Lesson 1: The Origins of "Wilsonianism"

The influence of President Woodrow Wilson on American foreign policy has been profound and lasting. Just before his inauguration, however, Wilson remarked, "[i]t would be the irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs." How did this former professor and Progressive reformer become the architect of an ambitious foreign policy for the United States? Using a variety of primary sources, this lesson analyzes the sources of the foreign policy that came to be known as Wilsonianism and guides students to compare it with important traditions in American foreign policy.

Guiding Questions

What were the key features of Wilson's foreign policy, and how did it differ from previous American foreign policy?

Learning Objectives

Discuss how the academic career and Progressivism of Wilson shaped his ideas about foreign policy

Identify four major points of "Wilsonianism": spreading democracy, open markets, an international organization dedicated to keeping peace, and an active global role for the United States

Explain what was both traditional and new about Wilsonianism