Masterclass: "Histories of American Empire"

On Tuesday 12 November 2019 the RIAS hosted a Masterclass with Roosevelt Visiting Professor Anne L. Foster. 

American Empire Cartoon
Historians of the United States have written about the American empire for decades, but until the 1990s, much of the historiography revolved around the tired question of whether the United States was not or was (or is still) an empire.  More recently, historians have accepted that the United States is an empire, and have explored several fruitful questions, most importantly what kind of empire the United States has been, and in what ways the fact of U.S. empire has shaped both US history and the regions where the United States exerts power. This debate has sometimes been heated, as in the exchange between Daniel Immerwahr and Paul Kramer in Diplomatic History, showing the stakes are high.  It remains puzzling, however, that few historians of U.S. empire have compared the United States to other empires, and even fewer identify as imperial historians.

This masterclass offered an opportunity to reflect on the challenges inherent to writing the history of the “American empire” in a global, trans-imperial context. It was led by Anne L. Foster, who is Roosevelt Visiting Professor at the RIAS for the Fall of 2019.

Dr. Foster is associate professor of History at Indiana State University and an editor of Diplomatic History, the journal of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.  She is author (2010) of Projections of Power: The United States and Europe in Colonial Southeast Asia, 1919-1941. Her most recent article will appear in Kristin Hoganson and Jay Sexton, eds., Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain (forthcoming, January 2020). She is currently writing a book about the regulation of opium in colonial Southeast Asia.