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The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations

The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations

Robert David Johnson

ISBN 9780674659179

Publication date: 02/22/1995

This intensively researched volume covers a previously neglected aspect of American history: the foreign policy perspective of the peace progressives, a bloc of dissenters in the U.S. Senate, between 1913 and 1935. The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations is the first full-length work to focus on these senators during the peak of their collective influence. Robert David Johnson shows that in formulating an anti-imperialist policy, the peace progressives advanced the left-wing alternative to the Wilsonian agenda.

The experience of World War I, and in particular Wilson’s postwar peace settlement, unified the group behind the idea that the United States should play an active world role as the champion of weaker states. Senators Asle Gronna of North Dakota, Robert La Follette and John Blaine of Wisconsin, and William Borah of Idaho, among others, argued that this anti-imperialist vision would reconcile American ideals not only with the country’s foreign policy obligations but also with American economic interests. In applying this ideology to both inter-American and European affairs, the peace progressives emerged as the most powerful opposition to the business-oriented internationalism of the decade’s Republican administrations, while formulating one of the most comprehensive critiques of American foreign policy ever to emerge from Congress.


  • Robert Johnson’s book is an important contribution to the historiography of American foreign relations in the interwar period. His claim that the Peace Progressives did in fact articulate a clear and well developed alternative to both Wilsonianism and conservative business internationalism is both original and convincing… In seeking to articulate a foreign policy vision that combined a concern for national interest with the desire to uphold moral principle [the Peace Progressives] went to the heart of a continuing American dilemma and for that reason deserve the place in the history of American foreign policy in the twentieth century to which Robert Johnson has restored them.

    —Steven Hurst, Borderlines


  • Robert David “KC” Johnson is Professor of History, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Book Details

  • 464 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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