). Rappaport’s book takes a harshly critical view of Stimson’s foreign policy, the others much less so. The best study of Japan’s decision for continental expansionism and its implications for the United States is Michael Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War (Ithaca, 1987).


The period between 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House, and 1939, when World War II began in Europe, has not been as extensively studied by historians in the recent decades, in part because they have tended to focus on the New Deal and other domestic developments and also because the nation’s foreign affairs were much more circumscribed during those years than earlier. Still, many interesting works exist and help us explore how the United States, going through an unprecedented economic crisis, coped with serious world problems ranging from Japan’s aggressive war in China to Nazi Germany’s repudiation of the Versailles peace settlement.

Many excellent studies exist of the turbulent decade of the 1930s in global history that provide the background for our study of American foreign affairs. The global economic crisis is traced in Harold James, The End of Globalization (Cambridge, 2001). On the rise of Nazism and Hitler’s foreign policy through 1939, still the best reference is Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany (Chicago, 1980). On the Soviet Union under Stalin’s dictatorship, see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism (Oxford, 1999). The best history of the Spanish Civil War has been written by Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (New York, 2001). Eugen Weber, The Hollow Years (New York, 1996), presents insights into France during the 1930s. The Sino-Japanese War that erupted in 1937 has only begun to be studied on the basis of Japanese and Chinese archival material. See, for instance, essays in T. Fujitani, Geoffrey M. White, and Lisa Yoneyama, eds., Perilous Memories (Durham, 2001).

It is to be noted that these and similar works tend to focus on dramatic developments: the world economic crisis, war, totalitarianism. But there were other aspects in the history of the 1930s that need to be kept in mind, such as the growth of state authority in democratic as well as nondemocratic countries, a subject that is fully explored in Michael S. Sherry, In the Shadow of War (New Haven, 1995), focusing on the militarization of the United States during and after the 1930s. We should also remember the continuation, even the strengthening, of international efforts at humanitarian relief, disease prevention, cultural exchange, and other objectives. We shall need to pay attention to all these aspects of the world history of the 1930s in order to have a fuller understanding of how the nation fared. Barbara Keys, Globalizing Sport (Cambridge, Mass., 2004), for instance, describes the Berlin Olympics of 1936 in their myriad aspects, not simply in the framework of Nazi propaganda. See also Xu Guoqi, Olympic Dreams (Cambridge, Mass., 2008), for a superb discussion of what the Olympics meant to the Chinese.

An excellent introduction to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s America in the era of the world economic crisis is offered by Alonzo Hamby, For the Survival of Democracy (New York, 2004). Lloyd C. Gardner, Economic Aspects of the New Deal Diplomacy (Madison, 1964), examines the efforts of Secretary of State Cordell Hull and others to solve the acute economic crisis at home through reestablishing an orderly system of multilateral trade. See also Frederick C. Adams, Economic Diplomacy (Columbia, Mo., 1976). On the impact of the Depression on American opinion, especially the rise of extremism with obvious implications for foreign relations, see Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest (New York, 1982), and Geoffrey S. Smith, To Save a Nation (New York, 1973).

The isolationist bent of American public and congressional opinion during much of the 1930s is an extremely important phenomenon. We must realize, however, that it was filled with contradictions. One person’s isolationism could mean another’s interventionism. The various shades of isolationist thought are lucidly analyzed by Manfred Jonas, Isolationism in America (Ithaca, 1966). On congressional isolationists, the best study is Wayne S. Cole, Roosevelt and the Isolationists (Lincoln, Neb., 1983). Cole has devoted his career to the study of isolationism and published many other important works, including Gerald P. Nye and American Foreign Relations (Minneapolis, 1962) and Charles A. Lindbergh and the Battle Against American Intervention in World War II (New York, 1974). The congressional enactment of neutrality laws is given authoritative treatment in Robert A. Divine, The Illusion of Neutrality (Chicago, 1962). On the persistence of pacifist opinion, see Lawrence S. Wittner, Rebels Against War (New York, 1969).

