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Date of Graduation
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
Steven W. Guerrier
The common narrative of the 1920s is either to largely ignore the nation during this time and the men who presided over it or to simply dismiss the decade as a time of isolationism and Republican failure and the three presidents as corrupt, lazy, silent, or incompetent. The problems of the more typical narratives are most starkly shown in the realm of foreign policy. A more thorough examination of the role of President Calvin Coolidge and the American nation in that area reveals something very different. Because, if we approach those years as a “historical way station on the road to the New Deal” and Coolidge’s Presidency as years of inaction then we will miss much of the reality of not only Coolidge’s thoughts and actions while President, but also this nation’s deep and complex level of global interaction that occurred during those interwar years.
The best way to challenge the normal narrative is granting even greater voice to President Calvin Coolidge himself. He wrote and delivered hundreds of speeches during his political career, presidential or otherwise. Through his presidential speeches we see not inaction and inactivity, but thoughtful and prudent action and an expectation of other men in his administration to do their jobs. Instead of a United States cut off from the world, hoarding her wealth, ignoring pleas for help, and sitting alone in isolation, we are provided glimpses of global and regional cooperation, the expansion of international trade, and the desire to create peace separately from political entanglements like the League of Nations. These visions of President Coolidge and American foreign policy in the 1920s should change the way we think about and teach the period.
Webster, Joel, "Coolidge against the world: Peace, prosperity, and foreign policy in the 1920s" (2017). Masters Theses. 501.