Peter Simons

  • Fellowship year:2011-2012
  • University: University of Chicago
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
  • Dissertation Title: Isolationism on the Road to Damascus: The Midwestern Re-Imagination of the World, 1937-1953
  • This dissertation examines the creation of an international imaginary in the United States from World War I to the Korean War. It argues that farmers in the Upper Midwest, motivated by changes in agriculture, embraced international cooperation and promoted US intervention after World War II. They used a global supply of workers and consumer to remain solvent and responded to social and cultural displacement by claiming their national and international importance. For example, while the US government and much of the American public was uncommitted to famine relief at the end of World War II, farmers asserted their responsibility to feed the world and took advantage of foreign demand to prolong their wartime prosperity. These voluntary commitments were in turn codified as Cold War foreign policy that lasted until the 1990s. By linking the everyday lives of farms—those ostensibly the most distant from foreign policy—to global events, the dissertation seeks to tell a social history of international relations. It further argues that in order to better understand history, we must pay attention to the human relationship to the land.