Alliance Politics and the Global Economy

In two new book projects, I adopt a historical approach to understanding how the global economy influences alliance politics (within the context of the American Civil War) and how alliance wartime policies eventually shaped the global economy (within the context of World War I).

The first book project is tentatively titled The Approach of Danger: The International Origins of the American Civil War. In this project, I seek to understand how the global cotton trade influenced the initiation of civil war in the United States in 1861. I contend that Southern secession and the Northern response to secession are largely explained by a belief by both parties that the European dependence on Southern cotton would led the Europeans to recognize and then form an alliance with the Southern Confederacy.

My initial research on this topic appeared in Security Studies. This piece argues that Lincoln’s cabinet ultimately decided to respond to southern secession with military violence (in the form of the First Battle of Bull Run) in order to prevent European recognition. This paper offers a new narrative on the onset of the American Civil War. While it is well recognized by historians that concerns over European recognition influence Union behavior throughout the war (from the Trent Affair to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation), scholars have not fully considered that this concern would have influenced events at the war's beginning. Additionally, this paper uses the notion of preventive war to further develop the theoretical argument that fear of foreign support for a rebel group can drive a government to initiate violence against that group. This paper was featured here and reviewed here.

The research for the Security Studies paper inspired me and three co-authors to investigate the broader phenomenon of leaders "Backing In" to a war. The literature on audience costs commonly explores when leaders "back out" of a threat to us force. The claim is that leaders will be punished by their domestic constituents for the inconsistency between their words and deeds. We extend this logic to the idea that a leader should also be published for entering a conflict after promising not to use force (which was the case with Lincoln, as well as Woodrow Wilson prior to US entry to World War I). We find that leaders can experience a loss of public support for "Backing In", but the punishment is smaller than that experienced for "Backing out". Moreover, consistent with other research, we find that leaders can reduce these costs by claiming new information or changed circumstances. This study appeared in the American Journal of Political Science (with policy implications discussed here).

The second book project, tentatively titled Forged by War: From Great War to Global Economy, is co-authored with Rosella Capella Zielinski. This project is inspired by work on historical institutionalism and seeks to unpack the legacy of allied economic cooperation during World War I. We contend that core features of prominent institutions that operate in the modern global economy -- from the European Union, to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and even the World Trade Organization -- were first devised during World War I. The strain of war compelled the major powers to experiment with various forms of institutionalized economic cooperation, including the creation of international organizations possessing supranational authority. These wartime institutions then explicitly served as the blueprints for designing the international institutions that shaped the global economy after 1945. While this project is new, Rosella and I have presented (or will be presenting) components of it at the annual meetings of the Peace Science Society and International Studies Association, and in seminars at the University of Southern California, University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M University, University of Illinois, University of Colorado, Dartmouth College, and Yale University.

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