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Rethinking American Grand Strategy

Edited by Elizabeth Borgwardt, Christopher McKnight Nichols, and Andrew Preston

Publication Date - April 2021

ISBN: 9780190695675

512 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

A wide-ranging rethinking of the many factors that comprise the making of American Grand Strategy.


A wide-ranging rethinking of the many factors that comprise the making of American Grand Strategy.

What is grand strategy? What does it aim to achieve? And what differentiates it from normal strategic thought--what, in other words, makes it "grand"? In answering these questions, most scholars have focused on diplomacy and warfare, so much so that "grand strategy" has become almost an equivalent of "military history." The traditional attention paid to military affairs is understandable, but in today's world it leaves out much else that could be considered political, and therefore strategic. It is in fact possible to consider, and even reach, a more capacious understanding of grand strategy, one that still includes the battlefield and the negotiating table while expanding beyond them. Just as contemporary world politics is driven by a wide range of non-military issues, the most thorough considerations of grand strategy must consider the bases of peace and security--including gender, race, the environment, and a wide range of cultural, social, political, and economic issues.

Rethinking American Grand Strategy assembles a roster of leading historians to examine America's place in the world. Its innovative chapters re-examine familiar figures, such as John Quincy Adams, George Kennan, and Henry Kissinger, while also revealing the forgotten episodes and hidden voices of American grand strategy. They expand the scope of diplomatic and military history by placing the grand strategies of public health, race, gender, humanitarianism, and the law alongside military and diplomatic affairs to reveal hidden strategists as well as strategies.


  • Broadens the range of topics treated historically as part of grand strategy, as well as the range of experts offering the analysis
  • Offers depth around questions such as why history matters in specific sets of contexts
  • Brings together a group of preeminent scholars, many of the best and most well-regarded thinkers in the field today, to construct a historically rich account of how Grand Strategy has developed and operated in American history

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Borgwardt, Associate Professor of History and Law, Washington University in St. Louis, Christopher McKnight Nichols, Director of the Center for the Humanities and Associate Professor of History, Oregon State University, Andrew Preston, Professor of American History, University of Cambridge.

Elizabeth Borgwardt is an associate professor of history and law at Washington University in St. Louis and the author of A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights.

Christopher McKnight Nichols is Director of the Center for the Humanities and Associate Professor of History at Oregon State University and the author of Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age.

Andrew Preston is Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge and the author of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy and American Foreign Relations: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2019), among other books.


"This collection...covers an impressive range of topics and offers a comprehensive snapshot of the history and current state of the scholarly conversations around U.S. grand strategy.... To the editors' credit, many of the essays speak directly to and even disagree with one another, highlighting tensions in grand strategy scholarship while also questioning the value of the central concept itself. In that sense, the volume appropriately raises far more questions than it answers, which, along with the overall readability of the chapters, make this collection very teachable. It would be a wonderful addition to upper-level undergraduate courses in history, political science, and international relations, and should be required reading for the foreseeable future in graduate seminars on the history of U.S. politics, diplomacy, and foreign relations." -- Ed Martini, Journal of American History

"The contributors seek to interject voices that have far too long been absent from the traditional conception of grand strategy as the sole province of presidents and diplomats. The noteworthy result is a valuable reformulation of grand strategy from merely statecraft to human relations in a globalized world in three critical dimensions, considering what grand strategy is, who influences it, and how to study it. The volume comprises a beneficial introduction and 22 exceptional chapters....All the chapters are well written and cogently argued, presenting a vast array of novel perspectives. This exceptional volume is an indispensable contribution to a more comprehensive discernment of American grand strategy that accounts for culture and incorporates original interpretations on this essential subject. Summing Up: Essential. General readers, advanced undergraduates through faculty, professionals." -- Choice

"While the volume invites researchers and historians to revisit colorful American characters and grand American ideas, it does not inundate the readers with terminology or language that undermine the appeal of the book to casual observers of American history....This book should be welcomed at any institutional, public, or home library....Aspiring military leaders should avail themselves of the opportunities that this book has to explore, such as vital military operations other than war." -- Mark S. Cogan, Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs

"Rethinking American Grand Strategy was thought provoking and enjoyable to read." -- S.C.M. Paine, War in History

"This fascinating and carefully organized anthology examines U.S. grand strategy from the Federalists to the present and strategists from W.E. B. du Bois to George H.W. Bush, from angles ranging from diplomacy to race....Thought provoking and enjoyable to read, a volume that invites further research." -- S. C.M. Paine, War in History

