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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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Preface (Greg Robinson)


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I have known Zacharie Leclair since the moment several years ago when he met with me to describe his idea for a doctoral thesis on Charles R. Crane, and asked me to serve as his adviser, to which I swiftly agreed. Only much later did Zacharie reveal to me how alternately impressed and disconcerted he was by the speed of my positive reply! With my friend Professor Bruno Ramirez serving as co-director, we proceeded to guide Zacharie along the research and writing of his thesis. Throughout the process, I enjoyed our interactions, and I was impressed by his development from a neophyte into a mature historical researcher. Now Zacharie has undertaken the transformation of his work into a book, and he has invited me to write the preface. It is a great privilege for me to serve as godfather at the christening, as it were, of this firstborn product of his historical talent.

Zacharie Leclair’s book uncovers the unheralded career and contributions of Charles R. Crane. A philanthropist, reformer, and American diplomat, Crane was one of the few rich men of the day to throw himself into political reform, from promoting science and technology to laboring in favor of international democracy and freedom. Rescuing Crane from his existing near-total obscurity, the author reveals with brio the different ways in which ← xi | xii → Crane operated as supporter and advisor to President Woodrow Wilson during the years from 1912 to 1921.

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