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Date: January 29, 2010
Contact: Anne Strong
Telephone: (301) 279-9697

History Associates Cofounder Rodney Carlisle Authors New Book on World War I

History Associates cofounder Rodney Carlisle recently authored Sovereignty at Sea: U.S. Merchant Ships and American Entry into World War I. Published by the University Press of Florida, the study provides new insights into the United States’ entry into World War I.

The book reexamines the actual events, or casus belli, which precipitated the war. Dr. Carlisle concludes that the emphasis by some historians on the importance of the Zimmermann Note—and on issues of democracy versus autocratic government—were far less crucial than the actual sinking of ships flying the American flag. Dr. Carlisle argues that Woodrow Wilson only decided to ask Congress to declare war after German submarines had sunk nine U.S. merchant ships. Although the human casualties were very light, with less than twenty U.S. citizens killed, Wilson and Congress saw the attacks as affronts to the American flag. By looking at what the President knew and when he knew it, Dr. Carlisle shows that Wilson and Congress labored under the mistaken belief that one more U.S. ship, the Standard Oil tanker Healdton, had also been sunk by a German submarine, when in fact it had been destroyed by striking a mine laid two nights earlier by the British navy.

Dr. Carlisle is professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, where he has taught courses in recent American history, the history of espionage, nuclear history, and public history. He is a graduate of Harvard College and received his master’s and doctoral degrees in history from the University of California at Berkeley.

For more information about the book, visit

About History Associates
For more than thirty years the historians and archivists at History Associates have demonstrated that history is valuable in the market as well as the marketplace of ideas. They provide professional corporate histories, exhibit content, interpretive planning, historical research, archival services, and collections management services to clients throughout the United States and around the world. History Associates strives to be The Best Company in History®, serving corporate, government, legal, and nonprofit clients from its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. For more information, call (301) 279-9697 or visit

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