H-Diplo Teaching Roundtable XXIII-21 on Teaching the Wisconsin School

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H-Diplo Roundtable XXIII-21
A Teaching Roundtable

Teaching the Wisconsin School

21 January 2022 | https://hdiplo.org/to/RT23-21
Editor:  Diane Labrosse | Commissioning Editor: Andrew Szarejko | Production Editor: George Fujii


Introduction by Anne L. Foster, Indiana State University. 2

Review by David S. Foglesong, Rutgers University. 5

Review by Justin Hart, Texas Tech University. 9

Review by Daniel Margolies, Virginia Wesleyan University. 15

Essay by Jacqueline Swansinger, SUNY Fredonia. 20




I began to write this introduction while working in the library at Indiana University in Bloomington.  Instead of consulting my own copies of Williams’s work, I used those in the library, settling on the 1972 edition of Tragedy of American Diplomacy for the lazy reason that HathiTrust provided an e-edition and I would not have to journey to a different floor.  Sometimes it pays to be lazy.  Williams opens that edition with these words: “The tragedy of American diplomacy is aptly symbolized, and defined for analysis and reflection, by the relations between the United States and Cuba from April 21, 1898 through April 21, 1961.  The eruption of two wars involving the same two countries in precisely the same week provides a striking sense of classical form and even adds the tinge of eeriness so often associated with tragedy.”[1]

These two sentences do as much to remind us why we still read Williams, teach Williams, and are shaped by Williams, as do the thoughtful, insightful essays I am introducing.  As writing, Williams’s books and essays are elegant and arresting.  They make bold historical arguments, and evoke scholarly training and habits of mind ranging well beyond the field of history. We don’t prepare to settle in for a good narrative.  We buckle up for a ride we know will be intense and engaging and will also probably change our way of thinking about at least one thing.

The first piece by Williams that I read was Tragedy of American Diplomacy, which had been assigned in a graduate seminar I took during my senior year at American University (spring 1987), taught by Robert Beisner.  Beisner was not a revisionist, of course, but like Williams, he was an intellectual historian of foreign relations, keenly interested as well in what was American about U.S. foreign relations.  As Justin Hart’s essay here reports of his students today, I recall that Williams’s explanation in Tragedy seemed sensible to me, more than shocking or revelatory. I was further influenced by Williams’s progeny, reading all the terrific scholarship on the 1920s produced during the late 1970s and early 1980s by Frank Costigliola, Emily Rosenberg, Carl Parrini, Joan Hoff, Michael Hogan and Mel Leffler for my senior thesis.[2] After graduation, I worked in the D.C. area for a year before grad school, and picked up Contours of American History to read on the subway.  I arrived at Cornell for my Ph.D. well versed in, and ready to continue, the Williams approach.  Although I am not an intellectual historian, and even early on was more interested in explaining the United States in the world rather than how US foreign relations reveal something about the United States, the fundamentally correct insights of Williams’s work have shaped my scholarship and teaching to the present in ways echoed in the essays in this feature.

The essays here take two different approaches, both of which are useful for thinking about the continuing, changing legacy of Williams for our field.  David Foglesong and Jacqueline Swansinger set their teaching of Williams in the broader context of the field, making connections to and comparisons with other scholarship on US foreign relations.  They show students where Williams fits into the historiography.  Justin Hart and Dan Margolies also offer historiographical observations, but in their essays have a greater focus on why, both why Williams wrote as he did and why his insights remain historiographically and politically indispensable.

Swansinger, like Hart and Margolies, notes that the location and type of her university shaped both her approach to Williams and the ways students responded to his work.  Her essay offers a fascinating history of how she taught Williams from the 1980s through until recently: the student concerns and questions over the years, the readings she paired with Williams, and the different aspects of his work that became relevant at different times. She noted the Cold War context for his work, but reminds us that his work can be taught so well in part because what she calls his “fundamental question” is a timeless one: “what are American interests, and do the interests of the state (whose offices are staffed by Ivy League alumnae and Coastal Elites) differ from the interests of the citizen.” Since we know that Williams defined interests more broadly than political scientists typically do, this question means that Williams’s work prompts students to think about the meaning of US activities abroad for the operation of US democracy more broadly. Swansinger prompted her students to take that broad perspective as well

While Swansinger teaches Williams in her classes for undergraduates, Foglesong teaches him primarily in graduate courses.  In his essay, Foglesong focuses primarily on the lasting usefulness of Williams, pointing out that graduate students in particular benefit from Williams’s analysis of the ways in which US global ambitions have long led it to violate in practice the self-determination for other nations that it is committed to in principle. He also highlights Williams’s attention to the historically long roots of US Cold War foreign policy, and the ways in which a full worldview undergirds the economic motivations for US foreign policy explored by Williams.  Foglesong helpfully also explains some of the objections or criticisms students today have of Williams, and the ways he both acknowledges the unsurprising shortcomings of work that is older than many of us writing in this forum, as well as how to read for what remains valuable.  Those sections of the essay offer terrific pedagogical insights, and Foglesong’s essay is one I will return to when planning graduate seminars.

Swansinger and Foglesong incorporate Williams into their teaching, but Hart’s and Margolies’s essays suggest that they place Williams at the heart of at least some of their courses because his arguments remain among their most fundamental motivators.  Margolies paints a vivid picture of the life of professors at teaching universities, where we get to be “expert” across many fields.  Williams’s wide ranging interests, organized around a core argument about the nature and exercise of power, make his analysis useful in many of Margolies’s courses, even if works by Williams are assigned in only some of them.  Margolies has students we might not expect to be sympathetic to Williams: some military and ex-military, and nearly all from areas of the country identified as “red” and evangelical Christian and hostile to arguments about economic power, even as they are buffeted by post-industrial capitalism.  These identities are closer to Williams’s own than many of the students who we might think are sympathetic, and his work resonates accordingly with many of them.  In Margolies’s essay, too, we see the meshing of teaching and scholarship that also characterizes Williams and the Wisconsin School.  The original men identified with the Wisconsin School are and were prolific, significant scholars, but to a person they also valued their roles as teachers.

Hart’s essay is a wonderful guide to using Williams and the Wisconsin School more broadly to teach graduate and advanced undergraduates about how historians and fields in history develop over time.  His discussion of the use of citations would open up a wonderful conversation about the purpose of citations in different kinds of writing, as well.  Like Margolies, Hart also shows us how both his own scholarship and his teaching rely on fundamental insights from Williams.  Towards the end of his essay, Hart explains the three main trends in U.S. foreign relations scholarship today: (1) a transnational or US in the world approach (2) a “cultural turn” including attention to race and gender and (3) “a renewed interest in the study of the United States as empire.”  Hart says it is easy to see the relevance of Williams for the study of the United States as empire, and although Williams himself paid little attention to gender or race, he was deeply interested in the cultural components of US history and US foreign relations. The connections from Williams to current scholarship in these two areas are clear, another reason graduate students should engage deeply with Williams.  I will quibble a bit with Hart’s claim that the more transnational work on US foreign relations is “incompatible” with the focus on “domestic factors” in US foreign relations history characteristic of the Wisconsin School.  I did get some skeptical questioning on this from Walt LaFeber when I was a graduate student, so have been thinking for decades about how my own comparative and transnational approach fits with my intellectual roots.  I agree that it is not the focus for all scholars who take a transnational approach, but one benefit of the transnational approach is that it makes it easier to see the United States as an ordinary country.  One better way to understand the United States itself, including the intertwined domestic and international factors motivating US foreign relations, is to study the United States in a broader global context.  Our continued discussion of Williams’s insights for our understanding of US foreign relations history is the surest sign that Hart is right to point to his continued relevance for our scholarship and politics.

I conclude by noting that most of the essays observe in some ways that students respond to Williams in part because his observations retain a political relevance in these times, which to us living through them feel full of division and strife.  As Margolies notes, Williams’s own early academic career was characterized by subpoenas to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  He would not be surprised by today’s politics.  But his scholarship, our teaching of it, and our students’ response to it reminds us that the divisions, while real and deep, are not as simple, not as geographically stark, and not as immutable as we may think.  To be sure, as Hart observes, Williams’s critique remains timeless and our politics seem impervious to them.  Our teaching of them remains as important as when each of us first encountered Williams’s work.


Anne L. Foster is Associate Professor of History at Indiana State University, and serves as co-editor of Diplomatic History.  Her first book was Projections of Power: The United States and Europe in Colonial Southeast Asia, 1919-1941 (Duke University Press, 2010).  She also co-edited, and published an essay in The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives (Duke University Press, 2003).  Her current research explores the history of opium regulation and control in Southeast Asia. She has published numerous articles and chapters on this topic, including “Medicine to Drug: Opium’s Transimperial Journey,” in Kristin Hoganson and Jay Sexton, editors, Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain (Duke University Press, 2020).

