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Authors: George C. Herring

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From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

BOOK: From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
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From Colony to Superpower


The Oxford History of the United States
David M. Kennedy,
General Editor

The American Revolution, 1763–1789

The Transformation of America, 1815–1848

The Civil War Era

The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945

The United States, 1945–1974

The United States from Watergate to
Bush v. Gore

U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776


U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776






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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Herring, George C., 1936–.
From colony to superpower : U.S. foreign relations since 1776
/ George C. Herring.
p. cm. — (The Oxford history of the United States)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-19-507822-0
1. United States–Foreign relations. I. Title.
E183.7.H44 2008 327.73–dc22 2008007996

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper

For Dottie


One of the great pleasures of completing a project like this is to be able to thank publicly the many institutions and people who helped along the way. The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation provided the financial support that, combined with a University of Kentucky sabbatical, enabled me to get started. The Rockefeller Foundation funded a month's stay in the incomparably beautiful and uniquely stimulating environment of Bellagio, Italy, a sojourn that allowed me to shape the final chapter and gain interesting feedback from people in numerous fields of intellectual inquiry. Deans Rick Edwards and Steve Hoch of UK's College of Arts and Sciences provided encouragement and funds for research, as did chairs Jeremy Popkin and David Hamilton of the History Department, my professional home for thirty-six years. Bob Flynn, Keely Jones Green, Shelby Lynn Marshall, and Stephanie May assisted with the research.

Many colleagues and friends gave generously of their time and expertise. John Behlolavek, Jerald Combs, William Freehling, Daniel Walker Howe, Howard Jones, Lawrence Kaplan, Warren Kimball, Thomas Knock, Jeffrey Matthews, Robert McMahon, Melvin Small, Mark Stoler, and Randall Woods read individual chapters covering periods of their specialties and offered invaluable suggestions. Andy Fry shared with me his vast knowledge of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy by reading and commenting on the first half of the manuscript. Steve Wrinn, director of the University Press of Kentucky, cast his sharp editorial eye on numerous chapters. Former Transylvania University English professor Charlie Holmes read the entire manuscript, and the comments provided by this non-specialist keenly interested in international
relations were very useful. Robert Divine, Walter LaFeber, Fredrik Logevall, and Jeremi Suri evaluated the manuscript for Oxford University Press and sent me detailed commentary and invaluable criticism and suggestions.

The Boone Seminar furnished weekly diversion in the form of highly competitive tennis and spirited trash talk as well as stimulating conversation about world affairs. After more than ten years on this project, I appreciate more than ever the outstanding work being done by my colleagues in the history of U.S. foreign relations. Their productivity made my task daunting. The quality of their work also made it exciting. It was great fun to continue to learn new things after more than forty years in the field.

Vicki Vaughn of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, where I spent my last semester, arranged for copying, packing up, and mailing out an early draft to various readers. Patiently and with all good humor, Peter Harris bailed his Luddite father-in-law out of computer foul-ups.

I have had the good fortune with this project to work with the best editors an author could hope for. I was enormously flattered when the late Sheldon Meyer, the dean of history editors, invited me to write this volume. I would like to think that he would be pleased with the result. The late C. Vann Woodward read one chapter and offered warm encouragement. Peter Ginna at Oxford helped plan the book. Series editor David M. Kennedy read chapters promptly and thoroughly. His excitement about the project gave me a huge boost. He offered countless suggestions on style and substance, especially in framing the arguments. Susan Ferber has been a wonderful editor, keenly interested in the project, attentive, helpful in every possible way, a superb critic. India Cooper is simply the best of copy editors—and a delight to work with. Caitlin Craven secured the photographs and permissions. Joellyn Ausanka skillfully managed the production process.

Finally, above all, and for so many reasons, I thank Dottie Leathers, my co-worker of nearly forty years, my wife of thirteen. This book is dedicated to her with all my love.

