My thesis aims to examine how the meanings attributed to the Monroe Doctrine changed during the early twentieth century and will discern how this affected the ways in which Americans perceived the United States’ position within international and hemispheric affairs.
As important events shaped the development of the nation’s foreign relations, including the Spanish-American War, the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902, the Mexican Revolution, the construction of the Panama Canal, the First World War and the treaty fight, the Monroe Doctrine was a constant consideration, given its position as a historic foreign policy tradition. Debates among politicians, diplomats, academics, lawyers and military officials over the meaning and application of the doctrine reached an all-time high during this period and, as such, the doctrine’s meaning fractured into a number of interpretations, transforming it from a fluid policy into a contested one.
By the dawning of the Monroe Doctrine’s centennial anniversary in 1923, a variety of Pan-American and imperialistic reinterpretations of the doctrine permeated national consciousness, complicating its meaning and demonstrating the competing interests that laid at the heart of United States foreign relations. Broader themes of imperialism, race, international law, anti-colonialism, American exceptionalism, regional hegemony, isolationism and Pan-Americanism underpin this project and I aim to demonstrate how perceptions of the Monroe Doctrine infused wider national concerns.