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America and the World: A Diplomatic History

America and the World: A Diplomatic History

Professor Mark A. Stoler Ph.D.
The University of Vermont
Course No.  8598
Course No.  8598
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

It was a transformation unprecedented in global history. In barely more than two centuries, the United States evolved from a sparsely settled handful of colonies whose very survival was in grave doubt into the most powerful nation the world has ever known-militarily, economically, technologically, culturally, politically, and even ideologically.

How could such an implausible metamorphosis have occurred? In a world where power and the willingness to wield it had always determined the fate of nations, what factors enabled our young nation to successfully navigate the corridors of diplomacy and foreign policy from the outset, ensuring not only survival but also eventual status as a superpower?

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It was a transformation unprecedented in global history. In barely more than two centuries, the United States evolved from a sparsely settled handful of colonies whose very survival was in grave doubt into the most powerful nation the world has ever known-militarily, economically, technologically, culturally, politically, and even ideologically.

How could such an implausible metamorphosis have occurred? In a world where power and the willingness to wield it had always determined the fate of nations, what factors enabled our young nation to successfully navigate the corridors of diplomacy and foreign policy from the outset, ensuring not only survival but also eventual status as a superpower?

America and the World: A Diplomatic History addresses these and other penetrating questions. In 24 insightful lectures, award-winning Professor Mark A. Stoler of the University of Vermont-a scholar acknowledged for his expertise in U.S. diplomatic and military history-offers you a fresh view of America's shift from the periphery of international politics to its very center.

Enhance Your Understanding of the History Taking Place Right Now

Although the specifics naturally change as time advances, the basic elements that make up diplomacy's causal machinery are always in place. Throughout history, diplomacy has resolved international disputes and helped chart new directions for political, economic, and cultural growth.

Studying how American diplomacy works not only strengthens your understanding of why the nation's history turned out the way it did but also adds immeasurably to your interpretation of present-day events. Whether reading a newspaper, listening to a news broadcast, or evaluating the assertions of a political leader or candidate, you will find that the story told in America and the World enhances your perspectives on the history taking place right now.

As he guides you through America's ascendancy, Professor Stoler shows that causal machinery at work as he explores the key components of American diplomatic history:

  • The origins of American beliefs about our "mission" and proper place in the world
  • The expansion of the original United States across the North American continent through war and treaty
  • The acquisition of a formal overseas empire in the late 19th century and the subsequent addition of an informal empire
  • The achievement of victory in two world wars and participation in limited but bloody conflicts in Korea and Vietnam
  • The course of-and victory in-the 45-year cold war with the Soviet Union
  • The origins and evolution of famous or significant pronouncements and policies, including Washington's Farewell Address, the idea of "Manifest Destiny," the Monroe Doctrine, the Open Door policy, isolationism, the Marshall Plan, and the "containment" of Communism

Of course, policies and actions are decided by the people whose decisions unleash them, and these lectures bring into clear focus the leaders whose judgments shaped America's path

Learn How and Why Diplomatic History Happens

Presenting history's events as only a single part of a much broader whole, Professor Stoler adds the "how" and "why" to the "what" of American diplomatic history. You learn

  • how America's influence has been shaped and expanded by events and ideas;
  • how key personalities-whether America's own national leaders or those of other nations-have influenced American diplomacy and its practice in the international arena;
  • the key beliefs Americans have developed about international relations and their role on the world stage; and
  • how those beliefs have shaped America's actions through both war and peace.

It's an approach that enhances your grasp of not only the substance of events and their multiple causes but also the implications for the next potential sequence of events.

The course offers an excellent perspective on the many lines of causality that converged to create those historical moments and consequences, including the backgrounds and personalities of foreign policy decision makers, national beliefs, geopolitical strategies, and military situations.

