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17 US foreign relations must-reads

The annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) begins this week in San Diego. Are you caught up on your reading? If not, have no fear! We’ve put together a list of your SHAFR “must-reads,” including Diplomatic History’s most popular articles from the past year and a selection of recent books and blog posts on US foreign relations.

“Take Me to Havana! Airline Hijacking, U.S.–Cuba Relations, and Political Protest in Late Sixties’ America” by Teishan A. Latner
From 1968 to 1973, amidst a period of social upheaval, Cuba unwittingly became the world’s most popular place to land a hijacked plane. In five years, “skyjackers” made over 90 attempts to commandeer airplanes from the United States to Cuba. A majority of hijackers were American—from draft dodgers, to activists, to asylum-seekers, to petty criminals. They were drawn to an idealized image of Cuba as a revolutionary’s haven, which rejected capitalism and defied America’s global domination.  The situation led to unprecedented diplomatic collaboration between America and Cuba as they crafted a mutual anti-hijacking agreement.

“Presidential Address: Structure, Contingency, and the War in Vietnam” by Fredrik Logevall
In his presidential address, Frederik Logevall traces the history of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations alongside the Vietnam War. Almost half a century ago, the society was founded in the throes of the Vietnam War. Today, they study the Vietnam War as history. An outpouring of scholarship reflecting on the war has been produced in the past several decades, but Logevall addresses one question: “How do we account for the reality [that] three American presidents… escalated and perpetuated a war in Southeast Asia that they privately suspected was neither winnable nor necessary?”

“Local People’s Global Politics: A Transnational History of the Hands Off Ethiopia Movement of 1935” by Joseph Fronczak
In 1935, a transnational social movement transformed the dynamics of global politics. When the Italian Fascist régime threatened to invade Ethiopia, leftists across the world leaped to the country’s defense. With the Hands Off Ethiopia campaign, the new “global left” utilized informal political practices, including mass meetings, street fights, riots, and strikes. Unled, unorganized, and unstructured, the group showed that common people could directly assert themselves in matters of international affairs. Though their antiwar efforts failed to prevent Ethiopia’s invasion, Hands Off Ethiopia created lasting effects on international history continuing beyond the postwar era.

Map of Cuba and Florida
Cuba-Florida Map. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Imperialism of Economic Nationalism, 1890–1913” by Marc-William Palen
Through his article, Palen looks to debunk a laissez-faire myth that revolutionized imperial studies. Since 1953, a theory that American imperialism surrounding turn-of-the-century foreign relations had a “free-trade character” has become popular. Palen argues that this revisionist interpretation has prevailed “despite the predominance of economic nationalism” during the time period. If the American Empire arose out of imperialism of economic nationalism, rather than imperialism of free trade, then how did this free-trade, open-door theory become such a steadfast fixture within US history?

“Embracing Regime Change in Iraq: American Foreign Policy and the 1963 Coup d’état in Baghdad” by Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt
Following a 1958 coup d’état in Iraq, the Middle East was in flux and American policymakers struggled to respond. They were divided into two camps: one accommodating faction believed that, through skillful diplomacy and a robust program of development assistance, the United States could convince the new regime to protect “Western interests.” Another interventionist faction worried that new leadership would destabilize order in the region, and hoped to restore a “reliable client regime” in Iraq instead.  US policy vacillated between these two factions for five years, but eventually sided with the interventionists. The Kennedy administration pursued a regime change in the name of national security—but Wolfe-Hunnicutt suggests that interventionists’ warnings of a “Communist threat” in Iraq were actually a cover for more base motives.

Your Country, My Country – Offers a chronological comparative history of both Canada and the United States, with new insights for readers on both sides of the border.

Executing the Rosenbergs – A look at the Rosenberg case from how it was reported and protested around the world. Citing never before used State Department documents that focus on the ways in which the Rosenberg case reflected America’s role in the world.

Legalist Empire – Shows the role of international lawyers in the making of American empire in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century.

Holocaust Angst – An account of attempts by German political actors to grapple with American Holocaust memory and reshape Germany’s public image abroad.

From Empire to Humanity – Roots the origins of humanitarianism in the fracturing of the British Empire as a result of the American Revolution.

Choosing War – Provides the only comparative analysis of presidential crisis decision-making and naval incidents.

The Guardians – Accesses the mandates system based on original research, undertaken on four continents and in numerous archives.

The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War – Thirty four essays from an international team of scholars providing a broad reassessment of the Cold War based on the latest research in international history.

Close up of Jimmy Carter and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, July 1977. Public domain via The US National Archives. - See more at: https://blog.oup.com/2016/04/helmut-schmidt-jimmy-carter/#sthash.9gEjaC1N.dpuf
Close up of Jimmy Carter and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, July 1977. Public domain via The US National Archives.

Queering America and the world – On the important (and often unexamined) role of queer history in the study of US diplomatic relations.

The ideology of counter-terrorism – Mary Barton discusses the United States and international anarchist terrorism from the 19th century through the present day.

A prickly pair: Helmut Schmidt and Jimmy Carter – Helmut Schmidt and Jimmy Carter had one of the most explosive relationships in postwar, transatlantic history, straining to the limit the bond between West Germany and America.

Can history help us manage humanitarian crises? – A look at the parallels between America’s reaction to Jewish refugees during World War II and Syrian refugees today.

Featured image credit: Signing of the preliminary Treaty of Paris by John D. Morris & Co. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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