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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Re-imagining America : the Princeton Military Studies Group and the cultivation of the national security imagination, 1933-1947 Fergie, Dexter


This essay examines the invention of national security in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. Whereas previously Americans spoke of ‘national defense,’ by 1945 ‘national security’ became common parlance and Washington began building the national security state. I argue that a group of social scientists at the Institute for Advanced Study called the Princeton Military Studies Group spurred this shift. Led by Edward Mead Earle, members of the group projected geopolitical anxieties—about global economic instability, the failures of the Versailles system, and the rise of totalitarianism—inward on to the United States and helped develop the institutional role of the defense intellectual, construct the cold war university, make citizens into manpower, and popularize geopolitical thinking. Most consequentially, they created a novel way of imagining and speaking about the world. We are the heirs of their national security imagination.

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