March 21, 2011 – “We are walking on quicksand,” wrote Woodrow Wilson to a cousin in September 1915. Thus opens a new book by New College of Florida Professor Justus Doenecke titled Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America’s Entry into World War I, recently released by University of Kentucky Press. Nothing Less Than War is a thoughtful look at America’s internal political climate and changing international role during the transformative period of 1914-1917 that led the nation into World War I. Doenecke demonstrates that Wilson’s choice was not made in isolation, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the president’s leadership, the response of Congress and the debates that raged among citizen groups and in the popular media.
“Nothing Less Than War combines careful attention to diplomacy with an excellent consideration of politics and public opinion,” said John Milton Cooper Jr., author of Woodrow Wilson: A Biography. “It is superb in detail, and even scholars well versed in the field will learn things they didn’t know before.”
Doenecke has been working on Nothing Less Than War for the past seven years, though the seeds were planted in 1960 while a graduate student at Princeton University. There he attended a seminar conducted by Arthur S. Link, the world’s foremost scholar on Woodrow Wilson, who devoted his life to the 69-volume Wilson papers.
“Despite what has long been the main focus of my research, Wilson’s leadership has never ceased to fascinate me,” said Doenecke, who is professor emeritus of history and has been on the New College faculty since 1969. “I began this book in part with the aim of self-education, hoping to share with both general reader and advanced scholar my extensive investigation in the secondary literature and published primary sources.”
Doenecke’s book has received the praise of scholars from many points of view for his comprehensive approach to the telling of this critical period in American history.
“Thorough, thoughtful, pointed, and wise, this sprightly, sometimes wry account covers familiar material with fresh insight and commendably a sense of irony,” said Mark Gilderhus, author of Pan American Visions: Woodrow Wilson and the Western Hemisphere, 1913-1921.
“Justus Doenecke has written a fine, authoritative study of America’s flawed struggle for neutrality in the First World War – and the first comprehensive re-examination of the subject in more than a generation,” said Thomas Knock, author of To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order.
“Justus Doenecke has written a model of judicious scholarship,” said George Nash, author of The Life of Herbert Hoover: The Humanitarian, 1914-1917. “Historians and nonhistorians alike will profit from reading his informed and insightful account of a pivotal period in American diplomatic history.”
Doenecke has authored 12 books, including work on American-Far Eastern relations in the early 1930s, two U.S. presidents of the Gilded Age, American anti-interventionism during World War II and the Cold War, the New Deal and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s general foreign policy. His book Storm on the Horizon: The Challenge to American Intervention, 1939–1941 won the 2001 Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Award for the best book on any topic in American history from 1914 to 1964. He is also the recipient of the 1991 Arthur S. Link Prize for Documentary Editing for his book In Danger Undaunted about the America First Committee. Doenecke is currently working on another book about Wilson’s diplomatic efforts throughout the war and his fight over the League of Nations.