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The Open Door Era

United States Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century

Michael Patrick Cullinane, Alex Goodall

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Examines the Open Door, the most influential U.S. foreign policy of the twentieth century

In 1899, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay wrote six world powers calling for an ‘Open Door’ in China that would guarantee equal trading opportunities, curtail colonial annexation, and prevent conflict in the Far East. Within a year, the region had succumbed to renewed colonisation and war, but despite the apparent failure of Hay’s diplomacy, the ideal of the Open Door emerged as the central component of U.S. foreign policy in the twentieth century. Just as visions of ‘Manifest Destiny’ shaped continental expansion in the nineteenth century, Woodrow Wilson used the Open Door to make the case for a world ‘safe for democracy’, Franklin Roosevelt developed it to inspire the fight against totalitarianism and imperialism, and Cold War containment policy envisioned international communism as the latest threat to a global system built upon peace, openness, and exchange. In a concise yet wide-ranging examination of its origins and development, readers will discover how the idea of the Open Door came to define the American Century.

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1. The Open Door Idea, 1893-1904
2. Imposing the Open Door, 1904-1917
3. The Global Open Door, 1917-1929
4. The Open Door in a Closed World, 1929-1945
5. The Open Door and the Cold War, 1945-1968
6. The Open Door Triumphant, 1968-1991
Select Bibliography.

About the Author

Michael Patrick Cullinane is Professor of U.S. History at the University of Roehampton. He is the author of The Open Door Era: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), Theodore Roosevelt’s Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon (Louisiana State University Press, 2017) and Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism: 1898-1909 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). With Sylvia Ellis, he is the series editor of New Perspectives on the American Presidency (Edinburgh University Press) and co-editor of Constructing Presidential Legacy: How we Remember the American President (Edinburgh University Press, 2018).

Alex Goodall is a Senior Lecturer in International History at UCL and the author of Loyalty and Liberty: American Countersubversion from World War One to the McCarthy Era.


In this engaging book, Michael Cullinane and Alex Goodall forensically dissect and analyse one of the great shibboleths of U.S. foreign relations. Though the Open Door arose from enlightened ideas of international engagement, the authors demonstrate both its limits when it came to policy implementation and how it became a contested symbol for critics at home and beyond.

- Jay Sexton, Kinder Institute Chair, University of Missouri

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