This chapter focuses on the emergence of the United States as a ‘superpower’ in 1945. It begins with a discussion of how America rose from being a group of British colonies to a continental empire containing human slavery during the period 1776–1865. It then examines how the reunification of the country after the Civil War, and the industrial revolution which followed, turned America into the world’s leading economic power by the early twentieth century. It also considers Woodrow Wilson’s empire of ideology and how the United States got involved in World War I, how the American economic system sank into depression between 1929 and 1933, and US role in the Cold War between 1933 and 1945.
4. The US rise to world power, 1776–1945
1. Integration and Disintegration before 1945
This chapter examines patterns of national integration and international disintegration in the decades before World War II. It first provides an overview of integration and disintegration before World War I, along with World War I and postwar reconstruction, before discussing the challenge of the New Order envisioned by Adolf Hitler. It argues that national integration was a source of myths that formed an obstacle to the consolidation of incipient European integration. It also shows that economic integration did not lead inexorably to political unification and that visions of empire, central to the history of the major European states, challenged the supposed pre-eminence of the nation state and were bound up, in varying degrees, with some visions of integration. Finally, the chapter explains how integration, often assumed to be a peaceful process in contrast to the violent proclivities of nationalism and the nation state, has not always taken a benign form.