As part of a virtual series of occasional talks, the History & Biography group is hosting a discussion of Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America by the author, Michel Gobat. A professor of Latin American history and international studies at the University of Pittsburgh, Gobat traces the untold story of the rise and fall of the first U.S. overseas empire to William Walker, a believer in the nation’s manifest destiny to spread its blessings not only westward but abroad as well.
In the 1850s, Walker and a small group of U.S. expansionists migrated to Nicaragua determined to forge a tropical “empire of liberty.” Their quest initially enjoyed strong local support from liberal Nicaraguans who hoped U.S. style democracy and progress would spread across the land. But what began with promises of liberation devolved into a reign of terror. After two years, Walker was driven out.
Walker and his followers’ ambition was to establish a democratic state by force. Much like their successors in liberal-internationalist and neoconservative foreign policy circles a century later in Washington, D.C., they inspired a global anti-U.S. backlash. Fear of a ‘northern colossus” precipitated a hemispheric alliance against the United States and gave birth to the idea of Latin America.
Empire by Invitation… was selected Book of the Year by Foreign Affairs as well as the recipient of numerous academic awards and is available from local bookstores and Amazon.
Future author talks will include our own Andrew Jampoler in April to discuss his new book Hard Grounded, and Frank Costigliola in June to discuss his forthcoming book Kennan: A Life Between Worlds.