Despite America’s self-imposed isolation, external events mercilessly intruded upon national consciousness and forced the policymakers to respond. President Roosevelt’s thinking, in which he had to weigh domestic opinion as well as the threat to world peace, is carefully traced in Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy (New York, 1979). Readers interested in Roosevelt’s foreign policy should first turn to this book and then supplement it with other studies of specific challenges and responses in various parts of the world. For instance, on U.S. responses to various initiatives undertaken by Nazi Germany, the best account is found in Arnold A. Offner, American Appeasement (Cambridge, Mass., 1967). See also J. A. Compton, The Swastika and the Eagle (Boston, 1967). A good recent study of American responses to the Spanish Civil War is Dominic Tierney, FDR and the Spanish Civil War (Durham, 2007). See also Richard Traina, American Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War (Bloomington, Ind., 1968). Concerning Fascist Italy, there is, in addition to the previously noted book by Diggins, Bryce Harris, The United States and the Italo-Ethiopian Crisis (Stanford, 1964).

The uneasy state of U.S.-British relations in the 1930s is well described in Offner’s book. The fascinating question of how, despite such uncertainty, even profound mistrust at times between Washington and London, there eventually emerged a cooperative framework for dealing with German and Japanese aggression is discussed in two excellent books: James R. Leutze, Bargaining for Supremacy (Chapel Hill, 1977), and David Reynolds, The Creation of the Anglo-American Alliance (Chapel Hill, 1981). See also Ritchie Ovendale, “Appeasement” and the English Speaking World (Cardiff, 1975); Christopher Hall, Britain, America, and Arms Control, 1921–37 (New York, 1987); Douglas Little, Malevolent Neutrality (Ithaca, 1985); and Richard Traina, American Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War (Bloomington, Ind., 1968).

On Latin American policy, in addition to the book by Frye, one may consult E. D. Cronon, Josephus Daniels in Mexico (Madison, 1960); Irwin Gellman, Roosevelt and Batista (Albuquerque, 1973); the same author’s Good Neighbor Diplomacy (Baltimore, 1979); and Joseph Tulchin, Argentina and the United States (Boston, 1990). On German propaganda activities in the Western Hemisphere, see Alton Frye, Nazi Germany and the American Hemisphere (New Haven, 1967).

On the Asian crisis, the best study remains Dorothy Borg, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933–1938 (Cambridge, Mass., 1964). The book chronicles America’s failure to come to the aid of China until very late in the 1930s. The same theme is treated from various angles in two collections of scholarly essays: Dorothy Borg and Shumpei Okamoto, Pearl Harbor as History (New York, 1973), and Akira Iriye and Warren I. Cohen, American, Chinese, and Japanese Perspectives on Wartime Asia (Wilmington, Del., 1990). These volumes are useful as they contain contributions by Chinese and Japanese, as well as American, scholars. James C. Thomson, While China Faced West (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), discusses America’s difficulties in assisting China because of the Depression. The decision to reverse the trend and to come to the support of China during 1938–9 is ably described in Michael Schaller, The U.S. Crusade in China (New York, 1979). For a survey of Asian international relations that led to the Pacific war, see Akira Iriye, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific (London, 1987).

Lest one should fall into the trap of putting everything in U.S.-Asian relations in the framework of “the road to Pearl Harbor,” it will be important to pay attention to instances of American cultural influence – in sport and movies, for instance – that remained pervasive until the very end. Many businesspeople, journalists, and intellectuals remained convinced that close economic and cultural ties across the Pacific would prevent the ocean from becoming a battleground. On the efforts by the Institute of Pacific Relations to preserve trans-Pacific dialogue, see Tomoko Akami, Internationalizing the Pacific (London, 2002). Haruo Iguchi, Unfinished Business (Cambridge, Mass., 2003), chronicles some efforts by American and Japanese entrepreneurs to cooperate in the development of Manchuria, while Izumi Hirobe, Japanese Pride, American Prejudice (Stanford, 2001), focuses on similar efforts to prevent the immigration dispute from leading to a serious deterioration in U.S.-Japanese relations. One American diplomat’s heroic endeavor to preserve the peace with Japan is detailed in Waldo Heinrichs, American Ambassador (Boston, 1966), a biography of Joseph C. Grew. Sandra Taylor, Advocate of Understanding (Kent, Ohio, 1984), offers a portrait of a former missionary, Sidney Gulick, who struggled for the same end.