David Foglesong is a professor of history at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He is the author of two books: The American Mission and the “Evil Empire": The Crusade for a "Free Russia" Since 1881 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and America's Secret War against Bolshevism: U.S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1920 (The University of North Carolina Press, 1995). Together with Ivan Kurilla and Victoria Zhuravleva, he is now completing From Distant Friends to Intimate Enemies: American-Russian Relations Since 1776. His current research focuses on citizen activism and the end of the Cold War.

Justin Hart is President’s Excellence in Teaching Professor and Associate Professor of History at Texas Tech University, where he is also Senior Fellow with the Institute for Peace and Conflict. He is the author of Empire of Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2013) and several articles and book chapters on US public diplomacy and the cultural dimensions of US foreign relations. He completed his Ph.D. in History at Rutgers University. His current project is a history of the failed campaign for Universal Military Training in the United States.

Daniel Margolies is professor and chair of the History Department at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach. He has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Sogang University in Seoul and Faculty Fellow at the American Center for Mongolian Studies in Ulaanbaatar.  He is author of Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations: Extradition and Extraterritoriality in the Borderlands and beyond, 1877-1898. (University of Georgia Press, 2011) and Henry Watterson and the New South:  The Politics of Empire, Free Trade, and Globalization (University Press of Kentucky, 2006), co-editor of The Extraterritoriality of Law: History, Theory, Politics (Routledge, 20219) and editor of the Companion to Harry S. Truman (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). He is currently writing a book on US jurisdiction in offshore submerged lands. Reach him at dmargolies@vwu.edu

Jacqueline Swansinger is a professor in the History Department at SUNY Fredonia.  Her specialty is in American Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Post-Cold War Europe.  She is presently working on Morocco: Language, Islam and Nation-Building.



Although The Tragedy of American Diplomacy by William Appleman Williams is almost as old as I am, it continues to be assigned in graduate courses and it still influences the ways new generations of students write about the history of American foreign relations.[3] I have assigned The Tragedy of American Diplomacy in a graduate colloquium on the United States in the World and my colleague Jennifer Mittelstadt has regularly assigned it in a broader graduate reading course on US History in the Twentieth Century. This brief essay will discuss reasons to assign the book, ways to guide discussion of it, and responses by students to the text.

Three features of The Tragedy have been most valuable for students. First, Williams’s central argument that the global ambitions of the United States led it to repeatedly oppose the self-determination of foreign nations and hence to violate Americans’ proclaimed ideals continues to resonate with graduate students in the twenty-first century. For example, one of my current advisees, who is completing a dissertation about US Vietnam War veterans, cites The Tragedy of American Diplomacy as relevant to understanding how many soldiers had visions of saving Vietnamese from Communism when they first came to Southeast Asia but grew deeply disturbed by the futility of their military mission and by the tenacity of Vietnamese resistance to American paternalistic intervention in their country.[4]

Second, Williams’s elucidation of a multifaceted American worldview (Weltanschauung) that emerged in the late nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century has strongly influenced many graduate students. While Williams has often been called an “economic determinist,”[5] in The Tragedy he emphasized how “ideological and moralistic elements became integrated with the fundamentally secular and economic nature of the Open Door Policy” that he depicted not merely as a strategy toward China around the turn of the century but as the core of United States foreign policy in the following decades.[6] In the more supple expressions of his ideas, Williams recognized that religious aspirations, humanitarian sentiments, and political idealism were not merely superstructural justifications for basic economic drives but had their own genuine, autonomous “outward thrust.”[7] Thus, they complemented and reinforced rather than merely rationalizing commercial expansion. David C. Engerman, whom I advised very briefly and informally in the 1990s, has recalled how Williams’ notion of Weltanschauungen influenced his own investigation of “the intellectual structures through which people … understood the world around them.”[8]

Third, Williams’s arguments that the roots of the Cold War can be seen in American Open Door ambitions and in how the United States responded to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 have impressed students as ways of moving beyond the restrictive conventional framing of the Cold War as a geopolitical superpower rivalry in the nuclear era, from the late 1940s to the late 1980s. Williams had developed his long-range perspective on the US confrontation with Soviet Russia in his first book and he elaborated his long-term view of US confrontations with revolutions around the world in a survey published in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.[9] Graduate students often find that Williams’ long-term vantage aligns with more recent scholarship that has traced the roots of the global interventions by the superpowers in the Cold War back to ways of thinking that emerged in the late nineteenth century.[10]

Since almost all of my students have not studied American foreign relations before 1898, I have assigned or recommended work by scholars such as Thomas Bender and Edward Crapol to provide needed historical background and historiographical contextualization.[11] I also have often found it important to use Williams’ emphasis on the continuities between the eras before and after the Spanish-Cuban-American War as a springboard for discussion of how a diverse array of other scholars have seen long-term continuities in the history of American foreign relations. That can lead to consideration of works such as Richard Van Alstyne’s probing of the meanings of “empire” from the colonial era to the twentieth century, Walter LaFeber’s classic study of the overseas imperialism of the late nineteenth century as a culmination of decades of economic expansion and concentration of political power, Richard Drinnon’s emphasis on racial hatred from the Pequot War to the My Lai massacre, and Richard Slotkin’s multivolume examination of the theme of “regeneration through violence.”[12]

Many students have not been enthusiastic about sections of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy in which Williams doggedly emphasized the influence of business interests on US foreign policies. Without getting mired in close examination of issues such as how large a percentage of American total production was exported, I have agreed with my students that Williams overstated the influence of economic interests at a number of points, including the recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933 and the war against Japan in 1941. While Williams acknowledged in his chapter on the beginning of the Cold War that the Open Door philosophy and practice had both “missionary and economic aspects,” he concentrated on and exaggerated the influence of the latter. However, I encourage students to consider how we can have a broader view of Open Door ambitions in the later periods that Williams researched less thoroughly than the decades surrounding the turn of the century. For example, I suggest the possibility of investigating how American journalists’ demands for open, uncensored access to Eastern Europe figured in the degeneration of American-Soviet relations at the end of World War II, how diplomats such as George F. Kennan aspired to reach the Russian people in spite of the Stalinist dictatorship’s efforts to curtail contacts, and how Christian missionaries have influenced American relations with many countries in the decades since 1945.[13]

Occasionally students have complained that Williams neglected the influence of race, gender, and non-elite voices on US foreign relations. Such students can be encouraged to focus less on what Williams did not do in a book first published more than sixty years ago than on what Williams did do and why it was so significant at that time. In that light students often see how The Tragedy opened up possibilities for exploring dimensions of the US role in the world beyond the Cold War and for examining issues such as settler colonialism, the rising power of corporations, and fears of left-wing political subversion. Reading an excellent historiographical essay by Paul Kramer, which both Jennifer Mittelstadt and I have assigned in our courses, has helped contemporary students to see the ongoing influence of Williams’ key concepts, such as “informal empire” and “imperial anti-colonialism.”[14]

In discussing The Tragedy of American Diplomacy I have often urged graduate students to consider whether Williams underestimated the recurring opposition to American global expansionism and interventionism when he argued that only a tiny minority of Americans periodically and ineffectually challenged the consensus on the Open Door policy.[15] Some students, especially those who are drawn to an emphasis on the economic drive in US foreign policy, have been skeptical that the capitalist and imperialist juggernaut has ever been seriously and successfully obstructed. In response, it is possible to refer to scholarship in recent decades that has highlighted a variety of forms of opposition, including how racial attitudes sometimes frustrated US expansionist plans, how anti-imperialists turned arguments about the degeneration of American manhood back against militarists during the war in the Philippines, how “peace progressives” or anti-imperialists helped end US military interventions in Russia and Latin America in the late 1910s and 1920s, how transnational activism figured in the widespread opposition to the US war in Vietnam, and how citizen activists helped to end the Cold War in the 1980s.[16]

Among the most powerfully suggestive concepts in The Tragedy of American Diplomacy is the idea of an American penchant for “externalizing evil.”[17] Students can be asked to consider how Williams’ writing about how Americans have blamed foreign individuals, groups, and nations for problems in the United States can be applied or adapted. For example, they can be encouraged to think about the conflict between business and labor in the United States when Bernard Baruch declared in April 1947 that Americans were “in the midst of a cold war,” with enemies both abroad and at home.[18] They can be assigned to read Anders Stephanson’s brilliant, controversial argument that from the earliest uses of the phrase “the cold war” many Americans have equated it with “what the Soviet Union is and does.”[19] Students also can be urged to reflect on possible connections between Williams’s ideas and the ways social scientists have written about the psychology of enmity, scapegoating, and political demonology, with analyses of the projection onto an enemy of a “disowned darkness” – ambitions, lusts, and misdeeds that conflict with an idealized national identity.[20]

