First Essay –Early US Diplomacy

Due March 4, 2022

On Friday, March 4, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a topic concerning early US diplomacy provided to them near the beginning of that week.

  • Prof. Pinsker will distribute and discuss the topic on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 in class and by email

Please choose ONE of the follow essay topics:

  • Compare and contrast the policies and the respective styles of two key figures who served as secretary of state during the period between 1789 and 1900.  Would each figure qualify in George Herring’s estimation as a “practical idealist”?  How would you connect their diplomatic experiences and strategic objectives?


  • Which decade was the most consequential for US diplomatic history during the period between 1776 and 1900?  Make sure to explain how the events and decisions of that decade helped shape at least one of the enduring traditions in US foreign policy that George Herring features in his book.

All essays must include references to the Herring book as well as to additional primary sources featured at the course site, all properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.

  • Please open your paper with a descriptive title and your name (byline).
  • Make sure to address a question and devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement 
  • Make sure to invest special care in identifying key figures and terms from the relevant chapters in the Herring book.
  • Make sure you are using and formatting your footnotes correctly.  Provide footnotes for all quotations and highly specific information (such as statistics). See the models below as well as this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.
  • Prof. Pinsker will comment on full or partial drafts over email until Thursday evening.  You may also consult with the Writing Center for help with your essay.  Do not work with other students in the course on your answer.

Sample Footnotes

According to George Herring, it was “unilateralism” and not isolationism which “formed a powerful and enduring strain in U.S. foreign policy.” [1]  Any subsequent citation to Herring can be abbreviated with only author’s last name and page number.[2]

[1] George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower:  U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 6.

[2] Herring, 118.

Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

  • Take to care to evaluate your sources as you deploy them in your essay.  See this methods post on Evaluating Sources for a helpful overall framework.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]