Although the Soviet Union would emerge as a key factor in U.S. dealings with Japan as well as with Germany, there has been little systematic study of U.S. relations with Moscow, probably because historians have not had time to digest the mass of archival documents that have been opened up in the former Soviet Union. But Robert C. Tucker, Stalin in Power (New York, 1990), does make use of these documents and gives a sinister portrait of the Soviet dictator’s opportunistic diplomacy. To understand the impact of the Comintern’s call in 1935 for the establishment of a global antifascist front, an event that held real significance for a large number of American intellectuals, one may profitably turn to personal reminiscences such as Malcolm Cowley, The Dream of the Golden Mountains (New York, 1980).


The best account of the coming of World War II in Europe is D. C. Watt, How War Came (London, 1989), with a sharp focus on the months preceding the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. A more global analysis is offered by Gerhard J. Weinberg’s monumental history, A World at Arms (Cambridge, 1994). The way in which the United States became steadily drawn into the European conflict during 1939–41 is chronicled in detail in William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason, The Undeclared War (New York, 1953). On Roosevelt’s growing readiness to support Britain by all means short of war, see, besides the works by Dallek and Reynolds cited in the previous section, James M. Burns, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (New York, 1970); Theodore A. Wilson, The First Summit (Boston, 1969); and Warren F. Kimball, The Most Unsordid Act (Baltimore, 1969). This last is an important study of the making of the Lend-Lease Act. Its application to the Soviet Union after June 1941 is described in Raymond H. Dawson, The Decision to Aid Russia (Chapel Hill, 1959), and George C. Herring, Aid to Russia (New York, 1973). The American public’s increasing willingness to help the democracies against Nazi Germany is documented in such works as Mark L. Chadwin, Warhawks (New York, 1968); Walter Johnson, The Battle Against Isolation (Chicago, 1944); and James C. Schneider, Should America Go to War? (Chapel Hill, 1989). On the less well known aid to France, which also began around 1939, consult Julian Hurstfield, America and the French Nation (Chapel Hill, 1986). The still persisting isolationism in America is documented, among others, in Justin D. Doenecke, The Danger Undaunted (Stanford, 1990).

There is an enormous amount of scholarly literature on “the road to Pearl Harbor.” The standard “orthodox” presentation is Herbert Feis, The Road to Pearl Harbor (Princeton, 1950), and the most extreme “revisionist” interpretation – that the Roosevelt administration was engaged in a conspiracy to maneuver the Japanese into firing the first shot so that the United States might enter the war in Europe through the Asian “back door” – is in Charles C. Tansill, Back Door to War (Chicago, 1952), and Charles A. Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War (New York, 1948). Most studies reject the conspiracy theory but add many nuances to the story climaxing in the Pearl Harbor attack. For an excellent recent study, see Sadao Asada, From Mahan to Pearl Harbor (Annapolis, 2006). The role of the Axis pact in the deteriorating U.S.-Japanese relations is analyzed critically in Paul W. Schroeder, The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations (Ithaca, 1958), and Saul Friedlander, Prelude to Downfall (New York, 1967). The crucial petroleum question as a determining factor is discussed in Irvine H. Anderson, The Standard Vacuum Oil Company and United States East Asian Policy (Princeton, 1975). The story is brought up to date in an excellent chapter in Yergin’s The Prize (New York, 1991). See also Jonathan G. Utley, Going to War with Japan (Knoxville, 1985). Jonathan Marshall, To Have and Have Not (Berkeley, 1995), offers a unique insight into the struggle for control over Southeast Asia’s rich resources as a key aspect of the U.S.-Japanese crisis. The Washington “conversations” of 1941, in which the United States and Japan sought to avoid a final showdown, are ably presented in Robert Butow, The John Doe Associates (Stanford, 1974). See also the same author’s Tojo and the Coming of the War (Princeton, 1961). By far the best account of the U.S.-Japanese crisis in the summer and fall of the year is Waldo Heinrichs, Threshold of War (New York, 1988). The book stresses Roosevelt’s concern with preventing Soviet collapse as the main factor behind his get-tough policy toward Japan. Sadao Iguchi, Demystifying Pearl Harbor (Tokyo, 2010) offers a reliable analysis of the last several days before Pearl Harbor from the perspective of Japan’s diplomats as well as military leaders. The book, along with Youli Sun, China and the Origins of the Pacific War (New York, 1993), should serve to put the Japanese aggression in China back into the picture as a major stumbling block in the last-minute negotiations in Washington.

