Benjamin Coates

  • Fellowship year:2008-2009
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
  • Dissertation Title: Trans-Atlantic Advocates: The Discipline and the Politics of American International Law, 1900-1920
  • Between 1898 and 1919, isolation and exceptionalism ceased to dominate the narrative of American foreign relations. Debates over empire, neutrality, and a League of Nations merged with a newfound willingness to consider European solutions for American problems, opening up a fertile space for internationalist ideas about the proper place of the United States in the world. Among those offering new prescriptions was a group of men whom I term “legalists”. Counting among their ranks, politicians and leaders of civil society, as well as international lawyers and law professors, legalists promoted international law as the basis of America’s engagement in the world. They advocated a greater knowledge of and respect for the existing rules of international law and the creation of legal machinery to resolve disputes. In the years preceding World War I, legalists attained an unprecedented presence in elite society and in government, yet the extent and implications of their influence remain unexplored.

    By combining a study of legalism’s social and ideological roots with an analysis of its political context and diplomatic impact, this dissertation offers an evaluation of the genesis of American foreign policy making and the development of international law.