The World That Wasn’t: Henry Wallace and the Trials of American Globalism

Project Expert

Benn Steil
Benn Steil

Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics

About the Project

Henry Wallace is the most important almost-president in American history.  As FDR’s third-term vice president, and a hero to many progressives, he lost his place on the 1944 Democratic ticket in a wild open convention, thanks to which Harry Truman became president on FDR’s death the following April.  Books, films, and even plays have since portrayed the circumstances surrounding Wallace’s defeat as corrupt, and the results catastrophic.  Oliver Stone, among others, has argued that Wallace’s defeat ushered in a devastating and unnecessary four decades of Cold War.  Based on striking new evidence from American and Russian sources, not considered by Wallace’s earlier chroniclers, my forthcoming book—The World That Wasn’t: Henry Wallace and the Trials of American Globalism—paints a very different portrait of the man, of the events surrounding his fall, and of the world that might have been under his presidency.  Though a brilliant plant geneticist and a courageous advocate for civil rights, Wallace misapprehended Soviet national interests and the political motivations of close aides and interlocutors.  He recognized many of these errors in the years following his failed independent bid for the presidency in 1948, but this fact has not discouraged four generations of acolytes from invoking him as a champion of the world that wasn’t.

No publications were found for this project.