One of the limitations of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy is that Williams did not draw on substantial research in Soviet sources. Even if he had read Russian, few valuable sources were accessible at the time he wrote. That can raise the question of whether the emphasis on America’s primary responsibility for the Cold War by Williams and other revisionist scholars has been refuted by the evidence that has become available from archives in Russia and Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War (as historians such as John Lewis Gaddis have argued)[21] or whether the newly available evidence tends to confirm that US policies were the main cause of the deterioration of American-Soviet relations after 1945. Since the graduate colloquium on the US in the world that I teach has not focused at length on the Cold War, I have not in the past assigned studies that have examined in detail American and Soviet policies toward Europe in the late 1940s. However, the extensive and excellent scholarship about US policies for the economic reconstruction of Europe and Soviet responses to them certainly could provide a basis for a stimulating discussion that could be linked to Williams’s thesis about the US quest for an Open Door world. A long article by Michael Cox and Caroline Kennedy-Pipe that conveniently summarizes much of the scholarship, explicitly orients it in relation to Williams’s work, and argues that US policies “as much as (and perhaps more than) Soviet actions” led to the Cold War would help graduate students to consider the relevance of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy in the twenty-first century.[22]


The first time I read William Appleman Williams was in the spring of 1997, when I assigned myself The Tragedy of American Diplomacy for an independent study I did in my second semester of the Ph.D. program at Rutgers University. I don’t really remember the experience of reading it—just the clear sense that this was as close as I would get to a bible in graduate school, since I came to Rutgers to study with Williams’s first doctoral student, Lloyd Gardner. Looking back at the précis I wrote at the time, I focused particularly on the famous line near the end of the book: “The tragedy of American diplomacy is not that it is evil, but that it denies and subverts American ideas and ideals.”[23] For all the criticisms of Tragedy and its author as ‘Marxist,’ ‘radical’ ‘un-American,’ even ‘pro-Communist,’ Williams was an idealist—a utopian even—who wanted his country to live up to its own mythology. This was the subversive who had provoked intellectual brawls throughout the academy and beyond? To me, this sounded awfully close to patriotism—maybe even uncomfortably so.[24]

Now, over twenty years later, I have taught Tragedy probably ten different times, almost always to graduate students in my reading course on the history of US foreign relations. I have also taught what some regard as Williams’s greatest work, The Contours of American History, in a course on the classics of American historiography, as well as work by his students Lloyd Gardner, Walter LaFeber, and Thomas McCormick—the leading figures in what is now known as the Wisconsin school of diplomatic history.[25] Tragedy, though, remains the work I come back to again and again, typically using it to begin my course. Time after time, the nearly unanimous reaction from students is that it is one of their favorite books of the semester—a remarkable feat for a book written in 1959. Even more surprisingly, they find it so obviously true as to be almost unworthy of debate. Not, of course, in all the particulars—they certainly note the benign interpretation of the Soviet Union being motivated primarily by “the drives to conquer poverty and achieve basic security”[26]—but in the broader vision of what drove US foreign policy from 1898-forward. The notion that the roots of US foreign policy lie, for better or worse, in the quest for domestic economic stability—in the never-ending attempt to “export the social question,” as Williams’s student Thomas McCormick put it[27]—seems almost indisputable to them. The indictment of the hypocrisies of American statesmen cuts through the propaganda that so many of them have digested from grade school on. This is true, incidentally, of both liberal and conservative students, both specialists in US foreign policy and those just taking my class to fill out degree requirements. For all the gnashing of teeth about the Wisconsin school within the historical profession, for all the proclamations about a “post-revisionist synthesis” supplanting Williams-style revisionism in the 1980s as the more mature and sophisticated approach to understanding the motivations of American statesmen, Tragedy remains vital and, frankly, contains common sense for students in the twenty-first century,.[28]

As for my experience re-reading Tragedy while teaching it over and over the last fifteen years, I have the same reaction every time: I am struck by how many of my views on the history of US foreign policy can be traced back to Williams. At the most fundamental level, the model of anti-colonial imperialism that I used for Empire of Ideas, my book on US public diplomacy, originated in Williams’s interpretation of the nature of the US empire, post-1898.[29] (The title of Chapter 1 of Tragedy is “Imperial Anticolonialism.”) But this experience also extends to issues I don’t write about, such as the economic instability of the late-nineteenth century leading to the quest for Open Door imperialism, the reading of Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” as a brief for overseas expansion,[30] the Wilsonian dilemma between self-determination and making the world safe for democracy, the legend of isolationism during the 1920s, and most especially the shape-shifting role of liberalism as the dominant political ideology of twentieth-century US foreign policy, which guided the United States in its attempt to navigate a path between the European colonial order and revolutionary nationalism, particularly of the Communist variety. There is certainly more that I am forgetting. Indeed, reading Tragedy is a consistently humbling experience as I remember just how much I have taken from Williams and the rest of the Wisconsin school.

Of course, I’m not the only one in this boat. The “Legend of Isolationism” chapter inspired an entire library shelf of books on the economic expansionism of the 1920s, including volumes by such renowned historians as Carl Parrini, Joan Hoff, Melvyn Leffler, Michael Hogan, and Frank Costigliola.[31] The material on the origins of the Cold War inspired the most heated historiographical debate in the field from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s.[32] Even Leffler’s influential “Preponderance of Power” thesis in his second book, which was often regarded as part of the post-revisionist chastening of the Wisconsin school, originated in a phrase first used by Williams in the 1962 revision of Tragedy.[33]

Given its outsized influence, one of the oddest things about Tragedy is that, as many have noted, Williams initially conceived of it more as a manifesto than a monograph. Every time I teach the book, I bring in all four editions to explain the evolution of the text. When it first appeared in 1959, it was only 212 pages with no footnotes and simply a brief “note on evidence and insights,” with a few pages of bibliographic citations at the end.[34] Over the next three years, Williams rethought what he was trying to accomplish. The controversy the book inspired, along with the thinking he did in publishing The Contours of American History in 1961, led him to reflect further on his goals for Tragedy. For the 1962 edition, he added almost 100 pages of text, as well as a new introduction on the “transcendence of the tragic,” in which he offered an extended meditation on how to move beyond the sort of thinking that had led the world to the precipice of destruction. He now began with the twin events of the War of 1898 and the Bay of Pigs disaster (which occurred in the same week in April, sixty-three years apart) to put Cuba at the center of the “tragedy.” Had he published this “new enlarged edition” a few months later, the Cuban Missile Crisis would have given him even more material to work with, particularly in Chapter 7, “The Impotence of Nuclear Supremacy.” The 1962 edition also contained a handful of footnotes on the sources of his thinking, but not nearly enough to satisfy critics who wanted to know where he got his information.[35]

The final edition of tragedy produced in Williams’s lifetime was the 1972 “New Edition,” which added only a few pages of new text, but quite a few more footnotes, including some specifically engaging his critics, such as Robert Tucker.[36] Interestingly, some of the citations were to the work of his own students, including Gardner, McCormick, and LaFeber, as well as Martin Sklar and David Green. Remarkably, these historians had in many cases seized upon underdeveloped interpretive points from the original edition of Tragedy (as well as seminars with Williams at Wisconsin), gone off to the archives to locate the evidence for these arguments, and now found themselves enlisted in the battle over whether Williams was right in the first place. Most of the other citations were to primary sources or to older works (i.e. pre-1959) that had informed Williams’s initial thinking. In any case, even in the 1972 edition, the notes are idiosyncratic—it is unclear why supporting evidence is provided for some arguments but not others—and the book remains most useful at a macro level.[37] The current edition of Tragedy, published on its 50th anniversary in 2009, leaves the 1972 text unchanged but adds essays by Gardner and Andrew Bacevich, a contemporary critic of US imperialism from the right, who finds much to admire in Williams’s leftist analysis. (Williams, of course, likewise found much to admire in conservative critics of American overreach from John Quincy Adams to Herbert Hoover.)[38]

So, where do Williams and the Wisconsin school fit in to the study of US foreign relations today, over sixty years after the publication of Tragedy and almost thirty years after their concerns dominated meetings of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations? Given where we are in the field today, I would argue that in some ways the Wisconsin school has been left behind, and in other ways it remains as useful as ever. Over the past two decades, three trends have shaped the historiography of US foreign relations more than any others: 1. Transnational and international studies that locate US policy within a broader global context; 2. The cultural turn, including the study of the racialized and gendered structures that shaped US foreign relations; 3. A renewed interest in the study of the United States as empire.

