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The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion (Studies in American Thought and Culture) Paperback – December 19, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in American Thought and Culture
  • Paperback: 550 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (December 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299295249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299295240
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Richard Drake's superb biography of Robert La Follette is a fresh, fascinating, and highly readable account of a great figure in American history. But it is also an important, indeed stimulating, analysis that can instruct our era how this popular U.S. Progressive senator from Wisconsin repeatedly and courageously stood up against his era's reactionary and avidly pro-war politicians."—Walter LaFeber, Cornell University

"This book addresses big themes: republic or empire, progressive politics, freedom and censorship in wartime, and congressional and executive foreign policymaking powers. A vivid portrait of Robert La Follette that shows why he was such a thorn in the side of those who sought to conduct 'business as usual.'"—Susan Brewer, author of Why America Fights

"There are other biographies of Robert La Follette, obviously, but none that probes so deeply into the intellectual development of an American anti-imperialist. This is a very important piece of scholarship that deserves a wide reading."—Lloyd Gardner, author of Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East after World War II

About the Author

Richard Drake is professor of history at the University of Montana. He is the author of Apostles and Agitators: Italy's Marxist Revolutionary Tradition and The Aldo Moro Murder Case among other works.

More About the Author

Richard Drake is a historian of Europe and the United States. After graduate work in American history at Brown University and UC Santa Barbara, he earned a PhD at UCLA in 1976 with a specialty in European history. He then taught at UCLA, UC Irvine, Wellesley College, and Princeton University before joining the University of Montana history department. His courses at UM include European Cultural and Intellectual History, Contemporary Europe, Modern Italy, and Terrorism in the Modern World. After publishing four books about Italian history, the course on terrorism prompted the expansion of his research interests to include the United States.

One of the texts for the course is Osama bin Laden's Messages to the World, where he claims that the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres placed Muslim relations with the West on the path that led directly to 9/11. Under the imperialists' guise of League of Nations mandates, the Treaty of Sèvres transferred the Arab lands of the former Ottoman Empire to new occupying powers: Great Britain, France, Italy, and--behind the scenes--their financial associates in New York City. To understand what bin Laden meant, it became necessary to examine the origins of the First World War and the ways in which its direful aftermath created or augmented the forces contributing to today's wars. The 1917 American intervention in the First World War determined this seminal conflict's outcome.

Research into the momentous American war to make the world safe for democracy repeatedly brought forth the name of Senator Robert La Follette. Among wartime American leaders, he played an outstanding part opposing intervention in the conflict, war-profiteering, the erosion of constitutional freedoms, and the treaties that ended the fighting. No book, however, could be found that traced the evolution of La Follette's thinking from his initial belief in the beneficence of American foreign policy to the complete breakdown of that faith. The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion is intended to fill that gap in the historical literature and to draw attention to the prophetic character of his warnings about the dangers to the world and the United States of its militarism and imperialism.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William Kostlevy on December 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
Richard Drake has written a long over due account of Robert M. La Follette, Sr.'s gradual emergence as an important critic of American empire. This is a work deeply rooted in primary sources. In many ways far broader than an introduction to "Fighting Bob's" views on empire, the work is the best single study we have of the sources of La Follette's ideas. It also helps us understand why the so-called isolationism of Wisconsin Progressives was a central element in the Progressive vision of a just society. And it demonstrates why current Wisconsin Democrats who claim to stand in the Progressive tradition and yet fail to repudiate the national Democratic Party's wars of aggression have little better claim to the Progressive mantle than Paul Ryan. This is a very important book that I cannot recommend too highly.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eamon Ormseth on December 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
La Follette began as an ardent proponent of President McKinley and, as such, earnestly believed that the suppression of the rebellion in the Philippines was about ensuring the development of democratic self-government, his guiding political principle. As he became increasingly aware of the connection between business interests and foreign policy, he began to develop his critique of the growing American Empire.

Drawing extensively on a variety of primary sources, Drake uses the development of La Follette's political consciousness to reveal the corruption and greed behind the facade of the public guiding principles of American foreign policy, such as the Wilsonian notion of "making the world safe for democracy." The senseless death and destruction of WWI crystallized La Follette's thinking on the matter; the drastic military expansion caused by the war remained permanent and solidified a profit motive for military aggression.

Drake's book, in tracing La Follette's intellectual development, allows the reader to come to La Follette's conclusions as he did. For all hoping to understand the present situation of America in the world, this book is indispensable. La Follette remained steadfast in his faith that an educated democracy could combat the domination of the economy by the business elites of Wall Street. The costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are the hallmark of 21st century American foreign policy coupled with the Great Recession make La Follette's critique more relevant than ever. In his focus on pragmatic reform and truth telling, La Follette eschewed utopian political ideology and offered a true return to the American values of self-sufficiency and freedom. In resurrecting La Follette's anti-imperialist critique, Drake shows how his ghost still haunts American politics--the military-industrial complex and the warfare it demands continues to lead America down a path of no return.
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By theodore bernstein on May 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Education of an Anti-Imperialist is a must read for anyone who is interested in the three of the most important subjects currently dividing Americans: the unequal division of wealth and income in the United States, the belief in American exceptionalism and the role of the United States as global enforcer. The theme of the book is the gradual evolution of Robert Lafolette from mainstream Republican supporter and client of William McKinley to antiestablishment progressive firebrand. Lafolette began his career fighting the influence of the railroads in Wisconsin and in Congress discovered the influence of money in politics. Few important laws were passed without the approval of the lobbies. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few families led to a corresponding accumulation of power. The wealthy controlled the newspapers, financed the campaigns and controlled the legislative agenda. The Spanish-American war was a precursor to Vietnam, Irak and Afganistan and the consequences were similar. In spite of numerous interventions and large sums of money invested, neither Cuba nor the Philippines were ever integrated into the American Empire. The entry of the United States into the First World War had its roots in American exceptionalism and the vested interests of the banks and industrialists.

The depth of the research allowed the author to recreate the atmosphere of the period and the extensive use of excerpts from various speeches, newspaper articles, and books reveals the lively nature of the political debates of the time and the mastery of the language many of today's politicians no longer possess. I can recommend this book to students of history, foreign policy and current affairs but also to the general public.
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Format: Kindle Edition
​I have recently read The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion by Richard Drake, professor of history at the University of Montana.
​This book is, without doubt, the finest book that I have ever read regarding the involvement of the United States in World War I and the catastrophic effects of the Treaty of Versailles.
​From the disastrous effect of the war reparations on Germany to the colonization of Palestine and Syria by Britain and France after the War this book clearly explains the roots of World War II and the rise of radical Jihad in the Arab world.
​One has to read this book to understand the modern world and how the United States got caught up in these foreign disasters.

John L. Matthews
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