History records only one peaceful transition of hegemonic power: the passage from British to American dominance of the international order. What made that transition uniquely cooperative and nonviolent? Does it offer lessons to guide policy as the United States faces its own challengers to the order it has enforced since the 1940s? To answer these questions, Kori Schake explores nine points of crisis or tension between Britain and the United States, from the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 to the establishment of the unequal “special relationship” during World War II.
Over this period, Safe Passage shows, the United States gradually changed the rules that Britain had established at its imperial height. It was able to do so peacefully because, during the crucial years, Britain and the United States came to look alike to each other and different from other nations. Britain followed America’s lead in becoming more democratic, while the United States, because of its conquest of the American West, developed an imperial cast of mind. Until the end of World War II, both countries paid more attention to their cumulative power relative to other states in the order than to their individual power relative to each other.
The factors that made the Anglo-American transition peaceful, notably the convergence in their domestic ideologies, are unlikely to apply in future transitions, Schake concludes. We are much more likely to see high-stake standoffs among competing powers attempting to shape the international order to reflect the starkly different ideologies that prevail at home.
This is an important book that helps us understand what history tells us about the centrality of values in preserving a peaceful international order.
A remarkable and timely chronicle—living history of the best sort.
An artful book that, mercifully, amounts to much more than a conventional trot through the backstory of the ‘special relationship.’ …One of the strengths of this sharply observed book is its emphasis on historical contingency in determining the course of Anglo–American relations.
This is a brilliant book, which uses a well-researched historical study as the context for a discussion of the international order of the present.
An eloquently written and thoughtfully constructed treatment.
Schake provides a fresh and insightful account that focuses on key moments when American and British elites revised their judgments about each other and their changing geopolitical fortunes…The book is most fascinating in its details, illuminating the myriad struggles between London and Washington over the rules and institutions that would form the basis for Pax Americana.
The peaceful passage of hegemonic power between the British and American empires is puzzling considering that virtually all previous hegemonic transitions were bloody. Kori Schake’s explanation of this puzzle is not only a welcome addition to the growing body of historically sensitive International Relations scholarship, but also a critical intervention in the contemporary debate on the future of international order. According to Schake, the chances of a peaceful transition to Chinese hegemony are minimal.
Why was the transition from the United Kingdom to the United States as the world’s predominant power managed without conflict between the two? In Safe Passage Kori Schake describes the different stages of the transition, and the importance of the developing similarity between the two countries. This is a compelling thesis, engagingly written and sharply argued.
Eminently readable, incisively argued, and keenly erudite history…What makes Schake’s work so magical is that what made America special—as a country, an idea, an ideal, an idealization—is just what blunted the threat [of war with Great Britain]. Her work implores us to look around and see how delicate the current world order is, how contingent its formation, how necessary it is to attend to it, because averting future wars is conditional upon it.
- 400 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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