Synopses & Reviews
As President of the United States, 1913-21, Woodrow Wilson directed American foreign policy during the First World War, leading the United States into the conflict in 1917 and playing a major role at the Paris peace conference. He is one of the most significant figures of twentieth century history.
This profile, which is based upon the recently-completed publication of the Wilson Papers, presents a fresh view of his career. It provides an integrated interpretation of his academic career as a political scientist and university president, his style as a domestic politician and his conduct of foreign policy - topics that have generally been treated separately and very differently. It shows that, from an early age, Wilson's chief interest was in the nature of political leadership in a democracy, and describes the great success he enjoyed when he had an opportunity to practice this role himself. Although his ultimate failure to persuade the Senate to accept the League of Nations has left a misleading impression that Wilson was an unrealistic visionary, it took great political skill to lead a largely united country into its first major attempt to shape the world beyond the Western Hemisphere. Thompson¿s book presents an alternative, more rounded and ultimately more positive portrait of this major President, showing that he was a very able and pragmatic politician.
John S. Thompson is Fellow of St Catharine¿s College, Cambridge. He is the author of `Reformers and War:American Progressive Publicists and the First World War¿ (1987).
'This is a book that, while being accessible to studnets, will be stimulating to scholars. It is a valuable contribution to Wilsonian scholarship.'
The Journal of Southern History, Feb 2004
Most famous in Europe for his efforts to establish the League of Nations under US leadership at the end of the First World War, Woodrow Wilson stands as one of America¿s most influential and visionary presidents. A Democrat who pursued progressive domestic policies during his first term in office, he despised European colonialism and believed that the recipe for world peace was the self-determination of all peoples, particularly those under the yoke of the vast Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. His efforts to resist heavy reparations on Germany fell on deaf ears, while the refusal of France, Russia and Britain to accept a League of Nations led by America, together with the US Senate¿s refusal to ratify the League, led to its ultimate failure. Woodrow Wilson has traditionally been seen by both admirers and critics as an idealist and a heroic martyr to the cause of internationalism. But John Thompson takes a different view, arguing that Wilson was a pragmatist, whose foreign policy was flexible and responsive to pressures and events. His conclusion, that Wilson was in fact an exceptionally skilful politician, who succeeded in maintaining national unity whilst leading America onto the world stage for the first time in its history, offers a challenging interpretation for anyone interested in the man and his era.
About the Author
Professor Thompson teaches history at St Catherine's College, University of Cambridge.
Table of Contents
1. Image of Wilson
2. The making of a political leader
3. Practicing politics, 1902- 12
4. A progressive President
5. Responding to the war in Europe, 1914 - 17
6. A war president
7. The appearance of power: Wilson in Paris