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Age of Fear

Othering and American Identity during World War I

Zachary Smith

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Fear can be more dangerous than the threats we think loom over us—how Germans and German Americans were perceived as a dangerous enemy during World War I.

Although Americans have long celebrated their nation's diversity, they also have consistently harbored suspicions of foreign peoples both at home and abroad. In Age of Fear, Zachary Smith argues that, as World War I grew more menacing and the presumed German threat loomed over the United States, many white "Anglo-Saxon" Americans grew increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of their race, culture, and authority. Consequently, they…

Fear can be more dangerous than the threats we think loom over us—how Germans and German Americans were perceived as a dangerous enemy during World War I.

Although Americans have long celebrated their nation's diversity, they also have consistently harbored suspicions of foreign peoples both at home and abroad. In Age of Fear, Zachary Smith argues that, as World War I grew more menacing and the presumed German threat loomed over the United States, many white "Anglo-Saxon" Americans grew increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of their race, culture, and authority. Consequently, they directed their long-held apprehensions over ethnic and racial pluralism onto their German neighbors and overseas enemies whom they had once greatly admired.

Smith examines the often racially tinged, apocalyptic arguments made during the war by politicians, propaganda agencies, the press, novelists, and artists. He also assesses citizens' reactions to these messages and explains how the rise of nationalism in the United States and Europe acted as a catalyst to hierarchical racism. Germans in both the United States and Europe eventually took the form of the proverbial "Other," a dangerous, volatile, and uncivilized people who posed an existential threat to the nation and all that Anglo-Saxon Americans believed themselves to be.

Exploring what the Great War meant to a large portion of the white American population while providing a historic precedent for modern-day conceptions of presumably dangerous foreign Others, Age of Fear is a compelling look at how the source of wartime paranoia can be found in deep-seated understandings of racial and millennial progress.

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Age of Fear

Zachary Smith

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Reviews

Reviews

This is a thoughtful, well-written piece of scholarship... the similarities between the war years and the present were clear and impossible to ignore... Sadly, for all that has changed in 100 years, the book is a sobering reminder of lessons we have not yet learned.

This strong, clear, and well-written book provides a useful new lens with which to view World War I. General readers, as well as scholars of literature, history, and culture, will find much to recommend Age of Fear.

Informed by hardcore historical research throughout, this insightful and well-written book abounds with keen observations. Age of Fear makes an original and much-needed contribution.

A well-researched and well-grounded addition to the scholarship of World War I. Zachary Smith offers a fresh perspective by chronologically tracing the intense anti-German hysteria of the WWI home front.

Based on a rich array of sources, Age of Fear offers a fresh take on a troubling chapter of our past. A thoughtful analysis of American political culture with lessons for our own fearful times, it is a necessary and timely book.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
248
ISBN
9781421427270
Illustration Description
19 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1: Identity, Decline, and Preparedness, 1914-1917
Chapter 2: The Emergence of the Internal Enemy Other, 1914-1917
Chapter 3: The War on the Internal Enemy Other

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1: Identity, Decline, and Preparedness, 1914-1917
Chapter 2: The Emergence of the Internal Enemy Other, 1914-1917
Chapter 3: The War on the Internal Enemy Other, 1917-1918
Chapter 4: Resisting Regressive Militarism, 1917-1918
Chapter 5: Toward the Democratic Millennium, 1914-1918
Epilogue: Fear, Othering, and Identity in the Postwar
United States
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Zachary Smith, Ph.D.

Zachary Smith teaches writing and rhetoric in Birmingham, Alabama. He earned his PhD in history from the University of Georgia.