Among the voluminous literature on the Pearl Harbor attack, the most detailed and reliable is Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept (New York, 1981). See also the same author’s Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (New York, 1986). The influential book by Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (Stanford, 1962), argues that it was the volume of the cable traffic that created confusion in official Washington and made it impossible to communicate relevant messages to the commanders in Hawaii in time to avert the disaster.

Thousands of books have been written on American strategy and diplomacy during World War II. The best brief summary is Gaddis Smith, American Diplomacy During the Second World War (New York, 1985). On overall strategy, see Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare (Washington, D.C., 1953). There are two excellent studies of military preparedness and mobilization undertaken by the United States and other countries: Alan S. Milward, War, Economy, and Society (Berkeley, 1977), and Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York, 1987). For an up-to-date reference guide to the war, consult Thomas W. Zeiler, ed., A Companion to the Second World War (Malden, Mass., 2012).

The Anglo-American alliance is best understood by reading the letters exchanged between the two wartime leaders, ably edited by Warren F. Kimball: Churchill and Roosevelt (Princeton, 1984). On the relationship among the Big Three, Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin (Princeton, 1957), is still useful, but it should be supplemented by Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed (New York, 1975), a study of the development of nuclear weapons and of their implications for postwar world affairs. Diana Clemens, Yalta (New York, 1970), shows that there was as much U.S.-Soviet agreement as disagreement at the 1945 conference.

Because the latter part of the war was also the period of preparation for the defining of the postwar world, and because the postwar world was to be characterized by the breakup of the wartime alliance into two camps, many accounts of World War II are also, in effect, descriptions of the origins of the Cold War. Among the most important in tracing this transition in Europe are William H. McNeill, America, Britain, and Russia (London, 1953); John W. Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War (New York, 1972); Daniel Yergin, The Shattered Peace (Boston, 1977); Vojtech Mastny, Russia’s Road to the Cold War (New York, 1979); and Lynn E. Davis, The Cold War Begins (Princeton, 1974). Hugh DeSantis, The Diplomacy of Silence (Chicago, 1980), is unique in its focus on State Department officials’ changing perceptions of the Soviet Union. Also see, in this connection, Ralph Levering, American Opinion and the Russian Alliance (Chapel Hill, 1976).

On the Pacific theater of the war, Christopher Thorne, Allies of a Kind (New York, 1978), offers a fascinating account of Anglo-American cooperation as well as differences over such matters as the future of China and of the British Empire. Xiaoyuan Liu, A Partnership for Disaster (Cambridge, 1996), examines wartime Chinese and American plans for the disposition of the Japanese empire, while Akira Iriye, Power and Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), suggests areas of convergence in official American and Japanese wartime thinking. An extremely interesting study of American interrogations of Japanese prisoners of war is offered by Roger Dingman, Deciphering the Rising Sun (Annapolis, 2009). P. Scott Corbett, Quiet Passages (Kent, Ohio, 1987), traces the wartime exchanges of Japanese and American diplomatic and other personnel. The development and use of atomic weapons are chronicled in Sherwin’s World Destroyed and in such other works as Herbert Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (Princeton, 1961); Leon Sigal, Fighting to a Finish (Ithaca, 1988); and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy (Cambridge, Mass., 2005). This last book, based on Soviet as well as U.S. and Japanese archives, makes a persuasive case that the dropping of the atomic bomb, combined with Soviet entry into the war against Japan, induced the latter’s top leaders to surrender. But the controversy as to whether the dropping of two atomic bombs was really necessary remains quite alive. Any discussion of the question must, however, be grounded upon an understanding of the unprecedentedly destructive power of nuclear weapons, and books like Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light (New York, 1985), and Gerard J. DeGroot, The Bomb: A Life (Cambridge, Mass., 2005), help us see how Americans, and eventually others, came to view the new weapon. Japanese attempts at building atomic bombs is documented in Walter E. Grunden, Silent Weapons of World War II (Lawrence, Kans., 2005).

