The field of US foreign-relations history is not what it used to be, and that’s a good thing. Earlier historians narrowly defined the field as diplomatic history and kept vast swathes of the United States’ interactions with the world from being explored. In the middle of the 1990s, for example, even the very consideration of gender in the history of US foreign policy could cause controversy (as demonstrated in the 1997 H-Diplo listserv feud about a ground-breaking article on the role of gender in US Cold War strategy). Today, however, gender is a key object of study in the history of US foreign relations, along with race, the environment, globalization, technology, and a myriad of other topics.
Thankfully, we now have an edited volume that comprehensively catalogues the current field’s exciting diversity of approaches and subjects. Entitled A Companion to U.S. Foreign Relations: Colonial Era to the Present, it was published last year by Wiley-Blackwell and was edited by the indefatigable Christopher Dietrich. I spoke with Dietrich, as well two of the contributors, Emily Conroy-Krutz and Megan Black, about the Companion and about the study of the history of US foreign relations more broadly. Our conversation will hopefully provide some guidance through the volume’s impressive 1100-plus pages.
Dexter Fergie is a doctoral student in US and global history at Northwestern University. His research examines the history of ideas, infrastructure, and international organizations.