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Truman in Rio: How Brazil, Mexico, and the United States Shaped Regionalism in the Americas

I have just learned that the Harry Truman Library Institute has awarded me a travel and research grant to support archival work at the Truman Presidential Library. My work there will focus on the creation of the inter-American system after World War II. I am particularly interested in debates around democracy, sovereignty/intervention, and international organization. The archives there will complement the work that I am doing in Rio de Janeiro this summer (supported by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust), work I did last fall in Washington, and archival research done previously in Mexico City while a visiting professor at CIDE.

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Harry and Margaret Truman in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Truman Library

Here are a couple paragraphs from the application that give a sense of the project:

“The creation of the modern inter-American system, particularly the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), has usually been explained as an effect of U.S. regional hegemony. On the one hand, this is understandable. The United States, in the closing stages and immediate aftermath of the Second World War, was at the apex of its relative power. In the Western Hemisphere, it had achieved the near-unanimous cooperation of Latin American states with the Allied war effort—with the exception of Argentina. The inter-American system solidified this state of affairs, while also serving to bring the reluctant Argentines into line.

“This project adopts a more multifaceted approach to regionalism. U.S. power and leadership were certainly crucial to the development of the regional system. However, during the creation of the post-war regional institutions, Latin American states—often led by Mexico and Brazil—sought to create a system that provided them an important forum and offered the possibility of greater influence. President Truman recognized those countries’ importance, paying each a visit in 1947, as well as hosting their leaders in Washington.”

The project ties into a couple medium-term article projects, including one with Max Paul Friedman. Eventually, it will all be part of a big book project that looks at Brazilian and Mexican policies toward regionalism and regional organizations over several decades.

 

Middle Power Regionalism in the Americas

Many thanks to the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust, which have recently decided to support my future research with a “small research grant.” It might not be big money in terms of the UK academic grant world, but it is big to me. The grant will support two trips to Brazil (one to Rio and one to Brasilia) for archival research over the next 18 months. In the nearer-term, the research will contribute to an article project that I am working on with the exceptionally talented historian Max Paul Friedman, as well as to an early theoretical piece on the interplay between middle power foreign policy strategies and the development of regional organization. In the longer term, this research forms part of a book project that explores the historical trajectories of Brazil’s and Mexico’s approaches to regionalism in the Americas starting from the late days of the Second World War until the present. I started work on the Mexican side while at CIDE, and I worked in the State Department archives during my last couple months in Washington.

For anyone who might be interested, my project description is available below the jump.

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Harry Truman in Rio in 1947

 

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