Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




American diplomatic historians are most familiar with trusteeship in the context of the United Nations Trusteeship System and, consequently, associate it with international supervision of colonies and the dismantling of the western empires. This dissertation is an analysis of trusteeship in a broader chronological and conceptual framework. Far from being a new concept developed during the Second World War as a repudiation of imperialism, trusteeship was a centuries-old concept and a euphemism for "enlightened" imperialism.;Simply stated, trusteeship was the conviction that advanced states must control or supervise peoples deemed too immature or incompetent to manage their own affairs and property. A coincidence of the best interests of the "backward" peoples themselves, the controlling power, and the world at large--a coincidence which this study dubs the "triple mandate"--demanded that "trustee" states control incompetent peoples and rule them for the benefit of all concerned parties.;This study reconstructs the worldview that made trusteeship over "backward" nations seem legitimate and necessary. It then explores the influence of trusteeship and the forms it took in American policy toward the "Third World.".;Individual chapters examine the interaction between trusteeship and American policy in a diversity of geographic regions and contexts, especially as revealed in the thought and policies of a few selected statesmen. The chapters are case studies of American policy toward the Philippine Islands, Cuba and the Caribbean, and China, and American involvement in the origins of the League of Nations Mandates System.;A study of trusteeship reveals an American "imperial" tradition and sheds light on its character. Trusteeship was clearly imperialistic, since it was a systematic denial of self-determination to "backward" peoples. But because it renounced the stereotypical "old-style" imperialism and ostensibly promoted the best interests of subject peoples, American policymakers claimed that, in the context of its times, trusteeship was actually "anti-imperialistic." A study of trusteeship thus allows historians to better understand and evaluate American imperialism.



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