Research Interests

Research Themes

My research focuses on 20th-century US foreign policy, particularly on the theme of US internationalism, and on relations between the state and private spheres in creating and mobilising support for US foreign policy.

Current Research Projects

My most recent book was a co-edited volume (with Andrew Priest) entitled US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy. It examines how the relationship between foreign policy and electoral politics evolved through the latter half of the twentieth century. Covering all presidential elections from 1940 to 1992—from debates over American entry into World War II to the aftermath of the Cold War—the contributors correct the conventional wisdom that domestic issues and the economy are always definitive. Together they demonstrate that, while international concerns were more important in some campaigns than others, foreign policy always matters and is often decisive. This illuminating commentary fills a significant gap in the literature on presidential and electoral politics, emphasizing that candidates’ positions on global issues have a palpable impact on American foreign policy.

In 2014 I published Against Immediate Evil, a study of US internationalism in the years immediately prior to Pearl Harbor. The completion of the book was supported by an Early Career Fellowship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Why did the United States enter World War II in 1941? The obvious answer to that question is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941 - "a date which will live in infamy," according to President Franklin Roosevelt. In the years immediately preceding the attack, the majority of Americans wanted nothing to do with the ongoing wars in Asia and Europe. However, this project focuses on organised groups of influential American citizens who argued for restrictions on trade with Japan, greater military support to Britain, and even an American declaration of war long before the Hawaiian attack. These internationalist Americans - through groups such as the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, Fight for Freedom, and the American Committee for Non-Participation in Japanese Aggression - worked to influence both the American Government and the broader American public about the need for greater American involvement in world affairs. They actively promoted a more global role for the United States long before war came to America.

My interest in the relationship between the state and private spheres has also been seen in two other publications.  Firstly, an article on the State Department's Division of Public Liaison was published in Diplomatic History in 2011.  This government office, set up in 1944, was at the heart of the US government's earliest efforts to involve the public in foreign policy matters. This provides an excellent opportunity to study the relationship between the state and private spheres from the side of the government in the early years of the Cold War.  Secondly, I edited a volume with Helen Laville entitled the US Public and American Foreign Policy, based on a colloquium held at the University of Leicester in April 2008.  The volume is in the Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy series.

In 2016-17 I held a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award entitled "The US and US: American History in Britain in the 21st Century." This enabled me to create two events (in Leicester and London) to develop the skills of early career historians of the United States based in Britain.

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