Brian Etheridge, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
Ohio State University
The receipt of a Friends of the Princeton University Library Visiting Fellowship not only enabled me to develop my project on the rise of political realism in America in the anticipated manner, it also enabled me to expand my research in new and exciting ways. Initially, I conceived of my research at the Princeton University Library as a means for fleshing out the lives of one of the primary participants in the "realist turn" of international relations. This information, I hoped, would inform my discussion of the relationship between an individual's private and professional life during such an intellectual sea change. Now, after my research in the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript library, I have concluded that the life of Edward Mead Earle deserves an entire article of its own.
The reason for this is clear. The research, while helpful to my project, would be more appropriate for another, interrelated undertaking. The overall project deals with the rise of political realism in the United States during the interwar period. I have found that the disciplinary history of international relations has long relied on a series of foundational myths to provide context and meaning to the discipline's nature and origins. According to this standard narrative, the discipline emerged at the end of World War I in response to an international desire to prevent the recurrence of another conflict. Recognized by all as both a moral and practical evil, war was regarded as an incorrigible aspect of international relations that must be abolished. Unfortunately, the same utopian impulse that prompted the establishment of this new discipline also served to cloud the minds of its practitioners, fooling them into believing it possible to rely on international organization and law to keep the peace. The outbreak of World War II dashed these idealist hopes, and with the failure of the interwar agenda, a new realism arose in the Cold War. Propagated by (in)famous realists like Hans J. Morgenthau and George F. Kennan, the new paradigm argued that power was the only recognizable currency in conduct of foreign affairs, and that the national interest was the only the worthwhile object to pursue.
Through an analysis of discursive formations in international relations from World War I to World War II, I have found that the onset of political realism happened much sooner than this standard narrative depicts. Rather than occurring during the beginning of the Cold War, realistic thinking came to dominate international relations after the world-wide depression of the 1930s. I had hoped than an investigation into Edward Mead Earle's papers would help me understand how such a broad intellectual transformation happens on a person level. My research did indeed do that, but it also made think of different ways of approaching my subject.
Based on the abundance of sources that I discovered on Earle's activities in academia and government, I have decided that Earl deserves his own article. As a result, I have begun work on an article that portrays Earle as one of the prime movers and shakers in the connection between academia and government. In this way I hope to demonstrate how a new way of thinking about international relations suffused policy discourse through individuals like Earle. Although this article will require more research in the National Archives to substantiate this claim, research in the Edward Mead Earle papers at Princeton will remains the linchpin of the entire enterprise.
My time in Princeton would have been nowhere near as productive without the expert and friendly services of the staff at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Dr. Ben Primer's group of highly qualified and well-trained individuals helped make my stay not only worthwhile but warm and interesting as well. Two individuals stand out in particular. John Weeren went above and beyond the call of duty in promptly retrieving information, offering useful and informed research suggestions and hints, and suggesting (and frequently joining me at) restaurants and other haunts around town. The other is Ben Primer. Although occupied at the same time with a SHAFR conference in town during the same period, Dr. Primer kept an eye on me and made certain that I felt important and welcome.
It goes without saying that I owe the Friends of the Princeton
University Library a great deal. Not only did my visit to Princeton
greatly bolster and indeed transform my research; it also introduced
me to a wonderful host of people and helped me grow as a professional
and an individual.