Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Revisionism Reconsidered: Exports and American Intervention in World War I

  • Benjamin O. Fordham (a1)

Why did the United States intervene in World War I, breaking with its long tradition of noninvolvement in European political and military conflicts? During the 1920s and 1930s, many “revisionist” historians argued that American efforts to protect its trade with the Allies ultimately led to intervention. The logic of the revisionist position closely parallels the contemporary liberal case that interdependence promotes peace but arrives at different conclusions about the relationship between trade and conflict. Historians have largely abandoned this economic interpretation of American intervention, but data on the impact of the wartime export boom on the United States suggest that it should be reconsidered. The export boom was so large that it would have been difficult to ignore, and its progress corresponds to the timing of important decisions leading to American belligerency. An analysis of congressional voting on war-related measures also suggests that export income helped shape politicians' views of the war.I would like to thank Katherine Barbieri, John Coogan, David Clark, Jeffry Frieden, Jack Levy, Brian Lai, Timothy McKeown, David Painter, Strom Thacker, and participants in the world politics workshop at Binghamton University, the political economy workshop at Harvard University, and the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for their many comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this article. Lisa Martin and several anonymous reviewers at International Organization also made many valuable suggestions. I am especially grateful to Thomas Walker, whose good-natured skepticism prompted me to write this paper. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. Any remaining errors and misinterpretations are my responsibility.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Bailey, Michael, Judith Goldstein, and Barry R. Weingast. 1997. The Institutional Roots of American Trade Policy: Politics, Coalitions, and International Trade. World Politics 49 (3):30938.

Balke, Nathan S., and Robert J. Gordon. 1989. The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence. Journal of Political Economy 97 (1):3892.

Bearce, David H. 2003. Grasping the Commercial Institutional Peace. International Studies Quarterly 47 (3):34770.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. 1947. The First Gun of a Revisionist Historiography for the Second World War. Journal of Modern History 19 (1):5559.

Gallagher, John, and Ronald Robinson. 1953. The Imperialism of Free Trade. Economic History Review, 2d series 6 (1):115.

Gartzke, Erik, Quan Li, and Charles Boehmer. 2001. Investing in the Peace: Economic Interdependence and International Conflict. International Organization 55 (2):391438.

Kennedy, Ross A. 2001. Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and an American Conception of National Security. Diplomatic History 25 (1):131.

Mansfield, Edward D., and Jon C. Pevehouse. 2000. Trade Blocs, Trade Flows, and International Conflict. International Organization 54 (4):775808.

Morrow, James D. 1999. How Could Trade Affect Conflict? Journal of Peace Research 36 (4):48189.

Oneal, John R., and Bruce M. Russett. 1997. The Classical Liberals Were Right: Democracy, Interdependence, and Conflict, 1950–1985. International Studies Quarterly 41 (2):26793.

Ripsman, Norrin M., and Jean-Marc F. Blanchard. 1996. Commercial Liberalism Under Fire: Evidence from 1914 and 1936. Security Studies 6 (2):450.

Stromberg, Roland. 1977. On Cherchez Le Financier: Comments on the Economic Interpretation of World War I. History Teacher 10 (3):43543.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 33 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 182 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.