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William McKinley Jr.  

Aroop Mukharji

Born in 1843 as the seventh of nine children to a Methodist family in Niles, Ohio, William McKinley was not destined for political greatness. Much like his politics, his rise was steady and incremental, his ambition as patient as it was large. After four years serving the Union in the Civil War, McKinley returned to Ohio to start a local law practice. Following a short stint as a county prosecutor, he married, started a family, and then met with his life’s greatest tragedy: the deaths of both of his young daughters within two years of each other. Amid this immense personal turmoil, McKinley ran for Congress. He served seven terms until a Democratic challenger unseated him, enabled by gerrymandered district lines. Within a matter of months, McKinley turned around to win Ohio’s governorship twice, before becoming the nation’s twenty-fifth president in 1897. However faded he has become in historical memory, at the time of his assassination in 1901, just six months into his second presidential term, McKinley was a towering figure in US politics. He led the United States in three wars spanning two continents and was only the third US president in almost seven decades to win two consecutive terms. In foreign policy, where he left his greatest mark, McKinley changed the trajectory of US history by consolidating US control over the Caribbean, defeating a European power in war, and irreversibly expanding the US military to sustain an empire that stretched 7,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean. The costs were significant: hundreds of thousands of Filipinos dead, millions colonized under American rule, and new strategic commitments too distant to reasonably protect. It is therefore one of the greatest ironies of US presidential history that so much about McKinley’s life remains shrouded in mystery or, worse, forgotten.

Article

United States–Cuba Relations  

Asa McKercher

Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, relations between Cuba and the United States have been marked by intense mutual hostility. This antagonism is a measure of the historically close ties between the two countries, extending back several centuries and the product of geographic proximity. Much of this long history has been marked by American efforts to control Cuba—often cast as being in Cubans’ best interests—and consequent Cuban resistance. At the same time, some Cubans have welcomed close ties with the United States, economically, culturally, and politically. Moreover, there has been considerable interchange between Americans and Cubans, from tourists looking for excitement to exiles seeking shelter north of the Florida Straits. Given the long shadow the United States has cast over Cuban history and Cuba’s place in several seminal events in US foreign policy, understanding these historical ties is vital for contextualizing the bitterness that has characterized their bilateral relationship for over half a century.

Article

Sports and US Foreign Relations  

Heather L. Dichter

Against the long-standing claim that sport and politics should remain separate, the United States has long included sport within its broader foreign relations efforts. During the second half of the 19th century, American businessmen, members of the military, and missionaries all taught local populations how to play sports like baseball and basketball because they viewed their actions as part of the “civilizing mission” of Americans abroad. With the onset of the Cold War, the government began incorporating sport into its formal programs to promote the United States overseas, using athletes as a large part of its public diplomacy efforts. Federal programs related to physical education were implemented to improve American health in the interest of fighting the Soviet Union. Sport thus served a role in the global competition of the Cold War as well as contributing to building bridges with other states. In the 21st century, the government formalized the use of sport within public diplomacy efforts with the establishment of a bureaucracy focused solely on sport. Sport also provided an avenue to spread American culture overseas as a model for organizing events and the approach to marketing and sponsorship. Both the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and Nike’s contract with basketball player Michael Jordan established new forms of cultural capitalism. American professional teams have capitalized on their global interest by holding exhibition and regular-season games overseas, bringing an American sport experience to international audiences while simultaneously expanding marketing opportunities.

Article

US-Lebanese Relations  

Emily I. Whalen

Lebanon is a relatively minor country in US foreign relations, lacking any significant resources or symbolic importance for Washington. Yet the history of the Lebanese-US relationship is an illustrative example of the consequences of US foreign policy, highlighting the contours of the US role in the international system. The history of Lebanese–US relations falls into four eras. The first period was mostly driven by private individuals, while the second period saw Lebanon undergoing significant changes as the United States competed with the Soviet Union. In the third period, Lebanon’s devastating civil war served as a stage upon which the United States stepped into its role of global hegemon. Finally, during the early 21st century, relations between the United States and Lebanon have faltered, as Lebanon’s post–civil war political system tacks between crisis and paralysis. Lebanon’s fate as a small nation in the US-led international system of the late 20th and early 21st centuries paints an evocative portrait of US power. To the extent that its relationship with the United States is generalizable, Lebanon serves as an illustration of the costs of maintaining a particular version of the global status quo. Despite its relative insignificance, Lebanon offers a valuable perspective on the impact of US foreign policy.

