Over There: Why America
Entered World War I

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
10:00–11:30 a.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Dirk Bonker
Laverack Family Assistant Professor of History, Duke University

About the Seminar

The United States declared its neutrality in 1914. According to President Wilson’s August 1914 appeal to the American people, what were the challenges of neutrality for the United States as both a great power and an immigrant nation? From the beginning, American wartime neutrality became a contested proposition in need of continuous clarification. How did matters of transatlantic finance and trade test the commitment to neutrality? What solutions were found by the Wilson administration? In his addresses to Congress, President Wilson made his case for U.S. intervention. On what grounds and with what goals did he take the nation into war? In April 1917 Congress debated the U.S. entry into the war. What was the case against the war as articulated by its most prominent opponents in the Senate and House?

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Assigned Readings

  1. The Beginning
  2. Meanings of Neutrality
  3. Debating Maritime Warfare 1915
  4. Travel, War, and Neutrality
  5. Preparedness, Peace, and War
  6. Socialist Critics
  7. German-Americans
  8. War of Images
  9. Wilson’s Case
  10. Congressional Anti-War Speeches
    • Senator George Norris, Speech, April 4, 1917
    • Senator Robert LaFollette, Speech, April 4, 1917
    • Representative Claude Kitchin, Speech, April 5, 1917
  11. Military Views
  12. Intellectuals Temptations
  13. Promises of War?
  14. Cartoons