Empire and Revolution: On Joshua Freeman
Thomas J. Sugrue | September 26, 2012“One of the central themes of American historiography is that there is no American empire.” So wrote the eminent historian William Appleman Williams in 1955. During the subsequent decades, there was a revolution in the study of American empire, first by historians of international relations (mostly on the left), including Williams, Walter LaFeber and Lloyd Gardner, who emphasized the economic impetus behind US expansionism. More recently, imperialism has fallen under the purview of cultural historians like Emily Rosenberg and Victoria de Grazia, who in different ways foregrounded the ambition to spread the gospel of consumerism and liberal development abroad. Mary Renda and Paul Kramer, among others, have powerfully linked the efforts to dominate people of color both at home and abroad (US policies in Haiti and the Philippines grew from the poisoned soil of Jim Crow and racial restriction). Still others have emphasized the culture of masculinity that pervaded America’s overseas adventures, from Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders through the Green Berets in Vietnam.