The US and the world
Boys on America’s Imperial Frontier: An Interview with Mischa Honeck
Interviews | September 3, 2020

Boys on America’s Imperial Frontier: An Interview with Mischa Honeck

"The Boy Scouts were an organization that sought to discipline and control young people as much as they wanted to also animate and liberate them from what they identified as corrosive influences on young manhood. Because of that, there’s plenty of interesting commentary on what young people did and what they supposedly thought within scouting. This is not specific to the Boy Scouts of America—I think this is true for almost all of the major youth organizations of the twentieth century. That also compelled me to reconsider what it means to recover the voice of the child, because sometimes adult-authored sources contain the fingerprints of young actors as well. They also reflect things that young people did and can serve as a lens that can help approach young people as subjects within certain fields of academia." Mischa Honeck’s Our Frontier is the World: Boy Scouts in the Age of American Ascendancy (2017) takes a much-needed look at the role of children in the construction of the United States’s imperial identity. Through a detailed analysis of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), he interrogates the interlinking impulses of youth, nationalism, and power in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Hesitant Hegemony for China and the US? An Interview with Lixin Wang
Interviews | December 6, 2017

Hesitant Hegemony for China and the US? An Interview with Lixin Wang

Speculation is mounting that the United States, with Donald Trump cast in the role of president, will step back from the world stage, and China will increasingly lead. But what would China face if it decided to assume international leadership and advance its own ideas and agendas for global order? Drawing lessons from the American experience, Prof. Lixin Wang's new book A Hesitant Hegemony (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2015) indicates that China should not hastily seek world leadership and that the burden of leading the world is too heavy for China to bear. In the book, Lixin Wang incorporated both a cultural perspective and an international history approach to examine American identity and its search for international order in the first half of the twentieth century.

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The 1970s in Arab-American Perspective: An Interview with Salim Yaqub
Interviews | November 9, 2017

The 1970s in Arab-American Perspective: An Interview with Salim Yaqub

Salim Yaqub's most recent book, Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.–Middle East Relations in the 1970s (Cornell University Press, 2016), examines social and political dimensions of the Arab-US relationship during the 1970s, allowing us to understand the perceptions of two groups toward each other. It also sheds light on how the position of Arab-Americans changed according to the developing political situation in the 1970s focusing, for example, on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The book stresses the need for a global perspective in understanding the roots of contemporary debates on U.S-Middle East politics.

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Acts of Faith: Talking Religion, Law, and Empire with Dr. Anna Su
Interviews | August 24, 2017

Acts of Faith: Talking Religion, Law, and Empire with Dr. Anna Su

The history of America's interest in religious freedom abroad is the focus of Dr. Anna Su's first book, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016). As Su shows, the US has a long history of intervening in countries on behalf of religious freedom. Su tracks the development of official government policies toward religious freedom: first as part of its "civilizing mission" in the Philippines from 1898, then in the democratization of Japan after World War II, and finally through the championing of human rights in Iraq and elsewhere. Working at the intersection of history and law, Su is currently Associate Professor in the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law. She previously earned an SJD from Harvard Law School, and worked as a law clerk for the Philippine Supreme Court and a consultant to the Philippine government negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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Global Interior: A Conversation with Megan Black About the U.S. Interior Department in the American World Order
Interviews | March 16, 2017

Global Interior: A Conversation with Megan Black About the U.S. Interior Department in the American World Order

Megan Black studies the United States Department of the Interior as an institutional prism through which to see a new history of U.S. global reach since 1890. Often misunderstood as an obscure branch of the U.S. government, the Department of the Interior, in Black's account, turns out to be a crucial agent of American power toward the outside world in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Rather than seeing Interior as a mere manager of that which was already "inside" the U.S. polity, she sees it as the crucial actor in a process of "interiorization" whereby resources once external to the American homeland (whether in the North American West or anywhere in the world) were made legible and potentially extractable.

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Policing the "Slums of the World": A Conversation About Exporting American Police Expertise with Stuart Schrader
Interviews | November 24, 2016

Policing the "Slums of the World": A Conversation About Exporting American Police Expertise with Stuart Schrader

As Americans debate their choice of President, enthusiasm for long-term ground wars in the Middle East seems at an all-time low. Both candidates debate the merits of drone warfare in distant lands, or even the desirability (and viability) of a ban on Muslims' entry to the United States, but what does seem unanimous after two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the U.S. role in the region is best handled by some combination of deploying remote force against "them" over "there," and preventing "them" from coming to "us" "here." With many debating whether the country can police its own cities in a way that does not reinforce racial injustice or systemic hierarchies, American appetites for reconfiguring foreign societies to police themselves appears to be at an all-time nadir. Yet even if Americans seek a more reclusive role vis-à-vis the world (or at least societies wracked by civil war and conflict), what remains clear is that the effects of those wars are rebounding into America itself.

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Thinking Big ... and Small About U.S. History in a Global Context with Daniel Immerwahr
Interviews | February 23, 2015

Thinking Big ... and Small About U.S. History in a Global Context with Daniel Immerwahr

As our most recent guest to the Global History Forum, Daniel Immerwahr, shows, the American fascination with community is not some recent invention. Even as the scholarly literature on the United States in the world these days is in the midst of a focus on development in the Third World, typically the term ("development") means heavy infrastructure. "Dams are the temples of modern India," said post-independence Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, and the same could be said of the 21st century historiography of the United States in a global context. Yet as Immerwahr, an assistant professor of history at Northwestern University, shows in his recent book Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, this dream of large-scale development was always accompanied by a parallel drive to use the small scale – the group scale – of community development as a tool to guide Third World societies away from the temptations of Moscow and Beijing.

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Of Nation-States and the United States: An Interview with Ryan Irwin
Interviews | January 20, 2015

Of Nation-States and the United States: An Interview with Ryan Irwin

Understanding the present and future of American internationalism requires understanding its past–not only through the lens of America, moreover, but understanding how the American project interacted with exogenous shifts and shocks to the international system, too–the ebb and flow of German, then Russian power, or decolonization, for example.

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Peace Without Victory: Adam Tooze on "The Deluge: The Great War, America, and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931"
Interviews | November 29, 2014

Peace Without Victory: Adam Tooze on "The Deluge: The Great War, America, and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931"

The American entrance into European and global affairs really took on full shape concomitant to the First World War–an insight that drives much of The Deluge, and which explains its temporal framing. 1916 was the year when American economic output exceeded that of the British Empire, 1931 the year of Herbert Hoover's moratorium on war debts. As commentators today question whether we might be entering a "post-American century," understanding how the American giant burst onto the global scene in the first place is all the more urgent. The Toynbee Prize Foundation had the opportunity to sit down with Adam Tooze recently to discuss his path to history, the book, and his future projects for this installment of Global History Forum.

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Empire of the Air, Empire of the Earth: American History in a Global Context with Jenifer van Vleck
Interviews | October 19, 2014

Empire of the Air, Empire of the Earth: American History in a Global Context with Jenifer van Vleck

Jenifer Van Vleck devoted years to scouring through the archives of Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) and numerous government and Presidential Archives to tell the story of a corporation–and an industry–that reveals much about the shape of American corporate globalism and American empire. The Global History Forum was delighted to sit down with her this summer to discuss her intellectual journey, Empire of the Air, and her upcoming work in the history of technology and American foreign relations.

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