American Historians in War and Peace: Patriotism, Diplomacy and the Paris Peace Conference, 1918-1919


Nielson, Jonathan M.


Ph.D, University of California, Santa Barbara; D/History University of Alaska

In this study of the American historians who accompanied President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 Professor Nielson focuses on a development unique in its time (and now taken for granted): for the first time a president used the expertise of professional scholars as the basis for far reaching decisions on the immediate issues of war and peace and European reconstruction as well as reconciliation.

The study charts the period before American entry into the first World War (April, 1917) when a number of historians, several fellow colleagues of former Professor Wilson at Princeton, helped mobilize pubic opinion in favor of intervention. They acted as partisans of the Allied side and with war and subsequent victory, many wished to continue contributing their skills and energy to forging a new peace.

Nielson, using primary materials such as diaries, unpublished memoirs, position papers et al, investigates how the historians who went to Paris were chosen and what was expected of them as far as information and counsel provided to President Wilson, Colonel House (Wilson's closest adviser) and the State Department professionals involved with the inter-Allied negotiations as well as negotiations with Germany,Austria, Turkey and Hungary.

The major point of this work is that these academics produced a “seminal change” in the relationship between government and intellectuals in matters affecting foreign policy. They set a precedent for professional historians to emerge from the cosseted world of academe into the battlefield of public service as immediate influencers of foreign policy as well as precursors to the intellectual engagements of the New Deal. Nielson also discusses the critics of this intellectual engagement with politics and policy and describes the debate within the historical community as to the proper role of an historian to his country and its policies. Reference level bibliography of over 100 pages.

Historiography, American foreign policy 1917-1919, Woodrow Wilson, American war aims 1918-1919, World War One, Intellectual History, the Department of State foreign policy implementation, League of Nations, Propaganda, American diplomacy/diplomats 1918-1919
Release Date: 
Cloth: 978-1-936320-14-1 / 193632014-2
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