"This volume... is a valuable contribution to the task of broadly rethinking the goals and tactics of U.S. foreign policy. The analyses it presents aresolidly rooted in history and provide thought-provoking insights into issues and actors that grand strategists rarely consider." -- Jessica T. Mathews

"'Grand strategy' is a term that is as difficult to define as it is widely used by scholars and practitioners. This volume's editors and contributors believe that the concept needs to be reconceived....It should be broadened beyond its roots in military affairs and conventionally defined security to include a variety of additional issues, such as immigration, public health, demographics, international assistance, and climate change. It also needs to reach beyond its traditional focus on the state as the only important player to include other influential voices and actors....This volume...is a valuable contribution to the task of broadly rethinking the goals and tactics of U.S. foreign policy. The analyses it presents are solidly rooted in history and provide thought-provoking insights into issues and actors that grand strategists rarely consider" -- Jessica T. Mathews, Foreign Affairs

"This is, overall, a fantastic book. It's incredibly thought provoking and well researched. I appreciated that it challenged the current ways of thinking of Grand Strategy, and questioned the approaches taken by leaders throughout American history...This book would be a great read for a student of American History, Government, or Political Science, and I believe it offers a unique perspective to anyone looking to understand the use of Grand Strategy over the past two centuries." -- Kyra Young, Corvallis Advocate

"I have never seen the words 'grand strategy' and 'global health' in the same sentence, much less an exploration of race and grand strategy. Rethinking Grand Strategy is not what you likely expect, and is far better for it. It is a genuine step toward changing what we think about when we think about grand strategy and who does the thinking." -- Anne-Marie Slaughter, Professor Emerita, Princeton University

"This is a terrific collection on the highs and lows of US grand strategy and the debate over its significance. Giving ample room for dissenting voices, the volume reaffirms the necessity of strategic thinking for producing favorable outcomes on issues ranging from national security to reproductive politics." -- O.A. Westad, Yale University

Table of Contents

    Introduction- Christopher McKnight Nichols and Andrew Preston
    I. Frameworks
    1. Getting Grand Strategy Right: Clearing Away Common Fallacies in the Grand Strategy Debate- Hal Brands
    2. The Blob and the Mob: On Grand Strategy and Social Change- Beverly Gage
    3. Turning the Tide: The Application of Grand Strategy to Global Health- Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor
    II. Historical Grand Narratives
    4. Extending the Sphere: A Federalist Grand Strategy- Charles Edel
    5. Grand Strategy of the Master Class: Slavery and Foreign Policy from the Antebellum Era to the Civil War-Matthew Karp
    6. A Useful Category of Analysis? Grand Strategy and US Foreign Relations from the Civil War through World War I- Katherine C. Epstein
    7. Grand Strategies (or Ascendant Ideas) since 1919- David Milne
    III. Recasting Central Figures
    8. Woodrow Wilson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Beyond: American Internationalists and the Crucible of World War I-I- Christopher McKnight Nichols
    9. Franklin Roosevelt, the New Deal, and Grand Strategy: Constructing the Postwar Order- Elizabeth Borgwardt
    10. Foreign Policy Begins at Home: Americans, Grand Strategy, and World War II- Michaela Hoenicke Moore
    11. National Security as Grand Strategy: Edward Mead Earle and the Burdens of World Power- Andrew Preston
    12. The Misanthropy Diaries: Containment, Democracy, and the Prejudices of George Frost Kennan- David Greenberg
    13. Implementing Grand Strategy: The Nixon-Kissinger Revolution at the National Security Council- William Inboden
    14. George H.W. Bush: Strategy and the Stream of History- Jeffrey A. Engel
    IV. New Approaches
    15. Foreign Missions and Strategy, Foreign Missions as Strategy- Emily Conroy-Krutz
    16. The Unbearable Whiteness of Grand Strategy- Adriane Lentz-Smith
    17. Rival Visions of Nationhood: Immigration Policy, Grand Strategy, and Contentious Politics- Daniel J. Tichenor
    18. Disastrous Grand Strategy: US Humanitarian Assistance and Global Natural Catastrophe- Julia F. Irwin
    19. Denizens of a Center: Rethinking Early Cold War Grand Strategy- Ryan Irwin
    20. Reproductive Politics and Grand Strategy- Laura Briggs
    V. Reflections from the American Century
    21. Casualties and the Concept of Grandness: A View from the Korean War- Mary L. Dudziak
    22. American Grand Strategy: How Grand Has It Been? How Much Does It Matter?- Fredrik Logevall

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