The first trend is, no doubt, thoroughly incompatible with the Wisconsin school’s overwhelming focus on the domestic factors that drove US foreign policy. Although Daniel Bessner and Fredrik Logevall have recently argued (in a much-discussed article) for returning to the emphasis on the US state and the domestic sources of US foreign policy, their view is decidedly a minority one within the profession right now. The place where we see the most vibrant scholarship on domestic sources of US foreign policy is likely in the resurgence of interest in the history of the American state, although this topic remains a niche field within the history of US foreign relations.[39]

The latter two trends, however, owe a considerable debt to the Wisconsin school, even if it is not always explicitly acknowledged or understood as such. The cultural turn that began in the late 1990s and flourished into the twentieth century marked a movement away from the intense focus on policy and toward the larger ideological assumptions that animated US foreign relations. Although rejecting (or just ignoring) Williams’s focus on economic ideologies, many of these scholars nevertheless followed along with his interest in Weltanschauung, or worldview. Like his great contemporary and rival, Richard Hofstadter, Williams read widely beyond his own discipline and his extensive discussion of Weltanschauung in both Tragedy and Contours reflected the influence of German sociology upon his thinking. In fact, Williams should really be understood more as an intellectual historian than an economic historian or even a diplomatic historian. Economics and diplomacy were merely the primary source base for his broader meditations on American ideology and character. Thus, when Michael Hunt wrote his pathbreaking study of how racial ideologies manifested throughout the history of US foreign relations, and Frank Costigliola and Kristin Hoganson wrote their own field-defining studies of how gender shaped the worldview of policymakers, they were following in the tradition of US foreign policy as intellectual history. That trend remains alive and well today in too many studies to mention here.[40]

Finally, there is the contemporary focus on the study of the United States empire—a proposition that shocked readers when Williams and his students insisted upon it in the 1960s, but today seems almost beyond dispute, at least among historians. Some scholars, like Charles Maier, have explored whether the United States truly meets all the classical definitions of empire; others, like Julian Go, have raised important questions about how new or novel the American empire really was. (Williams, like Louis Hartz, was an American exceptionalist—in the sense of viewing the United States empire as unique, not in the sense of viewing it as uniquely good.) More recently, Daniel Immerwahr has posed an important challenge to the Williams model of a non-territorial empire of trade, by highlighting the history of the many overseas territories that the United States has, in fact, occupied over the past two centuries. But the notion that the United States was, and is, an empire has become so fundamental—mundane even—that I recently taught an entire course on the history of the US empire made up entirely of books published in the twenty-first century—plus Tragedy.[41]

And that’s where I find myself today in teaching the Wisconsin school. The critical posture toward the history of US foreign policy—often called revisionism—that so enraged scholars and the public during the Cold War has now become the default stance in the field, along with the study of the United States as an empire. Likewise, interrogating the role of ideology—or Weltanschauung—in shaping U. S. foreign relations (now filtered through the prism of the social and cultural history that Williams so disliked) is a major part of much of the most important work of the last two decades.[42] In fact, the only thing that is tragic about the influence of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy is that its indictment of the American approach to the world remains more timely and relevant than ever and that the work that has followed in its shadow has done so little to penetrate the thinking of the Washington foreign policy establishment.



Every semester I begin my classes the same way that Thomas McCormick started his back when I was his teaching assistant in the 1990s, with a phrase that he himself credited to William Appleman Williams. Williams had been hauled in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and when asked to explain if he was indoctrinating his students would say that, on the contrary, his whole approach was to teach students not what to think, but how to think. Tom usually said this twice. The objective of the class, he would say, is to learn how to think.  Of course, back in this earlier context, it was a more ideologically resonant thing for a perceived radical like Williams to say. It remained fairly charged even when McCormick told it to his classes. Nowadays this formulation is the stuff of countless platitudinal teaching philosophies which are produced in numbing regularity for the fast diminishing available jobs of our field. I’ve read more (and written more myself) of those statements than I care to remember.

But I am starting this essay with the statement because it is in fact what I consider to be the essence of the approach carved by Williams, McCormick, and so many other brilliant scholars. Fostering an original, critical and idiosyncratic intellectual disposition in students is among the most lasting of the many legacies of the Wisconsin School of Diplomatic History. These legacies are significant to me personally and intellectually as the lineage I was fortunate to fit in as a student at Wisconsin in the 1990s, and in whatever insignificant role in during my own time as a historian.

Another thing Tom always said at the beginning of the semester was that one of his primary passions was music, particularly listening to the Grateful Dead and John Coltrane. This was, in part, a simple way to establish a human connection with the undergraduates. But I have always thought of it in a more nuanced way. The Grateful Dead was an experimental, even radical, band of innovators that refracted the core essence of deep American musical traditions in transformative and influential ways. They opened the minds and broadened the tastes of a successive generations of dedicated followers and persisted subculturally for decades. Coltrane was, it goes without saying, an iconoclast, an improviser, and a genius.

I am not going to beat this analogy to death, but it is not hard to set these musical reimaginings of core American traditions and trajectories alongside the innovative but grounded and situated interpretations these historians highlighted and the rigorous ways they demanded we think with our students. Galvanizing inspiration came along with the profound, transformative influence of the Wisconsin School innovators, starting with Fred Harvey Harrington and Williams and continuing through McCormick, Walter LaFeber, Lloyd Gardner, and onto their own students. Their still-bracing interpretations, unique intellectual excitement, and melodious writing reflected the core of the Wisconsin school.[43] That is what filled their classes. It is what brought their ideas into the streets at times. It is what has made the interpretations not only last, but dominate in deep rooted ways.

As I understand the intended purpose of this essay, the charge is to describe how I approach the lineage of the Wisconsin School in my own teaching. As a teacher and writer, I believe I fit rather comfortably within the tradition of mostly Midwesterners (like myself) hell-bent on explaining the trajectory of the country and the multiple tragedies of its global imperium. Maybe on stopping them, too.

In my teaching of American foreign relations, I emphasize the intellectual disposition and interpretative models of the Wisconsin School because they are the most thorough and usefully explanatory ones. I take a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary approach in all of my classes and research. I am a generalist by necessity in my position. At the moment I put special emphases on the state, spatial theory, and legal geography, which I believe complement and strengthen the essential insights into the economic origins of American imperial policy. This approach brings the core Wisconsin School insights into fruitful conversation with the works of people outside the field like Kal Raustiala and David Delaney, among others.[44] I emphasize what I frame as the dependent origination of casual factors in the formation of American empire, a broadening of interpretative scope in our own field of foreign relations that I believe was initially indicated by Walter LaFeber.[45]  My own research focuses on the structures of imperial power, particularly what can be called the jurisdictional accumulation of the imperial state, to borrow a phrase from Maïa Pal’s new book.[46] I bring discussion of legal and systemic factors into my classroom to demonstrate how the articulations of sovereign power that were reflected in jurisdictional assertions in fact reflected the same set of casual economic factors which underlay the pursuit of empire.

The study of American empire is the core framework for my classes. I am not going to give an extensive historiographical review of the major works and twists of the field in the study of empire since the wide historical literature on empire has been covered and there is little space here.[47] The years of wrestling with the term as applied to the United States, and the critique of Wisconsin School historians from Williams on, have always struck me as unpersuasive and empty, and almost as odd as the sudden, public embrace of empire by its former staunchest academic critics during the George W. Bush years. When empire suddenly became an acceptable frame for policymakers actively and enthusiastically pursuing imperial gain, the essential Williams model was adopted and espoused by a new crop of emerging scholars of US foreign relations, like Andrew Bacevich, who wrote new books useful for classes as a result.[48]

Looking at the Wisconsin School critique of American empire in classes demands fully engaging its long roots. I think it is essential to emphasize the continuities of the imperial mode in the American approach to governance or peoples, space and markets. I focus on the origins of, and frameworks for, expansionism and the incorporation of territorial and extraterritorial space, as well as the imperial search for opening and expanding markets in order not to disrupt the social and racial inequalities of the American system (McCormick’s “exporting the social question”). I use books like Tragedy of American Diplomacy and Empire as a Way of Life, which is partially dated but excellent and irrefutable, to provide introductory explanatory framing for my classes.[49]  Lloyd C. Gardner remains one of the most prolific and useful of the Wisconsin School writers, bringing his critical eye to new issues and supplying a steady stream of welcome works for my classes on US Middle Eastern wars and globalization. Many recent books have similarly proved to be useful in classes, such as The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of US Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present and the volume he edited with Marylin Young, Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past.[50]

