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 current research project examines the relationship between the rise of the American public relations industry and the concurrent rise of the United States as a world power in the twentieth century. This project offers the first comprehensive analysis of the relationship between these two trends, which reveals an important history of powerful but unelected influence over public opinion and corporate connections to government. Tracing the involvement of public relations firms through the “American century,” the project highlights how public relations firms influenced government but also clashed with it, and how they offered techniques to manage and manipulate opinion on foreign relations still used today. The project evolved out of my previous work, and the first work from it can be seen in my 2019 article “Spinning War and Peace” in the Journal of American Studies.

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. In the years immediately preceding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the majority of Americans wanted no direct involvement 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.

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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