THOMAS J. McCORMICK
The study of American diplomatic history as a distinct field is a relatively recent development. It is young enough that many of its first practitioners are not only alive but, in terms of continuing scholarly production, quite well. Yet there are few fields which stand more in need of a critical rethinking than does this one.
As a field embracing not just one society but two or more in interaction, diplomatic history offers a unique opportunity for comparative, cosmopolitan, culturally relative analysis; in terms of subjects studied and interpretations offered, however, few fields of historical study have been more subject to presentism and national bias. While resisting, in general, the stimulation, insights, and methodology of the other social sciences, diplomatic history has permitted itself to succumb, in the particular, to a metaphysical debate over "realism" versus "idealism" first generated by political scientists. In an age when more Americans than ever are global-minded, and when more non-Americans than ever are aware of the American impact on their lives, no other subject of inquiry has more contemporary importance; yet diplomatic historians are often disparaged by other students of history for their alleged amateurism, imprecision, and lack of social context. They are, in the word of one of my colleagues, "sports."
Before making my own effort to assess the state of American diplomatic history,1 I set about to gain a more accurate and comprehensive picture of the raw material I wish to analyze: contemporary writings