My courses emphasize the study of power and its servants, a core Wisconsin School approach which examines how intellectuals, theorists, and other policy elites recapitulated the imperial logics in pursuit of a temporally and intellectually consistent series of policies. This embedded biographical approach became less fashionable in the field for a time, but it has proven to be durable and essential and it resonates with students. I used it myself in my first book (good for classrooms although I do not assign it for my own) and for class I have used the works of Edward P. Crapol among others.[51] I emphasize the clear influence of economic ambitions and visions as casual elements in the pursuit of territorial control, extraterritorial influence, and imperial hegemony. I have long embraced the significance of regional political economy in the formation of US foreign relations power, which fell out of intellectual fashion for a time but has recently gained new attention in a variety of work. Williams always well understood the regional context for foreign relations and the interconnectedness of the “domestic” and the “foreign,” as have later Wisconsin School scholars like Patrick Hearden.[52] I teach a series of Southern and Western history classes (Old South; New South; Nineteenth Century America; Frontiers and Borderlands; The US West in Memory and Popular Culture) which directly connect all aspects of domestic political economy and domestic jurisdictional and state formations with the global interests and objectives of the United States. The now-standard emphasis on the imperial structures of the American west owes a lot to ways too numerous to detail here.[53]

I teach at a small scale, lower tier university in a decaying, military-dominated imperial port city on the edge of the continent. Norfolk, Virginia has the largest naval base in the world and sits next to one of the busiest container shipping ports and a couple of the largest shipyards on the East Coast. It is not a fortuitous position in terms of resources or supportive community, but for teaching it can be interesting. I have a lot of options to offer an array of the four classes I teach per semester. I am required to establish a connection to a student body that in some ways mirrors that which was first addressed by the Wisconsin school: veterans, military dependents, and first generation students. Our student body is 40% minority. It is overall a group of non-elite individuals who are still connected to and rooted within communities buffeted by global capitalist and late imperial changes, without significant access to power, power elites, and a not-yet developed ability to grasp their own nascent critical power. My classes therefore regularly and directly connect the contemporary imperial context of US power with which they are familiar with the development of this reality in the past. I believe this is a key way to make this essential Wisconsin School literature actually useful and relevant in today’s world to those whom I am fortunate enough to have in class. In learning to decode and dissect the causal frameworks for the American imperial system, in observing its manifestation and operations, my students develop a clear critique of the systems of interest and power which underlie the structures of their own daily lives. Sometimes.

I have focused on the late nineteenth century for much of my teaching and writing career. I teach the first half of the foreign relations class to stop in 1919 and do not teach a devoted second half, skipping instead to “Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.” I do offer a class on “Empire and Globalization in American History” which covers the period from the internal and external imperial wars of the late nineteenth century through the period of neoliberal expansionism and brings the Wisconsin School perspective in conversation with the vast and essential literature. In so doing, I sidestep what I consider to be an over-emphasis on the Cold War that has dominated the field of diplomatic history for too long. It was not that this period was unimportant as the generative era which reflected deeper and more significant trends of United States foreign relations dating back to the efforts to construct an expansive empire of open and expanding markets. The “Cold War,” as a useful modality in the American hegemonic project was part of this continuitous development. McCormick argued this long ago, of course.[54] The three decades of American hegemony after the Cold War seem to me a more consistent framing for a class in line with the understanding of the imperial development despite the persistent structures of the diplomatic history discipline.

In my classes, I continue to use McCormick’s classic China Market and LaFeber’s New Empire because in argumentation, evidence, and writing they are unsurpassed as examples of historical work. I also regularly use LaFeber’s Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America.[55]  I have found the edited collection Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State to be one of the best overall collections for exploring the systemics and expressions of American empire for the classroom, and the self-conscious reaction against the imperial frame (via the work of Jeremi Suri) is even helpfully included in the volume.[56]

In the fraught and highly politicized era since 9/11, 2001, the relentless impress of imperial decline punctuated by corporatist power grabs, spasms of war, systemic racial violence, and political decline can make guiding students to a crystalline critique of operations of this empire almost too obvious. I remarked more than once to McCormick over the past twenty years that it must seem vindicating but bittersweet to be reminded by the events of the present (from the Iraq war to the Financial Crisis to Trumpist fascism) just how clearly and exactingly he and his peers had described the origins and systems of power.  We are in, unfortunately, in a perfect teaching moment. I teach against the idea of surprise. It is intellectually clarifying when framing the history of US foreign relations.

I have few illusions about the utility of my profession to produce actual change beyond illuminating the interdependent causal systems that underscore the systems which shaped the past and our own lives. I believe my classes reflect the Wisconsin school’s exacting and caustic critique of American empire in potentially useful ways. I take a fundamentally defiant stance towards power and toward the existing realities of deep continuities of its core motivations and ambitions. I have not found it difficult to emphasize these continuities or to highlight the causal forces when I teach my students. 

One last note in closing. While writing this essay I learned that Curt Cardwell suddenly died in January 2021 at the much too young age of 55. Curt was a professor at Drake University and the author of NSC 68 and the Political Economy of the Early Cold War.[57] I met him about a dozen years ago at the SHAFR conference when we both were in the audience at a panel about George W. Bush. The speaker (a senior scholar in the field who does not need to be identified) gave a paper where he argued that Bush’s foreign policy represented a clear break in US history. I remarked that if one properly understood the established imperial history of the United States, then Bush’s policies, the Iraq War, the post-9/11 state of exception, and the numerous other catastrophes of that era represented clear continuities with longstanding foreign policy. The presenter simply ignored my comment and recognized another audience member. As the end of the panel, the person next to me turned to say that he did not understand why my question had been ignored since it made perfect sense to him. This is how Curt and I started talking, and it was clear that we had an aligned sensibility and perspective. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that he had been a student of Lloyd Gardner. We were steeped in the same intellectual tradition and our thinking was congruent. Curt was a fine person, a committed scholar, and a great conversationalist. I wish Curt had written this essay because I know he had more to contribute than I, and we all would have benefited from it. He will be missed. As will be Tom McCormick, who died in July 2020. But their ideas, and those of the Wisconsin School they both represented so well in their own ways, will not be.



William Appleman Williams’ The Tragedy of American Diplomacy remains an important work amongst historians of American Foreign Policy even sixty years later.[58] How can it be pertinent when the issues of the day are so different? The Soviet Union has become the Russian Federation, the United States is now the flailing “unipolar” power, still entangled in a war on terrorism.  Europe is now the European Union and the most important challenge, climate change, requires a global solution. Though it is a long trip from then to now, I would assert William Appleman Williams remains pertinent to our world because of his populist perspective on American foreign policy.  He stated that the foreign policy of the nation must represent the interests of all the people, not simply those of the elite writing government policies. Williams’s approach also appeals to me personally because of where I teach, who I am, and how his approach heightens my own understanding of the challenges of balancing America’s place in the world with its aspirational ideals. This essay traces my relationship with that idea over the decades, connecting those ideals to the problems of the time, and how I approached the teaching of the Cold War and the Post-Cold War.

The Cold War, a globalized conflict of ideologies and empires, provided fertile ground for William’s ideas. The United States had come out of the cauldron of the Second World War with confidence and purpose built on reassuring national myths, updated and forcefully expounded by Henry Luce, the founder and publisher of Time Magazine in his famous article : “The American Century.”[59]  Williams, who had served as a Naval Officer in the war until a back injury ended his military career, brought a moralist’s eye to early Cold War American policies, asking whose interests were served in the international contest.

Williams and his intellectual successors held that unbridled American capitalism was a threat to midwestern, populist, agrarian values. They asked from a farmer/populist perspective whether the national security claims offered by the East Coast elite were valid when the benefits of the policy did not return to all American citizens. This perspective on the world, informed by sixty years of political struggle over the significance and value of the Midwest’s place in the American economy, had inculcated a firm belief that every citizen has a right and duty to speak to power, because all are equal before the state; the state needs critics more than it needs sycophants or experts seeking positions and government funding. Williams, following in the footsteps of Charles Beard, Richard Ely, and Frederick Jackson Turner, [60] asked if the foundation for American interests defined in the post war period was valid. He asked whether the primary beneficiaries were the new security elites or the citizens of the Midwest, who once had been the farmers of Populist fame and now were the industrial workers and rising middle class that purportedly embodied America. Ultimately, Williams made two main points: American policy should be set around United States interests; and a diversity of representatives, not a single elite or business or small coterie of imperialists, missionaries, or internationalists, should by themselves define America’s interests. These themes guided my selection of books for my classes.

