The Wilsonian Moment : Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism

TitleThe Wilsonian Moment : Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsManela, Erez
Number of Pages331
PublisherOxford University Press
CityOxford ; New York
Abstract

At the close of WWI, America seemed the foe of Western imperialism, according to this probing historical study. Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points peace framework and his rhetoric of self-determination and equality of nations appeared to expectant Africans and Asians like a formula for their liberation from European colonial rule. One Indian leader hailed Wilson as another Christ or Buddha, and a Chinese academic called him the number one good man in the world. Wilson was bombarded by petitions from colonial nationalist leaders (including Ho Chi Minh). who hoped he would champion their cause at the Paris Peace Conference. But the other Allies proved unsympathetic to self-determination in their colonial domains and Wilson backed off, provoking disillusioned nationalists from Egypt to Korea to stage uprisings and turn to Soviet communism for inspiration. Manela, an assistant professor of history at Harvard, offers a well-researched, if somewhat dry, survey of anticolonial politics during this fraught period. Wilsonian principles, he contends, laid the conceptual groundwork for the 20th century's nationalist revolutions; yet Wilson's betrayal ensured that anti-imperialism would shift from a liberal internationalist ideology to a radical, anti-Western one. The author presents an enlightening analysis of a shortsighted failure whose convulsive effects are still with us.

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