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Revisionism Reconsidered: Exports and American Intervention in World War I

Benjamin O. Fordham
International Organization
Vol. 61, No. 2 (Spring, 2007), pp. 277-310
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4498146
Page Count: 34
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Revisionism Reconsidered: Exports and American Intervention in World War I
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Abstract

Why did the United States intervene in World War I, breaking with its long tradition of noninvolvement in European political and military conflicts? During the 1920s and 1930s, many "revisionist" historians argued that American efforts to protect its trade with the Allies ultimately led to intervention. The logic of the revisionist position closely parallels the contemporary liberal case that interdependence promotes peace but arrives at different conclusions about the relationship between trade and conflict. Historians have largely abandoned this economic interpretation of American intervention, but data on the impact of the wartime export boom on the United States suggest that it should be reconsidered. The export boom was so large that it would have been difficult to ignore, and its progress corresponds to the timing of important decisions leading to American belligerency. An analysis of congressional voting on war-related measures also suggests that export income helped shape politicians' views of the war.

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