Interwar U.S. Foreign Policy: The Myth of U.S. Isolationism 1920-1940

USA GreenOverview:

U.S. interwar intervention existed around the globe. In Latin America, U.S. exercised power in Mexico (1910-1920), the Dominican Republic (1916-1924),  Cuba (1917-1933), Guatemala (1920), Honduras (1919, 1924, 1925), Panama (1918- 1920, 1925), Nicaragua (1927 – 1932),  El Salvador (1932), and Haiti (1915-1934). In Europe, the U.S. intervened in Russia (1918-1922), Yugoslavia (1919), and Turkey (1922).  In Asia, U.S. foreign policy with China included intervention between 1922-1934, and in the Philippines from 1898 -1946. Whether defined as militaristic, political, economic, or cultural, U.S. intervention was the norm, not the exception, in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Despite these events, the narrative of U.S. Isolationism persists in high school textbooks and curriculum standards including the AP and IB programs.

Essential Questions:

  1. How is isolationism explained? Is it a valid claim?
  2. What are the limits of the isolation/intervention duality?
  3. To what extent can a global power be isolationist?
  4. What are the implied goals of a national narrative promoting isolationism?

Module Resources:

  1. Scholar Presentation Slides, by Gregg Brazinsky
    • Myth of Isolationism Scholar Presentation  (click title to download powerpoint slides)
    • “On the whole, the 1920’s were not really a time of isolationism but of American economic and cultural engagement with the rest of the world.  It was really the Great Depression, which brought an end to this.  As other nations of the globe started to suffer economically, promoting American exports became a futile task.  Economic conflicts emerged and these conflicts in turn would slowly lead to political conflicts by the mid-1930’s. “
    • Supplemental Powerpoint Presentation: The Myth of Isolationism  (click title to download powerpoint slides)  This link takes you to TES resources.  Download slides there.  It has been used in a high school US History class.
  2. C3 Inquiry Lesson
  3. Secondary Sources/Informational Texts
  4. Primary Sources


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One Comment

  1. Thank you, this is a good summer resource to review for updating a curriculum

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