This stimulating volume, an outgrowth of a conference at Williams College in 2014, presents fifteen short essays on a wide array of topics, ranging from the changes in American popular views of the European belligerents between 1914 and 1917 to the long-term legacies of World War I in Europe and the Middle East. Essays by Andrew Preston, Emily S. Rosenberg, and Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela are among the most impressive of the contributions. In a concise discussion of American religion and the war, Preston reveals the contrasting ways different religious groups (including liberal Protestants, conservative fundamentalists, Jews, and Roman Catholics) interpreted and responded to the war, with long-lasting implications for ethnic assimilation, cultural divisions, nativism, reform movements, and attitudes toward international organizations. Rosenberg briefly but vigorously argues that historians have neglected how anti-imperialists challenged U.S. empire during and immediately after the war. Pointing to activists in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, as well as in the United States, Rosenberg suggests important topics for further research, especially the transnational connections of anti-imperialists. Criticizing the fact that an overwhelming amount of the scholarship focuses on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918, Gerwarth and Manela urge historians to view the war as “the epicenter of a cycle of armed imperial conflict that began in 1911” and continued until 1923 (p. 197). Widening the frame in that way, they explain, will allow greater attention to the important roles of “ethnic minorities, imperial troops, and Eastern European or non-European theaters of fighting” (ibid.). Some of the contributions may provoke doubts or disagreements. Akira Iriye argues that while World War I “took place when the globe was not sufficiently interconnected,” the development of global connections since the 1970s has led “nongeopolitical forces … to overshadow geopolitics” and has made interstate conflicts such as the world wars “anachronistic” (pp. 32, 29, 34). Considering the centrality of geopolitics to “the new cold war” and the contemporary danger of interstate conflicts in places such as the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula, this perspective may seem unduly optimistic. John Milton Cooper Jr. maintains that Woodrow Wilson took the United States into the war against Germany with a heavy heart, not with crusading enthusiasm—a perspective that leads him to downplay the distinctive idealism in Wilson's rhetoric (which was evident, for example, in Wilson's extolling of “the wonderful and heartening” revolution in Russia in his “safe for democracy” address to Congress on April 2, 1917). The controversial nature of some of the contributions and the divergences among the authors on certain issues (for example, whether U.S. entry into the war dramatically transformed it) may make the collection useful for stimulating discussion in graduate seminars. The essays are also valuable for the ways they address neglected topics, sketch the state of current scholarship, and promote rethinking of the waging, meanings, and effects of World War I. The collection is enhanced by a useful timeline and an excellent, up-to-date bibliography. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.
The Journal of American History – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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