History of U.S. Foreign Relations 1776- 1945


This SDG will use U.S. foreign relations as the lens through which to tell the story of America's rise from thirteen disparate colonies huddled along the Atlantic coast to the world's greatest superpower.  This course will cover America's interaction with other peoples and nations of the world.  This story is one of stunning successes and sometimes tragic failures which illuminates the central importance of foreign relations to the existence and survival of the country and highlights its ongoing impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.  It will further show how policymakers defined American interests broadly to include territorial expansion, access to growing markets, and the spread of "the American way of life."  Statesmen such as Benjamin Franklin, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry Truman played key roles in America's rise to world power.

The core book for this SDG will be the first part of award-winning From Colony to Superpower by George Herring which is part of the distinguished Oxford History of the United States.  Herring argues that United States foreign policy has been "spectacularly successful," but he notes that its claims to being morally superior, a light to all nations, has frequently given way to great-power actions.  And, though enjoying all the benefits of a great power, it has been sadly unaware of the limits of that power.

Weekly Topics

  1. Foreign Policy and the Birth of the Republic 1776-1788

  2. The New Republic in a Hostile World 1789-1801

  3. Republicanism Imperiled and Reaffirmed 1801-1815

  4. Assertive Republic 1815-1837

  5. Slavery, Expansion and the Road to Disunion 1837-1861

  6. The Union, the Confederacy, and Civil War Diplomacy 1861-1877

  7. 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. The United States in World Affairs 1901-1913

  10. Wilson, the Great War and the Quest for a New World Order 1913-1921

  11. Involvement Without Commitment 1921-1931

  12. Depression, Isolationism and War 1921-1941

  13. World War II and the Rise of American Globalism 1941-1945

  14. Conclusions


From Colony to Superpower; U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776, George Herring.