Lecture, Online Video     Series: World War I Centennial

The U.S. Goes to the Great War: What Happened, Why It Matters Today

World War I marked a turning point in world and U.S. history that is far too little understood today. The United States’ formal declaration of war and entry into the Great War in April 1917 represented a seismic shift for the nation, which to that point, had attemped to avoid larger scale entanglements in European power politics and conflicts. One hundred years later we are in a position to recognize the epochal changes heralded by the First World War and the U.S.’s role in the conflict as well as its aftermath.

Event Type: Lecture, Online VideoAudience(s): Researchers, Family-friendly

In his April 2, 1917 message to Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that “the world must be made safe for democracy.” These famous words set a crucial precedent for U.S. global leadership and for democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy that has been hotly contested, and yet, remains with us today. Nichols’s lecture will cover the key ideas and historical developments at stake in the World War era. His talk will touch on changing historical interpretions of the war and new findings as he explores U.S. commitments during the period of neutrality, debates over a declaration of war, the consequences of mobilization and joining the conflict, the fighting of the war, and the peace-making process at Versailles and beyond. Nichols will examine the world-wide as well as U.S. dynamics of the war, and global consequences, as he explains the postwar impact and the ways WWI continues to matter in terms of international relations and even U.S. domestic politics and society.

Christopher McKnight Nichols is Associate Professor of History at Oregon State University and Director of the OSU Center for the Humanities, where he also leads the OSU Citizenship and Crisis Initiative. He is an Andrew Carnegie Fellow and an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. Nichols is a frequent commentator on the historical dimensions of U.S. foreign policy and politics. He is the author or editor of four books, most notably the award-winning Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age.

Posted by Oregon Historical Society on Sunday, April 16, 2017

About the WWI Centennial Series

In recognition of the centennial of the United States’ entry into the First World War, the Oregon Historical Society has organized a series of public programs and a special feature in the Summer 2017 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly that bring together a group of outstanding scholars to engage the public in discussions regarding the war’s history and ongoing legacy. They will address topics such as how and why Americans resisted entering the war, how civil rights activists used the war to advance ongoing campaigns for citizenship, and how WWI-era creation of widespread state surveillance continues today.




Special Thanks to the Following Contributors to this Exhibit

  • City of Portland Archives
  • North Portland Multimedia Center
  • The Oregonian Archives
  • Oregon Historical Society Davies Family Research Library
  • Oregon State University Archives
  • Portland State University Rutherford Collection
  • Thomas Robinson