Following a discussion of what some scholars have seen as “divided loyalties” among immigrants, this article surveys the history of the ethnic influence on U.S. foreign policy from the 1790s to the present. Specific topics include Irish American nationalism and its relationship to republicanism and anti-imperialism in the nineteenth century, the diverse aims of ethnic activism in the era of World War I, the alleged role of ethnic activism in shaping the isolationism that partly characterized U.S. foreign policy between the wars, and the role of U.S.-based diasporas and ethnic lobbies in the era of the Cold War and after. Attention is given to Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Cuban Americans, African Americans, Eastern Europeans, and others. The article closes with a discussion of the potential impact of the recent phenomenon of dual citizenship.
Direct democracy was practiced within town meetings in colonial New England, driven by four overarching principles. First, citizens had a political voice as members of a specific geographic community, rather than as individuals. Second, “the mind of the town,” as it was called at the time, could be readily determined through public discourse in meetings of the enfranchised citizenry. Third, this collective will could be relayed to higher governing bodies by issuing specific and binding instructions to elected representatives. Finally, citizens who opposed the mind of the town could be forced to abide by it through community pressure. While the American Revolution elicited its own examples of popular, democratic politics outside of official chambers, the overall trend was in the opposite direction. Formal representational structures generally superseded meetings of the body of the people by liberty trees and liberty polls, county conventions of committees of correspondence, and local committees of safety, inspection, and observation.
Paul Dover and Hamish Scott
This chapter charts the emergence of diplomacy in its modern sense—the peaceful and continuous management of relations between states—during the early modern centuries. It was brought about by two central changes: one functional, the other geographical. The principal roles of an ambassador were providing information, representing his ruler, and conducting negotiations, and these were all established by the sixteenth century. Initially the first two were more important than the third, but by the second half of the period examined the conduct of negotiations had become the most important dimension of a diplomat’s role. The second transformation was an extension of the network of diplomacy, from its origins in the Italian peninsula to Western Europe and—by the eighteenth century—to Eastern Europe as well. These changes were not linear in nature, but collectively they created the diplomatic system and culture which prevailed until the First World War.
Eliga H. Gould
William Augustus Bowles was a loyalist soldier during the American Revolution who also acted as an agent for the British governor of the Bahamas. Had events gone his way, he could have become the Anglo-Creek leader of a British protectorate on North America's Gulf Coast, but instead, was considered a pirate and died in a Havana jail in 1805 while awaiting trial. Bowles's saga shows that the British Empire was not only a formal but also an informal empire. None had a greater stake in understanding how Britain's informal empire worked than the citizens of the thirteen states that gained independence from the British in 1783. It would be more accurate to see the American Revolution as the moment when Americans began to make the history that other nations and people were prepared to let them make. In this entangled history, Britain played the most significant role. Three pillars of its informal empire were commerce, diplomacy, and international law.
Harry T. Dickinson
The length, extent, and scale of the American Revolution had a profound impact on political developments across the British Isles. Britain was forced to send the largest army ever to cross the Atlantic to suppress a rebellion 3,000 miles away. In addition, early in 1778, France entered the war in support of America, followed by Spain in 1779 and the Dutch Republic in 1780. Britain therefore found itself fighting a world war with no ally, relying only on hired German mercenaries. The Royal Navy could no longer retain command of the seas of the world, and British interests worldwide were endangered. Britain even was facing the threat of a major Franco-Spanish invasion in June 1779. To meet the threat presented by the rebellion, it greatly expanded its land and sea forces, increased taxes and secured large loans, and fought a long, bloody, and expensive war. This chapter assesses the impact of the American Revolution on British politics, focusing on how it affected Lord North's ministry, the opposition in Parliament, and demands for reform in both Britain and Ireland.
Benjamin H. Irvin
Historians of the American Revolution have long argued that American colonists were late and reluctant to sever ties with Britain. They characterized American independence as a natural and unavoidable consequence of the original settlers' unique sense of godly duty and a logical result of republican institutions long in the making, a vision of America's founding that passed largely unchallenged by the nation's nineteenth-century historians. During the twentieth century, this narrative of predestination was challenged by academic historians, who questioned its nationalistic and teleological qualities, and who instead viewed independence as one possible consequence of events that unfolded in the 1760s and 1770s. This chapter discusses American independence before and during the Revolution, the process of dismantling long-established colonial governments throughout the thirteen colonies, the drafting of new constitutions, the forging of confederation, and the establishment of foreign relations during the period of American independence.
Max M. Edling
James Madison, the chief architect of the United States Constitution, drafted an introduction to notes from the proceedings of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unlike modern interpreters, which tend to view the U.S. Constitution as the blueprint of a liberal democratic society that protects the rights of individuals and minorities from the actions of overbearing majorities, Madison saw the Constitution as a plan of union between independent state-republics. It represented an attempt to reform the already existing union between the states that had been put in place by the chapters of Confederation. Until recently, few historians regarded international politics and problems of federalism as the main impetus for constitutional reform. Instead, it was usually argued that the Constitution was primarily an attempt to counteract the alarming revolutionary democratization of state politics. In recent years, historians have begun to focus on foreign affairs and federalism—the very issues emphasized by Madison.
In the turbulent interwar period, the political ‘Left’ was one of the most visible protagonists, with historians continuing to disagree about the role it played in shaping the outcome of the political struggles. Embedded in strong ‘moral narratives’ about the ‘rise of fascism’, the ‘crisis of democracy’, and the nature of the Bolshevik Revolution, the political Left has been vilified or lionized. For the period from the mid-1920s until 1939, both supporters and detractors agree that the Left was on the defensive, internally divided and weakened by the Great Depression and subject to repression by the state, whether democratic, authoritarian, or Stalinist. This chapter argues that the failure narrative should not subsume the vibrant experimentation and rich and contradictory diversity of the Left experience. A portrait emerges of the interwar Left that wrestled with inevitably imperfect and varied solutions to the ‘problem of community life’ in twentieth-century mass society.
Enrique C. Ochoa
Although policies are in place to eradicate hunger, basic access to food remains a formidable problem worldwide. Scholars and policy analysts disagree sharply on the extent of hunger and malnutrition as well as their causes and solutions. Recent evidence suggests that foodways offer an important means of creating alternative and more egalitarian systems of food production and distribution. This article reviews the assumptions and ideologies underlying the politics of food over the past few centuries. It examines power relations shaped by shifting capitalist developmental policies and by various state and international institutions. The article first looks at the link between food, capitalism, and colonialism before turning to food shortages, famines, and political legitimacy. It also discusses food policies and nation-states from 1930 to the 1970s, along with corporate globalization and food politics from the 1970s to the 2000s. The article concludes by focusing on struggles for food sovereignty and considering alternatives to corporate food politics.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
This chapter examines the relationship between the political protests that led to the American Revolution and the commercial expansion which stimulated the production and marketing of goods. It begins with a brief survey of the history and historiography of the period 1763–1774, focusing on the relationship between events and transformations. In particular, the chapter discusses the Stamp Act of 1765 and the rise of tea drinking in North America. The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended a long war between Britain and France over control of North America. Although the British won the war, they had to deal with a huge wartime debt. The government looked to North America for a solution, triggering a decade-long conflict over taxes. The chapter also considers the Tea Act of 1773, the Boston Tea Party, and the political power of goods. Finally, it looks at the importation, marketing, and production of goods in colonial British America.