This Vast Southern Empire: The South and the Foreign Policy of Slavery, 1833-1865


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation traces American slaveholding attitudes about international affairs from roughly 1833 until 1865. Elite Southerners pursued a “foreign policy of slavery” that profoundly shaped national politics throughout the antebellum period. Moreover, this analysis of Southern foreign policy ideas challenges our knee-jerk association of pro-slavery politics with states-rights conservatism. In fact, slaveholders generally pursued aggressive, often centralizing foreign policies, from naval expansion to territorial acquisition. Even their final decision to secede from the Union can be seen as a characteristically bold foreign policy gambit. Ultimately, this new emphasis on the foreign policy of slavery can reshape old understandings of the antebellum South and the Civil War.