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Grant number: FA-50342-04

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FA-50342-04

Julie Greene
University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO 80302-7046)

Constructing an Empire: The U.S. and the Building of the Panama Canal, 1904-1914

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Beginning with victory in the Spanish-American war in 1898, the "New Empire" of the United States reshaped political, social, and racial relations across a broad region that stretched from the Caribbean to the Philippine Islands. While this moment has received ample attention from diplomatic historians, much work remains to be done on the broader political, social, and cultural aspects of America's "New Empire" as well as its legacy more generally for U.S. history. The construction of the Panama Canal from 1904 to 1914 stands out as the most important moment in the expansionism of the early twentieth century. It involved unprecedented challenges for the U.S. government, which had to manage a workforce of as many as 45,000 workers at a single time. To handle that responsibility, the U.S. created an entire state infrastructure in the Canal Zone. The working people in the Zone, who hailed from dozens of different countries, faced incredible difficulties on the job and in their personal lives, and they developed a wide range of strategies for negotiating with the U.S. government and with one another. The construction project also placed the U.S. government and its employees in an international environment where diverse nation-states interacted and contested the boundaries of power. The U.S. engaged in delicate relations with Panama, most importantly, but also with the governments of Britain, Spain and France. This book will examine U.S. government policies in the Canal Zone, working people's experiences, relations with other governments, and the impact of this remarkable adventure on the culture and politics of the United States. Based upon a wide range of primary sources held in the U.S., Panama, Great Britain and Spain, this project will demonstrate both the wide-ranging importance of empire for understanding the history of the U.S., as well as the insights to be gained by employing an international methodology when interrogating that history.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
U.S. History

Program:
Fellowships for University Teachers

Division:
Research Programs

Total amounts:
$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2004 – 5/31/2005