Fresh Perspectives—Even on Familiar Names

Even when the names are familiar, the new perspectives and fascinating episodes offered by Professor Stoler deepen your insight into the careers of these diplomats:

  • John Quincy Adams: Considered by many historians to have been America's greatest secretary of state, Adams was responsible for an extraordinary series of major foreign policy successes—including primary authorship of what came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, which asserted the independence of the Western Hemisphere from further European colonization or interference.
  • John Jay: One of the three authors of the Federalist and the nation's first chief justice, Jay was also a major diplomatic figure. The treaty he negotiated with Great Britain in 1794 aroused so much controversy that Jay claimed he could have traveled the entire coastline by night, navigating by the light of the burning effigies of him.
  • James K. Polk: One of the least known of America's presidents, Polk was also one of the most important in the history of the country's expansion—and one of the most controversial.
  • Woodrow Wilson: Although tremendously respected across the political spectrum, Wilson failed to achieve his most important foreign policy goals.

An Engaging, Informative Instructor

Professor Stoler has devoted more than 30 years to the study of U.S. diplomatic and military history. A prolific author of books on American foreign policy and the recipient of numerous teaching awards from the University of Vermont, Professor Stoler imbues these lectures with an enlightening depth and breadth.

Professor Stoler's expertise makes America and the World an engaging look at a unique facet of American history. Weaving together events and personalities, he shows you how and why America gained its current station.

Whether exploring events as diverse as the impressment of American seamen by the British in the early 19th century, the development and execution of the Marshall Plan, or the Cuban Missile Crisis, America and the World presents watershed moments in history through the perspective of foreign policy and diplomacy.

The result is an entertaining course that will not only deepen your outlook on American history but will also prove that not all history is made on the battlefield.

