Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 163–183 | Cite as

The transatlantic American foreign policy elite: its evolution in generational perspective

  • Priscilla RobertsEmail author


This article applies a generational perspective to approach the phenomenon of the development of an American foreign policy Establishment, an elite that was, from the late nineteenth century onward, committed to an expansive United States role, preferably in collaboration with the British empire. It argues that one can discern four generational groupings, stretching across a period of around a century: (a) the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century founders or forerunners, a group clustered around Theodore Roosevelt, who looked back to the Civil War as a formative experience; (b) those Americans already well into their careers, for whom World War I served as an epiphany, giving them new consciousness of the existence of Europe, and often converting them to a long-term belief in the importance of either Rooseveltian or Wilsonian internationalism; (c) those younger men whom one might term the ‘wise men’ generation, a group whose first formative experience was usually military experience in World War I, and who were also often much influenced by older men from the generation before them; and (d) the World War II generation, a less cohesive group of younger men whose formative experience was service in World War II, who witnessed the dissolution of the Establishment’s authority and influence.


generations American foreign policy elite Establishment trans-atlanticism 


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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hong KongHong Kong

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