HIST3322/9322: The American Empire


The United States is often assumed to have an isolationist heritage, built on the geographical and political separation of the New World from the Old. This course will explore alternative interpretations of the United States’ relations with the wider world, focusing on the contest over nationalism, imperialism and internationalism in the decades between the expansionism of the 1840s and the end of the nineteenth century. In particular, we will focus on the development of ideas about ordering the international community, the relationship between internationalism and American imperialism, and the connections between domestic and foreign politics. This is a field that has expanded enormously in the last decade. Older, state-centred diplomatic history has been complemented - and sometimes supplanted - by exciting new histories that draw on transnational and comparative approaches. This course will encompass both high diplomacy and the actions of non-state actors, with particular attention paid to collaboration and competition across national boundaries. We will look at the relationship between capitalism and imperialism, questions of contested sovereignty, and the issue of agency in the development and projection of American imperial power.

Students will be encouraged to think about the social, cultural and economic dimensions of U.S. power in the period, as well as the ways in which that power was shaped by collaboration and competition with other imperial powers. Seminars will be centred on discussion of primary materials, supplemented by secondary reading.

NB: Students are not permitted to take this module if they have already taken HIST7458: U.S. Internationalism 1865 – 1920.