History Ph.D. Dissertations

When Fear is Substituted for Reason: European and Western Government Policies Regarding National Security 1789-1919

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Beth Griech-Polelle

Second Advisor

Michael Brooks (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Geoff Howes (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Jakobson (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Mark Simon


Although the twentieth century is perceived as the era of international wars and revolutions, the basis of these proceedings are actually rooted in the events of the nineteenth century. When anything that challenged the authority of the state – concepts based on enlightenment, immigration, or socialism – were deemed to be a threat to the status quo and immediately eliminated by way of legal restrictions. Once the façade of the Old World was completely severed following the Great War, nations in Europe and throughout the West started to revive various nineteenth century laws in an attempt to suppress the outbreak of radicalism that preceded the 1919 revolutions. What this dissertation offers is an extended understanding of how nineteenth century government policies toward radicalism fostered an environment of increased national security during Germany's 1919 Spartacist Uprising and the 1919/1920 Palmer Raids in the United States. Using the French Revolution as a starting point, this study allows the reader the opportunity to put events like the 1848 revolutions, the rise of the First and Second Internationals, political fallouts, nineteenth century imperialism, nativism, Social Darwinism, and movements for self-government into a broader historical context. This background also underscores the problems between Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the two Balkan Wars and the eventual Great War. By this point in time, 1914-1918, the structure of the Old World was shattered beyond repair and the social problems of the pre-war period were erupting throughout the west as ancient regimes collapsed, borders were redrawn, and new republics emerged. For nations like Germany, a Bolshevik revolution was thought probable since the state had been weakened during the war years. While Germany actually came closer to succumbing to the ideals of bolshevism, both the Weimar Republic and the United States government used this time as a means of further restricting civil liberties in an effort to rid the nation of radicalism and preserve the authority of the national executive. Therefore, instead of peace after the Great War, surveillance states soon emerged as nations rushed to eradicate all forms of foreignism from the national environment.