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24 Lectures
  • 1
    Achieving Independence
    This lecture introduces you to important course themes, including isolationism, mission, expansionism, idealism, and realism. You learn about their origins in American history and their importance in America's rise to superpower status, as well as their apparent contradictions, especially as they emerged during the Revolutionary War. x
  • 2
    Confederation and the Constitution
    The postwar United States—13 sovereign, weak states gathered into a loose confederation—lived a threatened existence. You examine those threats and how they led to the creation of the Constitution, which established a stronger form of government capable of conducting a vigorous foreign policy. x
  • 3
    The Great Debate—Jefferson versus Hamilton
    The French Revolution and resulting European war produced foreign policy crises for George Washington and two fundamentally different policy recommendations. The partisan debate that followed threatened to rip the nation apart and contributed to Washington's Farewell Address. x
  • 4
    From the Farewell Address to the Quasi War
    Washington's Farewell Address is one of the most misunderstood documents in American history. You explore what Washington meant and then move to one of the most important yet overlooked periods in U.S. history: the politically courageous presidency of his successor, John Adams. x
  • 5
    Jefferson and the "Empire of Liberty"
    Thomas Jefferson's ideas regarding territorial expansion and its relationship to liberty became a dominant American force. This lecture focuses on those ideas and Jefferson's attempts to implement them, including the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which more than doubled the size of the United States. x
  • 6
    The "Second War for Independence"
    Attempts by Jefferson and his successor, James Madison, to use peaceful economic coercion to defend American neutrality failed to prevent a second war with England. You learn how the War of 1812 produced numerous gains for the United States. x
  • 7
    John Quincy Adams & American Continentalism
    This lecture considers the continental vision and diplomacy of John Quincy Adams—perhaps America's greatest secretary of state—including his authorship of the Monroe Doctrine, which reserved the entire Western Hemisphere for future U.S. expansion and influence. x
  • 8
    "Manifest Destiny" and War with Mexico
    Adams's diplomacy begins a period of expansion that by 1848 has added Oregon, Texas, California, and New Mexico, the last three by war. Americans justified this as "Manifest Destiny," particularly as practiced by President James K. Polk. x
  • 9
    Causes and Diplomacy of the Civil War
    The territorial acquisitions of the 1840s magnified sectional tensions, thus playing a major role in the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. You gain fresh insight into how that happened before shifting your focus to Union and Confederate diplomacy during the conflict. x
  • 10
    The "New Empire" of Overseas Imperialism
    The post–Civil War years witnessed an industrial explosion that made the United States the world's mightiest economic power. You examine early efforts at overseas expansion and learn how the 1898 war with Spain left the United States with a formal colonial empire. x
  • 11
    Informal Empire—Roosevelt to Wilson
    Whereas President William McKinley established a formal empire, his successors established a related but informal one. You learn how and why, and the roles played by the openly imperialist Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the supposedly anti-imperialist Woodrow Wilson. x
  • 12
    "The War to End All Wars"
    You explore Woodrow Wilson's efforts to avoid entry into World War I and why they failed, and his plan to remake international relations in a postwar world that would be "safe for democracy," as set forth in his famous 14 Points speech and other addresses. x
  • 13
    The Peace Treaty and Wilson's Heritage
    Why were Wilson's efforts at the Paris Peace Conference largely unsuccessful? You explore the reasons for his many compromises and failures but also learn why he still must be considered one of the most influential figures in America's rise to superpower status. x
  • 14
    Interwar Isolationism and Internationalism
    Recent scholarship has challenged the interpretation of the United States as isolationist in the 1920s and 1930s. Learn why U.S. policies during this period are better described as "independent internationalism" and assess their relative successes and failures in the years between the wars. x
  • 15
    U.S. Entry into World War II
    You learn why the United States moved from neutrality to support of those nations at war with the Axis powers and then to its own declaration of war and explore the massive domestic debate over U.S. policy and the controversy about Pearl Harbor. x
  • 16
    World War II Diplomacy and the FDR Legacy
    You focus on the Allied coalition's conflicting interests; the efforts of Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt to reconcile differences to achieve victory; and an assessment of Roosevelt as a diplomat and war leader. x
  • 17
    Origins of the Cold War
    The United States emerged from the war with enormously expanded military power, but so did the Soviets. You look at the Soviets' shift from ally to adversary; key American policies enunciated during this period, including the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and Containment; and the formation of NATO. x
  • 18
    Cold War Turns Hot—Asia and the Korean War
    Although the cold war remained cold in Europe, a host of armed conflicts seized Asia. You examine American decisions to intervene—most notably in Korea—with enormous consequences for the next two decades of American foreign policy. x
  • 19
    Eisenhower and the Global Cold War
    This lecture attempts a balanced foreign-affairs assessment of Dwight D. Eisenhower's controversial presidency. x
  • 20
    Kennedy and the Ultimate Cold War Crisis
    The United States and the Soviet Union went to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. You explore the origins and unfolding of the crisis and examine some of President John Kennedy's other foreign and defense policies in assessing his overall legacy. x
  • 21
    Vietnam and the War at Home
    Beginning under President Truman, American involvement in Vietnam was transformed and expanded by three subsequent administrations. This lecture examines that expansion and why it failed and attempts to grasp the meaning and impact of this tragic chapter in American history. x
  • 22
    The Nixon-Kissinger "Grand Design"
    Failure in Vietnam forced a recognition of the limits of American power and an attempt to create a balance between desired ends and available means. The result was the most fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy since World x
  • 23
    Ideology Anew and the End of the Cold War
    The years 1976–1988 saw what appeared to be two diametrically opposed foreign policies. In truth, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had much in common in their criticism of the Nixon-Kissinger approach—but vastly different ideas about what should be done. x
  • 24
    The United States and the World Since 1991
    You review the movement of the United States to its position as the most powerful nation the world has ever seen before analyzing why this movement took place, the major ideas Americans developed during the process, and the challenges that lie ahead. x

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Mark A. Stoler
Ph.D. Mark A. Stoler
The University of Vermont

Dr. Mark Stoler, who holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin, is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Vermont. An expert in U.S. foreign relations and military history, as well as the origins of the cold war, Professor Stoler has also held teaching positions at the United States Military Academy, the Army Military History Institute, the Naval War College, and-as a Fulbright Professor-the University of Haifa, Israel. He is the recipient of the University of Vermont's Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award, and the University Scholar Award, as well as the Dean's Lecture Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Teaching, awarded by the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Professor Stoler also has been honored as an author when his Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II received the Society for Military History's Distinguished Book Award for 2002. The book is one of several he has written or cowritten, including Allies in War: Britain and America Against the Axis Powers, 1940-1945; Debating Franklin D. Roosevelt's Foreign Policies, 1933-1945; Major Problems in the History of World War II; George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century; and The Politics of the Second Front: American Military Planning and Diplomacy in Coalition Warfare, 1941-1943.

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