Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 46–62 | Cite as

‘Internationalists in Isolationist times’ — Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and a Rooseveltian Maxim

  • J. Simon RofeEmail author
  • John M. Thompson


This article examines Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt’s approaches to formulating foreign policy within the context of contemporaneous debates about Isolationism and Internationalism. It argues that a ‘Rooseveltian Maxim’ can be identified based on common attributes found in each President’s ideas about US foreign policy and national security interests. This ‘Maxim’ was not dogma for either president, as they were both astute political operators. Instead it is based on their essentially internationalist reading of America’s role in the world. It meant that both were particularly mindful of the state of American public opinion informed by Washington and Jefferson’s notions of isolationism, for it was the mood amongst American people that provided the ‘finite space’ which they as president has to make foreign policy. It concludes that by investigating the approaches both presidents adopted in such circumstances, we gain further insight into both presidents and our understanding of Isolationism and Internationalism.


Theodore Roosevelt Franklin Roosevelt US foreign policy national security internationalism isolationism public opinion 


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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeicesterUK
  2. 2.Roosevelt Study CenterUniversity of Utrechtthe Netherlands

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