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A William Appleman Williams Reader

When he died in 1990, William Appleman Williams was arguably the most influential and controversial of a generation of historians that came of age after World War II. Williams's revisionist writings, especially those dealing with American diplomatic history and the cold war, forced historians and other thinkers and policymakers to abandon old cliche's and confront disturbing questions about America's behavior in the world. Williams saw history as "a way of learning" and applied the principle brilliantly in books and essays which have altered our vision of the American past and present. In this rich collection, Henry Berger has drawn from Williams's most important writings - including The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, The Contours of American History, and The Roots of the Modern American Empire - to present his key arguments. There are selections in all, from books, essays, and articles, including two never before published. Mr. Berger has added notes to the selections and an enlightening introduction which explores Williams's career and ideas. Williams defined America's social, moral, constitutional, and economic development in uncompromising, iconoclastic, and original terms. Shunning the realist school of historical interpretation, he drew from the teachings of Spinoza, Marx, and Wilhelm Dilthey in his "process of choosing how I would make sense out of the world". His task, as he saw it, was to explore how distinct elements of historical development could together reveal the dynamic relationships of the reality in which it occurred. "Reality", he wrote, "involves how a political act is also an economic act, or how an economic decision is a political choice, or of how an idea offreedom involves a commitment to a particular economic system". These selections from Williams's key writings offer a valuable introduction as well as an intelligent guide to one of America's most important historical thinkers.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 Acknowledgements 7 Part 2 Introduction 11 Part 3 The Birth of Containment 37 Part 4 A Second Look at Mr. X 68 Part 5 The Legend of Isolationism in the 1920's 75 Part 6 The Frontier Thesis and American Foreign Policy 89 Part 7 Charles Austin Beard: The Intellectual as Tory-Radical 105 Part 8 Imperial Anticolonialism 116 Part 9 The Nightmare of Depression and the Vision of Omnipotence 133 Part 10 The Wisdom of an Open Door for Revolutions 156 Part 11 The Age of Mercantilism, 1740-1828 162 Part 12 The Age of Laissez Nous Faire, 1819-1896 221 Part 13 The Age of Corporation Capitalism, 1882- 239 Part 14 The Central Utility of Marx 267 Part 15 A Survey of the Territory 276 Part 16 What This Country Needs... 324 Part 17 Confessions of an Intransigent Revisionist 336 Part 18 Let Us Make Our Own Future with the Help of the Past 345 Part 19 The Empire at Bay 360 Part 20 Thoughts on the Comparative Uses of Power 376 Part 21 The Annapolis Crowd 385 Part 22 Afterword 393 Part 23 Bibliography 399 Part 24 Index 405

About the Author

Henry W. Berger, a former student of William Appleman Williams, is now associate professor of history at Washington University, St. Louis. He has written widely on the history of American foreign relations.


Path-breaking, controversial analysis that is as fresh and pointed today as at its inception. -- Susan E. Parker Library Journal Voluminous writing... the historian whose perspectives about the United States and its relations with the world challenged and altered conventional interpretations of American diplomatic history. Journal of the Early Republic A splendid collection from his works...a real treat. Virginia Quarterly Review Concise. -- Paul Buhle and Eric Rice-Maximin Dissent.

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