The United States Empire, 1914-24

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:40 AM
Columbia Hall 11 (Washington Hilton)
Christopher Capozzola, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
My contribution will situate the wartime experience of the United States in the global history of empires at war in the era of the First World War. It will seek to understand the wartime history of the United States as an empire, and to explore how U.S. policymakers navigated a world of empires that the world war had brought into crisis. It begins in August 1914 with the opening of the Panama Canal-a key turning point in geopolitics that has only rarely been linked to events in Flanders that month-and attends to the formal U.S. empire in the Caribbean and Pacific as well as the multiple military interventions in Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico during the 1910s and early 1920s. I contend that the war marked a turning point in how the U.S. acted in areas where it wielded economic (and sometimes also political) power, most notably in policies relating to overseas policing. Whether enforcing bilateral trade agreements, occupying the Rhineland, or training police forces in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the United States in the decade around World War I remade its modes of intervention into the global system in the wake of the European imperial crisis.