General Leonard Wood and the Politics of Empire, War and Peace in the United States

Leonard Wood won fame at the sharp end of the American Empire – first with Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba during the Spanish American War and then in the Philippines as Governor of  Moro Province, where he led the brutal suppression of an indigenous rebellion between 1903 and 1906. He then served as Army Chief of Staff between 1910 and 1914, and then argued for American military preparedness as World War I engulfed the rest of the western world. Along the way Wood grew ever closer to the Republican Party, to Roosevelt,  and alienated the Democratic Wilson administration.

Denied a field command after the US entered World War I, Wood ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920. Although he arrived at the GOP convention with nearly 30% of its instructed delegates, Wood failed to win the nomination amidst fears that he was too closely identified with militarism to win the general election. He retired from the Army in 1921 and was appointed Governor-General of the Philippines until his death in 1927.

My paper focusses upon Wood’s run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920, and argues that its conduct and fate reveal much about the ambiguous response of American political culture to the immediate consequences of World War I. As a prominent ‘political general’, Wood’s persona and platform seemed suddenly and bewilderingly out of step with the political and electoral climate only eighteen months after the end of the Great War. My paper concludes with a discussion of my broader research project, which examines the place of the Great War in US political culture in the United States  during the interwar years.

Major-General Leonard Wood, Supplement to The Hutchinson Gazette, 2 March 1919.

Douglas Craig is a Reader in History in the School of History. He researches and teaches twentieth-century American political history and is the author of After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920–1934 (University of North Carolina Press, 1992); Fireside Politics: Radio and Political Culture in the United States, 1920–1940 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001); and Progressives at War: William G. McAdoo and Newton D. Baker, 1863–1941 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). He is currently working on a book project on the politics of the (American) Great War between 1918 and 1941.

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Wed 28 Sep 2016, 4.15–5.30pm


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

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School of History


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