Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 7–20 | Cite as

Isolationism and internationalism in American foreign relations

  • Andrew JohnstoneEmail author


This article analyses the seemingly well known terms internationalism and isolationism. Both have a long history of use in the study of American foreign relations, but there are problems with both that limit their descriptive and analytical utility. Their limitations have been addressed before, yet they are still commonly used and remain popular among scholars and the wider public, partly due to the ease with which the history of American foreign relations can be simplistically defined as an ongoing struggle between the forces of isolationism and internationalism. Through an analysis of both terms, as well as a consideration of their use by historians and political scientists and with due respect to the transatlantic focus of this journal, this article looks to salvage the meaning of these terms, and more importantly, to move beyond them and find more accurate expressions.


isolationism internationalism non-interventionism unilateralism multilateralism Wilsonianism 


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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Historical StudiesUniversity of LeicesterUK

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