American Danger: United States Empire, Eurafrica, and the Territorialization of Industrial Capitalism, 1870–1950


During the last third of the nineteenth century, a debate emerged in a number of European countries on the “American danger.” Responding to the rapid rise of the United States as the world’s most important economy, some European observers feared their nations’ declining competitiveness in the face of the territorial extent of the United States, and its ability to integrate a dynamic industrial sector with ample raw material supplies, agriculture commodities, markets, and labor into one national economy. This “second great divergence” provoked a range of responses, as statesmen, capitalists, and intellectuals advocated for territorial rearrangements of various European economies, a discussion that lasted with greater or lesser intensity from the 1870s to the 1950s. Their sometimes competing and sometimes mutually reinforcing efforts focused on African colonialism, European integration, and violent territorial expansion within Europe itself. Using the debate as a lens to understand the connections between a wide range of policy responses, this article argues that efforts to territorialize capitalist economies delineate a particular moment in the long history of capitalism; and it demonstrates the unsettling effects of the rise of the United States on European powers.
Last updated on 02/17/2019