The Monroe Doctrine : empire and nation in nineteenth-century America


The Monroe Doctrine : empire and nation in nineteenth-century America

Jay Sexton

Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011

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Includes bibliographical references and index



A succinct, analytical history of the Monroe Doctrine from its inception in 1823 to its broad extension in the early twentieth century, this book explains in vivid detail this cornerstone of American foreign policy. Covering more than a century of history, Jay Sexton, who teaches American history at the University of Oxford, explores the varying conceptions of the doctrine as its meaning was distorted over the course of decades to further an ever-expanding American empire. When in 1823 President Monroe issued his vaguely worded declaration that the United States would not allow European states to further colonize the western hemisphere, America had little means of enforcing it. The doctrine proclaimed anti-colonial principles, yet it rapidly became the myth and means for subsequent generations of politicians to pursue expansionist foreign policy agendas. Time and again, debates on the key issues of nineteenth- and early twentieth- century foreign relations - expansion in the 1840s, the imperialism of 1898, entrance into World War I and the League of Nations - were framed in relation to the Monroe Doctrine. In Sexton's adroit hands, the doctrine provides a new lens from which to view the still-unresolved question at the centre of American diplomatic history: the nation's contradictory traditions of anti-colonialism and imperialism.

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