My professorial career began, and remained, at SUNY Fredonia in Western New York, a state school situated on Lake Erie, closer to Detroit than New York City, where I arrived as a newly minted Ph.D. in 1988. Fredonia, the town, has a long history of self-sufficiency and American middle-class values. It was the home of the first working Grange in the United States, the birthplace of Richard T. Ely, the best-known Wisconsin economist of the Progressive era, and the county home of the Chautauqua Institution, founded to encourage self-learning for Protestant Sunday school teachers. It was a center of Progressive thinking, defined by the culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it is still committed to many of those values and ideas. To this day, the village hosts a community of left-wing Baptists (the first I encountered in my life.) It seemed a potentially receptive setting for William A. Williams, “the Midwestern Voice in American historical writing,”[61] and the Wisconsin school of diplomacy.  Introducing the Wisconsin school to the undergraduates in my classes excited me and, I hoped, would be provocative. My intent was to present my students with the idea that American foreign policy was not a monocausal, exceptionalist destiny, but a puzzle of economic, cultural and ideological forces to untangle through the use of evidence and theory.

Depending on the course, the level and the size of the class, in my first years of teaching my focus was to show my students that Williams’s economic critique did not stand in isolation.  Using assigned chapters from three monographs, we examined specific examples of American policy from 1890 to 1940. The first of these was Michael Hunt’s Ideology and US Foreign Policy, which discussed how the open-door policy “both drew from and fed back into the national fantasies of redemption and dominion” and defined US policies towards China in the early twentieth century.[62] The second was Emily S. Rosenberg’s Spreading the American Dream, which illustrated the role of private actors in establishing an American-regional financial hegemony in Latin America.[63] Last, Joan Hoff Wilson’s American Business and Foreign Policy 1920-1933 portrayed how “Leaders of the business community were firmly and publicly committed to these basic premises of the ideology known as corporate liberalism.”[64] These businessmen, through deft rhetoric, equated their own self-interest and economic achievements with the notion that they were serving their country through their endeavors and what they did was a “glorious service to all humanity”[65] Additionally, the inclusion of passages from Lloyd C. Gardner’s Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy helped me to connect students to the 1940s and the Second World War.[66]

My emphasis was on aiding students to understand how national interests were expressed by various groups and then integrated by government agencies into an American foreign policy.  National culture, political ideologies, missionary groups (until the 1930s), and business all advanced specific perspectives and goals. These views and narratives underlay the formulation of the Open-Door policy, and reflected the cultural Zeitgeist of the early century, and Americans’ faith in their exceptionalism and liberalism. In this early period of American foreign policy (1880 – 1945), it could be (and was) credibly argued that what was good for business was good for the United States, and good for the world.

By the 1990s, the fall of the Soviet Union presented me the opportunity to turn my focus to ideology and the origins of the Cold War. I utilized Walter LaFeber: America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1990 which clearly set up America’s anxiety as a cause for the Cold War.[67] I would assign chapters from his Inevitable Revolutions to further discussion of American policy in Latin America.[68] Another course in our curriculum, and an increasing focus in my own teaching, was American involvement in Vietnam and policy in the Middle East. Naturally, for Vietnam, I used Marilyn B. Young: The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, George C. Herring: America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, and Harry Summers’s: On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War.[69] All of them questioned the aims or strategy of the Vietnam War and offered different ideological perspectives, but they did not comment on American soldiers’ experience of the war. Tim O’Brien’s autobiographical If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box me up and Ship me Home and his much more famous The Things They Carried therefore became indispensable additions in my classes.[70] Lloyd Gardner’s Approaching Vietnam helped me bring economic costs, revenues, and funding back into the story of Vietnam, and promoted understanding of Japan’s logistical support for the military effort in the region.[71] I was now introducing economic motivations and ideological factors.

As Cold War warriors left Washington, more questions arose as to why the United States was often asked for aid. Geir Lundestad: Empire by Invitation[72] addressed this issue, exploring the contrast between Soviet and American expansion in the post war world. He underlined how frequently the U. S. was invited to participate by Western Europe. He focused on the role business, labor, and consumerism held in the first seven years of the Cold War.  This introduced connections to informal empire seen in joint military operations, corporatism, and the encouragement of democratic government well-expressed in Michael Hogan’s Marshall Plan: America, Britain and the Reconstruction of Western Europe.[73] The difficulty was assimilating these works into my class readings. Undergraduates could read chapters, but not whole books on these topics. In my Middle Eastern classes I added chapters from David Painter’s Oil and the Twentieth Century,[74]where he pursued the connections between oil policy and corporate leadership.

In the last thirty years, the relations between business and government have altered. As business and government adopted free-market concepts as articulated in Capitalism and Freedom[75] by Milton Friedman, a global production and distribution system emerged. The policies of national government to balance the interests of business and labor lessened, and the powers of money and finance grew beyond the scope of national bureaucracies to manage or control. I have used two authors to explain the framework. In his Dominance by Design,[76] Michael Adas offers a look at how technology, ideology, and foreign policy can merge to enhance the same sense of American exceptionalism and right to empire that Williams critiqued. Robert Reich, in Supercapitalism,[77] traces how flows of money often have deleterious effects on politics and civic society. The search for revenue by governments fostered enhanced relationships between business and government through bureaucratic management, business practices, and privatization.  There was no formal alliance, simply a recognition of what business did well and what could be imitated. Louis Galambos’s explanations of corporatism created the bridge to these works.[78]

Compounding the ongoing alterations in workers’ status introduced by Friedman’s economic policies, were increasingly prominent ‘Non-Traditional Security Threats,’ specifically terrorism. Since 9/11, the US government’s attention has re-focused on national security and in the Patriot Act, has identified surveillance as a tool of government. The result is greater interest among students and all Americans in the link between national defense, communication, internet technology, and the rights of citizens in this new landscape Cybersecurity, surveillance, and national security have played out in the news stories of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks,[79] Edward Snowden,[80] and national elections from 2006 to the present. I have been using articles about these individuals and the leaks to illustrate how public and private interests are collaborating and competing in this new terrain while influencing the growth of businesses, technology, and cybersecurity. Once again, Williams’s fundamental question remains: what are American interests, and do the interests of the state (whose offices are staffed by Ivy League alumnae and Coastal Elites) differ from the interests of the citizen.

The world has changed since Williams set his keen and critical eyes on it, yet its evolution argues for his continued relevance. At the start of the Cold War, Americans agreed to a struggle they thought united them, accepting short-term sacrifice for a larger gain.  Vietnam undermined that faith. Williams, within this new national mentality, was pointing out the social inequities with his Midwestern moralist’s perspective, hoping that he could inspire discomfort, not mere scorn. In so doing, he helped create an analytical tradition that highlighted the role of economic interests in American foreign policy. Many of his students and other scholars identified additional interest groups and ideologies promoting government policies. In so doing, they have helped articulate a relationship between the citizens and the policy makers which places the idea of legitimacy at the heart of American domestic and foreign policy. America’s policy must be re-balanced regularly between security, national interests, and the lives, liberties and happiness of its citizens. 

Of course, the set piece world battle of the Cold War dissolved in the last decades of the century, as business overwhelmed government, and the supposed unity of the American classes dissolved in a scramble of individualism. America’s so-called civil religion, politics, is divided on matters of social justice, identity, and the meaning of equality. The challenge confronting teachers today, then, is to help build a citizenry that is capable of approaching these divisions rather than fighting over them. The Age of the Internet has offered every citizen omniscience and amusement; the people, often as not, have chosen the latter. And yet, the very moment that we are experiencing, as Americans divide themselves between rural and urban, coastal and interior, educated and non-educated, indicates the continued relevance of Williams.


[1] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: Dell Publishers, 1972): 1.  Justin Hart’s essay in this forum also mentions this observation by Williams, which first appeared in the 1962 edition of Tragedy.

[2] Frank Costigliola, Awkward Dominion: American Political, Economic, and Cultural Relations with Europe, 1919-1933 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984); Emily S. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982); Carl P. Parrini, Heir to Empire: United States Economic Diplomacy, 1916-1923 (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1969); Joan Hoff, American Business and Foreign Policy, 1920-1933 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1971); Michael J. Hogan, Informal Entente: The Private Structure of Cooperation in Anglo-American Economic Diplomacy, 1918-1928 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977); Melvyn Leffler, The Elusive Quest: America’s Pursuit of European Stability and French Security, 1919-1933 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979).  Subsequent scholarship by some of these scholars reflects changed analysis, but these early works were heavily indebted to Williams’s ideas.

[3] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1959; New York: W.W. Norton, 1962, 1972, 2009. Commentaries by Lloyd C. Gardner and Andrew J. Bacevich in the fiftieth anniversary edition of the book as well as an earlier historiographical essay by Bradford Perkins have helped students to appreciate the lasting significance of Williams’ work. Bradford Perkins, “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy: Twenty-Five Years After,” Reviews in American History 12:1 (1984): 1-18.

