Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973

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Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973. By Joseph A. Fry. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002. Pp. xi, 345. Introduction, illustrations, bibliographic essays, index. $39.95.)

Southerners have played an increasingly influential role in world affairs in recent decades. Four of the last eight presidents of the United States have been sons of Dixie, and southerners over the last half-century have served in many of the most important congressional and cabinet-level foreign policy positions. Among them have been two extraordinarily influential Arkansans, J. William Fulbright and Bill Clinton. While historians investigating the obvious connections between these leaders' southern roots and the course of American foreign relations can rely on a number of fine works to support their research, until Joseph A. Fry's Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973, they have not had the benefit of a comprehensive study specifically devoted to the topic.

Fry's extensively researched and gracefully written book puts the southern view of global realities in long-term perspective, covering the period from the American Revolution through the war in Vietnam. It is a historical synthesis in the best sense of the word, drawing from a broad range of the most recent and important works dealing with Dixie's participation in national foreign policy debate to form an original and compelling argument.

Fry argues that the South saw American foreign policy through a regionally distinctive lens. Dixie's sense of patriotism and honor, fear of dependence and minority status, affinity for republican ideology, tendency toward one-party Democratic politics, reliance on an agricultural export economy, and concern about race framed its view of world affairs. From the colonial through the antebellum eras, these predilections fueled Dixie's Anglophobia, expansionism, and devotion to low tariffs. During the Civil War, the same tendencies supported an ill-advised faith in economic coercion based on "king cotton." And after the war they were used to justify southern rejections of Republican imperialist schemes.

While he concludes that the southern view of American foreign policy remained more or less consistent into the twentieth century, Fry maintains that a significant change occurred during the Wilson presidency. …