The American System in the World Depression, 1929-1945


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History of American Civilization


In the 1930s, coffee drinking in the US increased for the first time in three decades. This dissertation uses the countercyclical expansion of the coffee trade to link Roosevelt’s domestic and foreign policies in a new way and to reframe the history of the depression and the New Deal. Coffee’s abundance expressed a broad shift in US political economy underway after 1932 toward mass consumption, international development, and freer trade, especially within the Americas. By stretching the value of the dollar across a more complex international division of labor, this shift subsidized the emergent US welfare state, which deployed consumer purchasing power to soothe domestic social crises. In sum, this American System displaced the costs of rehabilitating US capitalism abroad, particularly onto Latin America, and anticipated the global form US prosperity and power would take in the postwar era.