[4] Thomas Cossentino, “’We Are The Ones You Sent’: Vietnam War Veterans and the Political Legacies of the Vietnam War,” PhD dissertation, Rutgers University, 2020.

[5] For example, by Gaddis Smith in a capsule review of Lloyd C. Gardner, ed., Redefining the Past: Essays in Diplomatic History in Honor of William Appleman Williams for Foreign Affairs, Vol. 65, No. 4 (Spring 1987). Leo Ribuffo rejected the “economic determinist” label in “What Is Still Living in the Ideas and Example of William Appleman Williams? A Comment,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring 2001), 310.

[6] Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1972), 57.

[7] Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 59.

[8] David C. Engerman, H-Diplo Essay 270 (2020): https://hdiplo.org/to/E270. Engerman’s first book was Modernization From the Other Shore: American Intellectuals and the Romance of Russian Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

[9] William Appleman Williams, American-Russian Relations 1781-1947 (New York: Rinehart and Company, 1952); William Appleman Williams, America Confronts a Revolutionary World: 1776-1976 (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1976).

[10] Especially Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

[11] Thomas Bender, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006): Chapter 4: “An Empire Among Empires”; E. Crapol, “Coming to Terms with Empire: The Historiography of Late Nineteenth Century American Foreign Relations,” Diplomatic History 16:4 (1992): 573-597.

[12]  R. W. Van Alstyne, The Rising American Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960; New York: Norton, 1974); Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963); Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997); Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1973); Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890 (New York: Atheneum, 1985); Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992).

[13] Related scholarship includes: David S. Foglesong, “The Open Door, Tsarist Russia, and Soviet Russia, 1900-1945,” in Brooke Blower and Andrew Preston, ed., The Cambridge History of America in the World, Volume 3 (forthcoming); David S. Foglesong, The American Mission and the “Evil Empire”: The Crusade for a “Free Russia” Since 1881 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Melani McAlister, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

[14] Paul Kramer, “Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” American Historical Review 116:5 (December 2011): 1348-1391. This paragraph draws on comments by Jennifer Mittelstadt.

[15] Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 9-10, 110-111.

[16] Eric T. L. Love, Race over Empire: Racism and US Imperialism, 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); Robert David Johnson, The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); David S. Foglesong, America's Secret War Against Bolshevism: US Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995): 226-8, 297; Alan McPherson, The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended US Occupations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism During the Vietnam Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013); David Cortright, Peace Works: The Citizen’s Role in Ending the Cold War (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993); David S. Foglesong, “When the Russians Really Were Coming: Citizen Diplomacy and the End of Cold War Enmity in America,” Cold War History 20:4 (2020), 419-440.

[17] Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 15, 141.

[18] “‘COLD WAR’ Takes Hard Work,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 17, 1947, page 1.

[19] Anders Stephanson, “Cold War Degree Zero,” in Joel Isaac and Duncan Bell, ed., Uncertain Empire: American History and the Idea of the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012): 29, 31.

[20] David J. Finlay, Ole R. Holsti, and Richard R. Fagen,  ed., Enemies in Politics (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1967): Chapter 1, pages 1-24; Michael Rogin, “The Countersubversive Tradition in American Politics,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Vol. 31 (1986): 1-33; Sam Keen, Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination (New York: Harper and Row, 1986); Ido Oren, Our Enemies and US: America’s Rivalries and the Making of Political Science (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003). See also David S. Foglesong, “The Face of the Enemy,” Raritan 39:2 (2019): 161-174.

[21] John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). For contrast to Gaddis, an outstanding new book by Norman Naimark can be assigned: Stalin and the Fate of Europe: The Postwar Struggle for Sovereignty (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019).

[22] Michael Cox and Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy? Rethinking the Marshall Plan,” Journal of Cold War Studies 7:1 (Winter 2005): 97-134.

This essay is dedicated to the memory of Curt Cardwell (1965-2021)—stalwart member of the Wisconsin School’s second generation.

[23] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009): 291.

[24] As a beginning graduate student, I also seem to have accepted the common critique of Williams as an economic determinist, which surprises me because I now consider that relatively common perception to be mistaken. Williams was an intellectual historian of economic ideas—not an economic historian or an economic determinist. However, he was also a consensus historian, so in reading him it often seems as though there is no escape from the hegemonic discourse of the “open door.”

[25] The Contours of American History is back in print (New York: Verso, 2011) with a new introduction by Greg Grandin. I have also used selections from Williams’s final book, Empire as a Way of Life, which is also back in print (Brooklyn: IG Publishing, 2007), with a new introduction by Andrew Bacevich. The work of Williams’s students that I have assigned to my students includes Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963); Thomas J. McCormick, China Market: America’s Quest for Informal Empire (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Publishers, 1990); Lloyd C. Gardner, Architects of Illusion (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1970); Lloyd C. Gardner, The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of US Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present (New York: The New Press, 2008); and Lloyd C. Gardner, Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare (New York: The New Press, 2013).

[26] Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 283.

[27] McCormick, China Market, Chapter 1.

[28] On the “post-revisionist synthesis,” see John Lewis Gaddis, “The Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis on the Origins of the Cold War,” Diplomatic History 7 (Summer 1983): 171-190.

[29] Justin Hart, Empire of Ideas: The Origins of Public Diplomacy and the Transformation of US Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[30] Frederick Jackson Turner himself strongly suggested such a reading with this line near the end of his famous essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”: “He would be a rash prophet who should assert that the expansive character of American life has now entirely ceased. Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American energy will continually demand a wider field for its exercise.” Turner’s essay is available at https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/historical-archives/the-significance-of-the-frontier-in-american-history-(1893) [accessed 26 March 2021].

[31] Carl P. Parrini, Heir to Empire: United States Economic Diplomacy, 1916-1923 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969); Joan Hoff, American Business and Foreign Policy, 1920-1933 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1971); Joan Hoff, Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive (Boston: Little, Brown, 1975); Melvyn P. Leffler, The Elusive Quest: America’s Pursuit of European Stability and French Security, 1919-1933 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979); Michael J. Hogan, Informal Entente: The Private Structure of Cooperation in Anglo-America Economic Diplomacy, 1918–1928 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977); and Frank Costigliola, Awkward Dominion: American Political, Economic, and Cultural Relations with Europe, 1919-1933 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984).

[32]For important signposts on both sides of this debate, see Walter LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967); Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “Origins of the Cold War,” Foreign Affairs 46 (October 1967): 22-52; Gardner, Architects of Illusion; Robert W. Tucker, The Radical Left and American Foreign Policy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1971); John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972); Joyce Kolko and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York: Harper & Row, 1972); Robert J. Maddox, The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Warren F. Kimball, “The Cold War Warmed Over,” American Historical Review 79 (October 1974): 1,119-1,136; John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982); Gaddis, “The Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis on the Origins of the Cold War”; Thomas J. McCormick, America’s Half Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989); John Lewis Gadds, “The Tragedy of Cold War History,” Diplomatic History 17 (Winter 1993): 1-16; and Bruce Cumings, “‘Revising Postrevisionism,’ or, The Poverty of Theory in Diplomatic History,” Diplomatic History 17 (Fall 1993): 539-569.

[33] Melvyn P. Leffler, Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992). The quote from Williams, which he puts in italics, is “the United States had from 1944 to at least 1962 a vast preponderance of actual as well as potential power vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.” See William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, New Enlarged Edition (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1962), 208. As far as I can tell, Leffler does not credit Williams for this line and Tragedy does not appear in Leffler’s bibliography.

[34] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1959).

[35] Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1962).

[36] Tucker, The Radical Left and American Foreign Policy.

[37] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972). For examples of Williams citing work by his students see pp. 31, 39, 44, 51, 73, 151, 177, 238, and 290. The works cited by Gardner, McCormick, and LaFeber have already been discussed. David Green published The Containment of Latin America: A History of the Myths and Realities of the Good Neighbor Policy (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971) based on his dissertation at the University of Wisconsin. Martin Sklar was for years one of the most influential unpublished historians in the United States. However, several of the essays included in Martin J. Sklar, The United States as a Developing Country: Studies in US History in the Progressive Era and the 1920s (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992) reflect arguments he developed in concert with Williams in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Williams also included several citations to the only monograph based on archival research that he published as a mature scholar: The Roots of the Modern American Empire (New York: Random House, 1969). At some point in the 1980s, at Williams’s urging, Norton began including at the end of the book the skeptical but not unsympathetic essay by Bradford Perkins, “‘The Tragedy of American Diplomacy’: Twenty-five Years After,” which was originally published in Reviews in American History 12 (March 1984): 1-18. This essay remained in all printings of Tragedy until the 50th anniversary edition issued in 2009.