George C. Herring
Lexington, Kentucky


List of Maps


Editor's Introduction




1. "To Begin the World Over Again": Foreign Policy and the Birth of the Republic, 1776–1788

2. "None Who Can Make Us Afraid": The New Republic in a Hostile World, 1789–1801

3. "Purified, as by Fire": Republicanism Imperiled and Reaffirmed, 1801–1815

4. "Leave the Rest to Us": The Assertive Republic, 1815–1837

5. A Dose of Arsenic: Slavery, Expansion, and the Road to Disunion, 1837–1861

6. "Last Best Hope": The Union, the Confederacy, and Civil War Diplomacy, 1861–1877

7. "A Good Enough England": Foreign Relations in the Gilded Age, 1877–1893

8. The War of 1898, the New Empire, and the Dawn of the American Century, 1893–1901

9. "Bursting with Good Intentions": The United States in World Affairs, 1901–1913

10. "A New Age": Wilson, the Great War, and the Quest for a New World Order, 1913–1921

11. Involvement Without Commitment, 1921–1931

12. The Great Transformation: Depression, Isolationism, and War, 1931–1941

13. "Five Continents and Seven Seas": World War II and the Rise of American Globalism, 1941–1945

14. "A Novel Burden Far from Our Shores": Truman, the Cold War, and the Revolution in U.S. Foreign Policy, 1945–1953

15. Coexistence and Crises, 1953–1961

16. Gulliver's Troubles: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Limits of Power, 1961–1968

17. Nixon, Kissinger, and the End of the Postwar Era, 1969–1974

18. Foreign Policy in an Age of Dissonance, 1974–1981

19. "A Unique and Extraordinary Moment": Gorbachev, Reagan, Bush, and the End of the Cold War, 1981–1991

20. "The Strength of a Giant": America as Hyperpower, 1992–2007

Bibliographical Essay



The New American Nation

Principal American Posts Held by British after 1783

The Military Frontier in the Old Northwest, 1778–1817

The Barbary States of North Africa

The Louisiana Purchase

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1803–1806

Post-Colonial America

The Floridas

The Transcontinental Treaty Line of 1819

Maine Boundary Controversy

The Oregon Question, 1818–1846

Major Campaigns of the U.S.-Mexican War, 1846–1847

Territory Acquired from Mexico, 1845–1853

War of 1898, Caribbean Theater

Central America and the Caribbean c. 1917

Europe Before World War I

Europe After World War I

Manchuria, 1932

The Japanese Advance, 1941–1942

The Twin Drives Across the Pacific, January 1944–April 1945

Germany Divided: Postwar Occupation Zones

Korean War, 1950–1953

Vietnam at War

Israel and Its Neighbors, 1967–1973

The Pattern of the Tet Attacks, 1968


The Middle East in 1983

Central America

Coalition Ground Attack, February 24–28, 1991 (Kuwait)

Bosnia and the Former Yugoslavia

Editor's Introduction

From Colony to Superpower
is the sole topical volume in
The Oxford History of the United States
, whose eleven other titles all address discrete chronological periods between the European discovery of the Americas and the dawn of the twenty-first century. George C. Herring has thus taken on a formidable challenge: crafting a coherent historical narrative around the theme of foreign relations through more than two hundred years of American nationhood, while neither ignoring nor repeating material covered elsewhere in the series.

He has succeeded more than admirably. To be sure, readers of other
Oxford History
volumes will find familiar items here, from the War of 1812 to the high-stakes diplomacy of the Civil War era, the geo-political strategies of World War II, and the disillusioning debacle of Vietnam. But Herring, a renowned scholar of the Vietnam imbroglio, brings strikingly fresh perspective to his accounts of each of those episodes, and many others. He also artfully weaves them into what is undoubtedly the single most comprehensive interpretation of the entirety of America's foreign relations yet written.

From Colony to Superpower
is not a mere textbook, faithfully recounting all salient episodes in the history of American diplomacy—though its coverage is so thorough that it will surely become an authoritative reference work. Herring's accomplishment is greater than that. He has written not simply a history of American diplomacy, but a history of diplomacy's role in shaping America's unique history and its singular identity, as well as its effects on the wider world. He also has much to say about the stubbornly distinctive character of American statecraft, from the time of the Founders to the present.

His opening pages remind us of the often-neglected truth that foreign policy was the indispensable midwife to the birth of the American republic. Thomas Paine's celebrated pamphlet of 1776,
Common Sense
, simultaneously made the case for government based on the sovereignty of the people and for independence as a means to secure foreign support for the Revolutionary cause. It is not too much to say that Paine thereby drafted the foundational document of American foreign policy, one that blended high philosophical principle with clear-eyed consideration of the national interest—and infused American foreign policy from the outset with a powerful ideological flavor.

BOOK: From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
11.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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