Article

Theodore Roosevelt, 1858–1919  

Matthew Oyos

Theodore Roosevelt became the twenty-sixth president of the United States in September 1901 following the assassination of William McKinley. He won election in his own right in 1904 and served until March 1909. Roosevelt, or TR, exercised presidential authority along the lines practiced by Abraham Lincoln, the predecessor whom he admired the most. The chief executive, according to Roosevelt, was a steward of the people’s interest, and the demands of a rapidly urbanizing and industrializing nation required a larger role for government. Roosevelt’s activist philosophy advanced the conservation of natural resources, led to the breaking up of business trusts, brought greater federal regulation of industry, and sought a new relationship between government and labor. On the world stage, TR accelerated the emergence of the United States as a great power. The Spanish–American War of 1898 and the acquisition of overseas holdings had announced growing American influence. Roosevelt expanded the role of the United States in the Caribbean, most notably through a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine and his drive to build the Panama Canal. An increased international presence also led the United States to help settle disputes among other great powers. Roosevelt mediated an end to the Russo-Japanese War and assisted in resolving the first Moroccan crisis. He backed American diplomacy with the “big stick” of an enlarged navy, which he dispatched on a world cruise from 1907 to 1909. Following his presidency, Roosevelt’s political prominence continued at home and abroad. He went on a safari in East Africa, and then he toured Europe, grabbing headlines throughout his travels. Upon his return to the United States, he launched an unsuccessful bid to retake the White House in 1912 as the candidate of the Progressive Party. TR would remain an active political force during Woodrow Wilson’s administration, seizing opportunities to criticize the man who bested him in 1912 and pushing for American military preparedness after the outbreak of World War I. Although he dominated the American political landscape for two decades, Roosevelt’s reach and interests extended beyond politics. Many-sided, he was a rancher, a soldier, a naturalist, a police commissioner, a historian, an explorer, and a big-game hunter. When Roosevelt died in early 1919, he had honored a youthful promise that he would live his life to the fullest possible extent.

Article

The Role of Women in US Foreign Relations  

Molly Wood

The history of American foreign relations encompasses the study of formal diplomatic relationships between the United States and other sovereign nation states, including analysis of US foreign policy debates, strategies and decisions, and the officials who make and implement those decisions. American foreign policy, in the service and protection of American interests around the world, evolves over time to address ever-changing global environments and events. Like policymakers, who respond in different ways to unique events over time, scholars have steadily expanded both the breadth and depth of foreign relations history as a field of scholarship. By the 1980s, historians began to ask new questions and apply methods from the practice of women’s history, a genre of history that developed in response to the changing social, political, and cultural context in the United States by the 1960s. While women have increasingly held professional positions in formal diplomacy through the 20th century and into the 21st as policymakers, military officials, and other institutional roles, broader approaches to, and questions about, the many more informal or unconventional ways the United States interacts with the rest of the world reveals a much more prominent role for women. The distinction between women and gender is a significant one. The examples provided focus on women as active agents in US foreign relations, either individually or in groups, whether gaining influence in formal professional pathways, through less apparent sites of international activism and interaction, or even less visible and informal networks and partnerships. Some historians refer to “soft power” to describe and explain the kind of behind-the-scenes activity in which many American women have participated through the history of American foreign relations.

Article

U.S.–Nigerian Relations  

Brian McNeil

The United States and Nigeria have a long history, stretching back to the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century and continuing today through economic and security partnerships. While the relationship has evolved over time and both countries have helped to shape each other’s histories in important ways, there remains a tension between hope and reality in which both sides struggle to live up to the expectations set for themselves and for each other. The United States looks to Nigeria to be the model of progress and stability in Africa that the West African state wants to become; Nigeria looks to American support for its development and security needs despite the United States continuously coming up short. There have been many strains in the relationship, and the United States and Nigeria have continued to ebb and flow between cooperation and conflict. Whatever friction there might be, the relationship between the United States and Nigeria is important to analyze because it offers a window to understanding trends and broad currents in international history such as decolonization, humanitarianism, energy politics, and terrorism.