[38] As Williams noted in the conclusion of Tragedy, although he wrote from a “radical” point of view, his “radical analysis leads to a conservative conclusion. The well-being of the United States depends—in the short-run but only in the short-run—upon the extent to which calm and confident and enlightened conservatives can see and bring themselves to act upon the validity of a radical analysis.” See Williams, Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (2009): 311-312.

[39] Bradford Perkins wrote in his 25th anniversary appraisal of Tragedy that “an unfortunate legacy of Tragedy…is the emphasis on the sources of American policy at the expense of diplomatic history as a study of interaction.” See, Perkins, “‘The Tragedy of American Diplomacy,’” 16, n. 18. In the 1980s, Perkins—a practitioner of mid-20th century style diplomatic history based on multi-national archival research—was swimming against the tide. Today, the pendulum has again swung in the other direction with transnational and international histories of US foreign policy proliferating. Now swimming against the tide are Daniel Bessner and Fredrik Logevall in “Recentering the United States in the History of American Foreign Relations,” Texas National Security Review 3 (Spring 2020): 38-55. Bessner and Logevall’s piece has produced two separate roundtables, which is highly unusual for an article, but most of the responses were critical, suggesting the skepticism of the field as a whole toward their position. See H-Diplo Roundtable XXI-42, May 25, 2020, https://hdiplo.org/to/RT21-42; and Passport 51 (September 2020): 39-54. Among the new histories of the American state, James T. Sparrow, Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), is particularly important.

[40] Michael Hunt, Ideology and US Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987); Frank Costigliola, “‘Unceasing Pressure for Penetration’: Gender, Pathology, and Emotion in George Kennan’s Formation of the Cold War,” Journal of American History 83 (March 1997): 1,309-1,339; and Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). It is worth noting that Costigliola is a second-generation Williams student, having studied with Walter LaFeber at Cornell University.

[41] Charles Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendency and Its Predecessors (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006); Julian Go, Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); and Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019). Among the books that I have taught in recent years that I think fit well within the Wisconsin school tradition are: Jenifer Van Vleck, Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendancy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013); Megan Black, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018); Jason Colby, The Business of Empire: United Fruit, Race, and US Expansion in Central America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011); Victoria de Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005); and Andrew Friedman, Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of US Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

[42] It must be noted here that the Wisconsin school itself was almost exclusively the province of men—even more so than the American historical profession at large in that time. However, there is more gender diversity in the second generation—the students of Williams’s students—as reflected in this roundtable. More importantly still, Williams’s emphasis upon empire and ideology—as opposed to the focus of traditional diplomatic history on “what one clerk said to another”—has proved attractive for many students of race and gender who are concerned with the cultural construction of power. Correspondingly, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations has seen a massive influx of women and, to a much lesser extent, scholars of color over the past several decades. In terms of teaching, I am struck by the fact that although most of the scholars cited in this essay are men, when I teach my readings course on US foreign relations (a course that used to be titled US Diplomatic History), female scholars now routinely represent at least half of the booklist.

[43] Fred Harvey Harrington, God, Mammon, and the Japanese: Dr. Horace N. Allen and Korean-American Relations, 1884-1905 (New York: Arno Press, 1980); Thomas J. McCormick, The China Market: America’s quest for informal empire, 1893-1901 (Chicago, Quadrangle Books, 1967); Walter LaFeber, The New Empire; An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898. (Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 1963); Lloyd C. Gardner, Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964). In addition to these standard works, a useful collection of Wisconsin School interpretations is Thomas McCormick and Walter LaFeber, eds., Behind the Throne: Servants of Power to Imperial Presidents, 1898-1968 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993).

[44] Kal Rasutiala, Does the Constitution Follow the Flag?: The Evolution of Territoriality in American Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); David Delaney, The Spatial, the Legal and the Pragmatics of World-Making: Nomospheric Investigations (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011).

[45] Walter LaFeber, “The Constitution and United States Foreign Policy: An Interpretation,” Journal of American History 74:3 (Dec. 1987): 695-717.

[46] Maïa Pal, Jurisdictional Accumulation: An Early Modern History of Law, Empires, and Capital (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).

[47] James G. Morgan, Into New Territory: American Historians and the Concept of US Imperialism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014); also in a wider scope, Paul A. Kramer “Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” American Historical Review 116:5 (December 2011): 1348-1391.

[48] Such as Bacevich’s America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (New York: Random House, 2017).

[49] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: W.W. Norton, 2009); Williams, Empire as a Way of Life: An Essay on the Causes and Character of America’s Present Predicament Along With a Few Thoughts About an Alternative (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

[50] Lloyd C. Gardner, The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of US Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present (New York: New Press, 2010); Lloyd C. Gardner and Marilyn B. Young, eds., Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past (New York: New Press, 2007).

[51] Edward P. Crapol, James G. Blaine: Architect of Empire (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999); Edward P. Crapol, John Tyler, the Accidental President (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

[52] Patrick J. Hearden, Independence and Empire: The New South’s Cotton Mill Campaign, 1865-1901 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1982); Hearden, The Tragedy of Vietnam 5th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2017).

[53] But helpfully explored here: Patricia Nelson Limerick, “Dilemmas in Forgiveness: William Appleman Williams and Western American History,” Diplomatic History 25:2 (March 2001): 293–300.

[54] Thomas J. McCormick, America’s Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

[55] Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America 2nd ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993).

[56] Alfred W. McCoy and Francisco A. Scarano, eds., Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2009); Suri, “The limits of American Empire: Democracy and Militarism in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries,” in Colonial Crucible, 523-31.

[57] Curt Caldwell, NSC 68 and the Political Economy of the Early Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

[58] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (first edition, Cleveland, 1959; subsequent editions, New York, 1962, 1972, 2009).

[59] Henry R. Luce, “The American Century,” Life, February 17, 1941.

[60] Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (Mineola: Dover, 2004). Richard T. Ely, The Labor Movement in America (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1886), and Introduction to Political Economy (New York: Chautauqua Press, 1889). Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1920).

[61] David S. Brown, Beyond the Frontier: The Midwestern Voice in American Historical Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

[62] Michael Hunt, Ideology and US Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).

[63] Emily S. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982).

[64] Joan Hoff-Wilson, American Business and Foreign Policy 1920-1933 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1971): 3.

[65] Hoff-Wilson, 3.

[66] Lloyd C. Gardner, Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964).

[67] Walter LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1990 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991).

[68] LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993).

[69] Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991); George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (New York: Knopf, 1979); Harry Summers, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (New York: Dell, 1982).

[70] Tim O’Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (New York: Broadway books, 1975); Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (New York: Harper Collins, 1991).

[71] Lloyd C. Gardner, Approaching Vietnam: From World War II to Dien Bien Phu (New York: W.W. Norton, 1989).

[72] Geir Lundestad, Empire by Invitation: The United States and Western Europe, 1945-1952 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986).

[73] Michael Hogan, Marshall Plan: America, Britain and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, Studies in Economic History and Policy: U.S.A. in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

[74] David Painter, Oil and the Twentieth Century, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).

[75] Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

[76] Michael Adas, Dominance by Design: Technological Imperatives and America’s Civilizing Mission, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006).

[77] Robert Reich, Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everyday Life (New York: Knopf, 2007).

[78] David Milobsky and Louis Galambos, “The McNamara Bank and its Legacy, 1968-1987,” Business and Economic History 24:2 (Winter 1995): 167-195; Louis Galambos, “The Emerging Organizational Synthesis in Modern American History,” Business History Review 44 (Autumn 1970): 279-290.

[79] Channing Joseph, “Wikileaks Releases Secret Report on Military Equipment,” The New York Sun, 9 September 2007, https://www.nysun.com/foreign/wikileaks-releases-secret-report-on-military/62236/, accessed March 24, 2021; Chan Rice, “The Looting of Kenya”, The Guardian, 31 August 2007, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/aug/31/kenya.topstories3, accessed March 24, 2021;  Ryan Singel, “Sensitive Guantánamo Bay Manual Leaked Through Wiki Site,”  Wired, 14 November 2007, https://www.wired.com/2007/11/gitmo-2/, accessed March 24, 2021.  

[80] Glenn Greenwald,  “NSA Collecting phone records of millions of Verizon Customers”, June 5, 2013, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order, accessed March 24, 2021; Verizon forced to hand over telephone data, June 5, 2013, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/jun/06/verizon-telephone-data-court-order, accessed March 24, 2021; Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, “NSA PRISM program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others,” The Guardian, June 6, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data, accessed March 24, 2021;” NSA slides explain the PRISM data collection program – Original slides”, The Washington Post, June 6, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/prism-collection-documents/, accessed March 24, 2021.