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Charles R. Crane and Wilsonian Progressivism


Zacharie Leclair

This book presents a study of the career of Charles R. Crane, a central player in President Woodrow Wilson’s entourage. In the wake of the U.S. intervention in the Great War, Crane participated in important diplomatic and fact-finding missions. Leclair follows Crane through revolutionary Russia and on the Western front, in the emerging countries born out of the Ottoman Empire, and then in postwar China. In the process, Leclair’s book offers original insights into some of the major domestic and international decisions that define Wilson’s presidency and its legacy in the history of the United States and of international relations, most notably Wilson’s motivation and effort to bring about a new world order under American political and moral leadership. Leclair convincingly portrays Crane as a proponent of the principle of self-determination –one, indeed, whose aversion to colonialism predated Wilson’s international vision as formulated in his Fourteen Points. While a convergence of reform interest and humanitarian concerns brought Crane and Wilson together on some of the most complex issues of the time, Crane’s vision –propelled by a genuine philanthropic commitment—adds substance to what has largely been derided as empty Wilsonian idealism. The thematic structure of this book, the quality of its narration, and the wealth of information it contains, are added elements that make it an excellent contribution to the field of U.S. history. It could be used as a an assigned reading in college or university courses, especially in advanced American history, American Political thought and international relations courses.

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This work is the fruit of a long journey which involved many people and asked of them much more than I would have liked. Therefore, it is my responsibility to properly and sincerely thank those who supported this project until its culmination.

As this book was originally a doctoral dissertation, I first and foremost want to thank my thesis supervisors, Bruno Ramirez and Greg Robinson. Bruno, without knowing it, sparked my interest for American history and Wilsonianism and inspired me to start this project. Greg, for his part, became a patient mentor, an insightful editor, and an excellent intermediary who worked tirelessly to integrate me into this little circle of historians, while also proving to be an exceptionally generous friend. He has honored me today by writing the preface to my first book. Greg and Bruno, this book also belongs to you.

Furthermore, I wish to highlight the kindness and edifying feedback provided by my dissertation committee: Frédérick Gagnon, Bernard Lemelin, and François Furstenberg. I must also recognize Thomas Crane’s warm generosity in allowing me to consult the Crane family archives.

I feel indebted to the historians, researchers, and writers who preceded me in the study of Wilsonianism. Any revision or contradiction of their work, ← xv | xvi → new or old, should not be seen as an attempt to discredit their conclusions but rather as part of the perpetual dialogue between researchers for the purpose of better understanding of history...

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