On China’s role in the war, see Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China (New York, 1971). See also Maochun Yu, OSS in China (New Haven, 1996), for a fascinating account of the sometimes cooperative but at other times conflicting relationship between U.S. and Chinese intelligence personnel in wartime China. The subtle ways in which the Asian war developed into an Asian Cold War is treated in such works as Herbert Feis, Dilemma in China (Hamden, Conn., 1980); Russell Buhite, Patrick J. Hurley and American Relations with China (Ithaca, 1973); Kenneth Shewmaker, Americans and Chinese Communists (Ithaca, 1971); Marc Gallicchio, The Cold War Begins in Asia (New York, 1988); Tang Tsou, America’s Failure in China (Chicago, 1963); Akira Iriye, The Cold War in Asia (New York, 1974); Zheng Yangwen, Hong Liu, and Michael Szonyi, The Cold War in Asia (Leiden, 2010); and the essays contained in Yonosuke Nagai and Akira Iriye, The Origins of the Cold War in Asia (Tokyo, 1977). Frank Ninkovich, The Diplomacy of Ideas (New York, 1981), offers interesting observations on wartime American cultural diplomacy in China and elsewhere.

Because of the global character of the war, no part of the world escaped American attention and influence. Some flavor of the way in which the nation’s military presence became intertwined with the destiny of people everywhere may be gathered by reading such books as Gary Hess, America Encounters India (Baltimore, 1971); Martin W. Wilmington, The Middle East Supply Centre (Albany, 1971); Arthur L. Funk, The Politics of TORCH (Lawrence, Kans., 1974), a study of the occupation of North Africa; and Donald M. Dozer, Are We Good Neighbors? (Gainesville, Fla., 1959), which recounts the activities of American airmen in Brazil and other countries. Max Paul Friedman, Nazis and Good Neighbors (Cambridge, 2003), chronicles a fascinating story of how several thousand Germans were removed from Latin America and incarcerated in the United States after Pearl Harbor.

What did World War II mean to the American people? The question has been examined from various angles. Paul Fussell, Wartime (New York, 1989), looks at the war from the common soldier’s perspective. John Dower, War Without Mercy (New York, 1986), examines wartime stereotypes of the Japanese enemy. Robert A. Divine, Second Chance (New York, 1971), is an excellent study of the “new internationalism.” American politics and society during the war are described in John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory (New York, 1976); Richard Polenberg, War and Society (Philadelphia, 1972); Richard Darilek, A Loyal Opposition in Time of War (Westport, Conn., 1976); and Martin Melosi, The Shadow of Pearl Harbor (College Station, Tex., 1977). How the war affected African Americans’ perceptions of world affairs is carefully examined by such books as Marc Gallicchio, The African American Encounter with Japan and China (Chapel Hill, 2000), and Nico Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism (Cambridge, Mass., 2012).

On planning for the enemy’s surrender and occupation by the allies, Harley Notter, Postwar Foreign Policy Preparation (Washington, D.C., 1949), provides essential raw material from the minutes of numerous State Department meetings. Regarding the treatment of defeated Germany, see Tony Sharp, The Wartime Alliance and the Zonal Division of Germany (Oxford, 1975). On Japan, Frederick Dunn, Peacemaking and the Settlement with Japan (Princeton, 1963), is useful. See also Rudolf V. A. Janssens, “What Future For Japan?” (Amsterdam, 1995). Among the many excellent studies of the important Bretton Woods Conference are Richard N. Gardner, Sterling-Dollar Diplomacy (New York, 1980), and Alfred Eckes, A Search for Solvency (Austin, Tex., 1975). The creation of the United Nations has been receiving increasing attention from historians, suggesting that the conventional accounts that establish a connection between the ending of the war and the beginning of the Cold War are too facile and ignore many other important developments. See, among the more important studies, Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, FDR and the Creation of the U.N. (New Haven, 1997), Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World (Cambridge, Mass., 2005), and Paul Kennedy, The Parliament of Man (New York, 2006).


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