Skip to main content

The Global Republic

America’s Inadvertent Rise to World Power

For decades the United States has been the most dominant player on the world’s stage. The country’s economic authority, its globally forceful foreign policy, and its leading position in international institutions tend to be seen as the result of a long-standing, deliberate drive to become a major global force. Furthermore, it has become widely accepted that American exceptionalism—the belief that America is a country like no other in history—has been at the root of many of the country’s political, military, and global moves. Frank Ninkovich disagrees.  

One of the preeminent intellectual historians of our time, Ninkovich delivers here his most ambitious and sweeping book to date. He argues that historically the United States has been driven not by a belief in its destiny or its special character but rather by a need to survive the forces of globalization. He builds the powerful case that American foreign policy has long been based on and entangled in questions of global engagement, while also showing that globalization itself has always been distinct from—and sometimes in direct conflict with—what we call international society. 

In the second half of the twentieth century, the United States unexpectedly stumbled into the role of global policeman and was forced to find ways to resolve international conflicts that did not entail nuclear warfare. The United States’s decisions were based less in notions of exceptionalism and more in a need to preserve and expand a flourishing global society that had become essential to the American way of life.

Sure to be controversial, The Global Republic compellingly and provocatively counters some of the deepest and most common misconceptions about America’s history and its place in the world.

368 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014

History: American History, General History

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


"Frank Ninkovich’s The Global Republic . . . illuminates recent events and forecasts trajectories without pandering or prejudice. It eschews cheap shots for subtle insights. It is passionate and dispassionate. It is great history."

Times Higher Education

“This remarkably well-written analysis of American foreign relations combines penetrating insight into the origins and evolution of the US claim to ‘exceptionalism,’ especially as the US has faced the phenomenon of globalization. Ninkovich notes that the founders’ ideals of republicanism could be neither implemented nor spread with the capabilities that could be mustered in the Colonial era. By the 1890s, when the author’s analysis really takes off, the US had developed a global presence augmented by Wilsonian liberalism, a burgeoning dominance in the West, and an avoidance of international cooperation. . . . Recommended.”


“Ninkovich asserts that America’s climb as a world power was not driven from its conception by an abiding missionary quest. Rather, the author says it was an inadvertent consequence of responding and adapting to the pressures of fast-moving globalization in the 19th and 20th centuries in an effort to keep alive the American dream and way of life. . . . Ninkovich’s interpretation explaining America’s ascension to world dominance will intrigue readers of the history of American foreign policy.”

Library Journal

“‘Marvelous’ is the word to characterize this book. It is a marvel of insight, reflection, and analysis. Displaying the erudition, depth, and wit that readers have long since come to expect from him, Ninkovich has produced a strikingly original account of the United States’s two centuries of experience in the world. He combines ascents to heights of philosophical discourse with consistent exercise in down-to-earth skepticism toward ideologies and intellectual constructs, including his own emphasis on globalism. No one who cares about America and the world can afford not to read this book.”

John Milton Cooper, author of Woodrow Wilson: A Biography

“For decades, Ninkovich has pioneered profound and sweeping works on the history of American foreign relations, most notably on the complex interaction of culture, writ large, on diplomacy. This book is no exception. Ninkovich explores how America rose to power, buffeted by the winds of globalization that shaped its culture, society, and ideology. His conceptualization moves beyond new and old approaches by placing the United States not just in the world, but in a global society. The scholarship is sound, the grasp on theory is breathtaking, and the method of weaving together external and internal transformative forces is original. This tour de force situates the author among the intellectual leaders of international relations history.”

Thomas Zeiler | University of Colorado

“Frank Ninkovich has done it again. The Global Republic offers a wide-ranging and original account of America’s place in the modern world. A pioneer in bringing culture to the study of American foreign relations, Ninkovich deftly weaves together culture, politics, and economics in this impressive and counterintuitive analysis of what did—and didn’t—make the United States an exceptional world power.”

David C. Engerman | Brandeis University

“We often now speak of ‘America in the World’ and Ninkovich has firmly put the world in the nation’s history.  His provocative book challenges us to move beyond the categories of American exceptionalism that historians have too often leaned upon to see globalization, and the ability of the United States to ride and guide its waves, as a decisive force in the nation’s status in the world.”

David Ekbladh | Tufts University

“Frank Ninkovich delivers a bold and compelling argument in this brilliant book.  Challenging a generation of scholarship on the history of U.S. foreign relations, he rejects American exceptionalism by stressing the power of globalization itself. The result is an innovative work that moves from American attempts to join international society at the turn of the century, through efforts to rescue it amid global war and Cold War conflict, into the unsettling dilemmas of our own era. For all seeking a fresh interpretation of America’s engagement with the world, The Global Republic provides a striking new approach.”

Michael Latham | Fordham University

“A spirited cultural and intellectual historical work that presents World War II as a radical break in US foreign relations in an attempt to chart a new path between (or perhaps parallel to) arguments that emphasize empire and those that engage exceptionalism. . . . Ninkovich still effectively pushes readers to rethink their assumptions about how and why the US took on a position of world leadership during and after WWII that continues to shape the world today.”

Canadian Journal of History

“This new book stands out as a must read for anyone interested in the ongoing debates about the history of American foreign policy. A highly respected historian who has written a wide array of thought-provoking works, Ninkovich explains how scholars have continued to misconstrue the conduct of US foreign policy from 1776 to the present. Attempting to carry out a ‘conceptual’ revolution in the field of US foreign relations, Ninkovich argues that America’s response to the larger process of globalization better explains its rise to ‘global preeminence’ than a ‘deep sense of historical mission’ aimed at leading the world toward ‘peace, prosperity, and democracy.’ . . . Ninkovich has written an excellent study whose arguments may very well transform the ways that scholars conceive of and write about US foreign relations.”

The Historian

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Provincial Prelude
Chapter Two: Global Society and the Challenge to Exceptionalism
Chapter Three: Gaining Entrée: The United States Joins the Club
Chapter Four: The Wilsonian Anomaly; or, The Three Faces of Wilsonianism
Chapter Five: Restarting Global Society in the 1920s
Chapter Six: The War for International Society: The Coming of World War II
Chapter Seven: Economics versus Politics in the Reinvention of International Society
Chapter Eight: Ideology and Culture as Ingredients of the Cold War
Chapter Nine: Americanization, Globalization, and the End of the Cold War
Chapter Ten: Global Aftermath

Concluding Thoughts
Appendix: Historians and Exceptionalism


Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations: Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press