Article

The American Labor Movement and the Establishment of Israel  

Adam Howard

A remarkably large number of nonstate actors played important and often unheralded roles in the creation of the state of Israel. The American labor movement was one such actor, assisting the Jewish community in Palestine to develop a political and social infrastructure in the “Yishuv” years before statehood, and then continuing to do so afterward. This movement, consisting of various labor federations, unions, and fraternal orders, aided the Zionist cause through a unique combination of financial and political resources. American labor organizations, especially those in the Jewish labor movement, helped lay the groundwork for the formation of a Jewish state by nurturing a labor movement in Palestine and influencing the US policymaking apparatus. They aided this process through land purchases for Jewish worker cooperatives in Palestine, the construction of trade schools and cultural centers there, and massive economic aid to the Histadrut, the General Federation of Jewish Workers in Palestine. American labor organizations also lobbied congressional allies, the White House, and local officials to generate policies assisting the Yishuv. They even pressured the British government during its mandate over Palestine and lobbied United Nations (UN) member states to vote for the partition of Palestine in 1947 and Israel’s recognition in 1948. Jewish labor leadership within the American garment industry played the key role in mobilizing the larger labor movement to support a Jewish state. Initially, however, most Jewish labor leaders did not support this effort because many descended from the “Bund” or General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, a Jewish socialist party founded in 1897. Like any other nationalist movement, Bundists viewed Zionism as a diversion of the labor movement’s fight against capitalism. Instead, Bundists emphasized Jewish culture as a vehicle to spread socialism to the Jewish masses. Yet, in time, two practical concerns developed that would move Bundists to embrace assistance to the Yishuv and, ultimately, to the state of Israel. First, finding Jewish refugees a haven from persecution and, second, a commitment to assisting a burgeoning trade union movement in Palestine.

Article

Turkey-United States Relations  

Barin Kayaoğlu

Since the 1780s, the geographical, historical, cultural, and ideational chasm between Turkey and the United States has remained wide. The presence of US merchants, missionaries, and educators in Ottoman territories, the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Ottoman subjects to the United States, the tens of thousands of US military personnel stationed in Turkey during the Cold War, and the thousands of Turkish citizens who continue to attend US universities every year have not been able to bridge that gap. Aside from the cultural and geographical gap, much of the disconnect between Turkey and the United States came from Turkish and American leaders’ ignorance of the other side. From the 19th century onward, Ottoman and Turkish leaders hoped to use the United States as a counterweight in Europe’s great power games despite Washington’s lack of interest in such an outlook until 1945. Likewise, most US administrations after 1945 thought that Turkey’s national interests could be easily reconciled with US global security priorities.

Article

African American Soldiers in World War I  

Amanda M. Nagel

In the midst of the long black freedom struggle, African American military participation in the First World War remains central to civil rights activism and challenges to systems of oppression in the United States. As part of a long and storied tradition of military service for a nation that marginalized and attempted to subjugate a significant portion of US citizens, African American soldiers faced challenges, racism, and segregation during the First World War simultaneously on the home front and the battlefields of France. The generations born since the end of the Civil War continually became more and more militant when resisting Jim Crow and insisting on full, not partial, citizenship in the United States, evidenced by the events in Houston in 1917. Support of the war effort within black communities in the United States was not universal, however, and some opposed participation in a war effort to “make the world safe for democracy” when that same democracy was denied to people of color. Activism by organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) challenged the War Department’s official and unofficial policy, creating avenues for a larger number of black officers in the US Army through the officers’ training camp created in Des Moines, Iowa. For African American soldiers sent to France with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), the potential for combat experience led to both failures and successes, leading to race pride as in the case of the 93rd Division’s successes, and skewed evidence for the War Department to reject increasing the number of black officers and enlisted in the case of the 92nd Division. All-black Regular Army regiments, meanwhile, either remained in the United States or were sent to the Philippines rather than the battlefields of Europe. However, soldiers’ return home was mixed, as they were both celebrated and rejected for their service, reflected in both parades welcoming them home and racial violence in the form of lynchings between December 1918 and January 1920. As a result, the interwar years and the start of World War II roughly two decades later renewed the desire to utilize military service as a way to influence US legal, social, cultural, and economic structures that limited African American citizenship.