'The English Papers bring their Lies very fresh': Thomas Jefferson, Information Warfare, and the Early American State in the Atlantic World, 1783-1793

Gonzales, Ethan, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dierksheide, Christa, History, University of Virginia
Edelson, S. Max, History, University of Virginia

Using information gathering and manipulation as a way to connect early American diplomacy and state capacity, this essay argues that in the wake of the American Revolution, the United States engaged Great Britain in an ideological competition to define the American republic through contested information. Jefferson’s efforts to combat British disinformation without state backing in Europe during the 1780s led to the creation of a state-supported instrument to challenge disinformation abroad: the Contingency Fund. In particular, the harnessing of this resource—which facilitated American diplomats’ information gathering overseas during the 1790s—to executive power better enabled early U.S. policymakers to confront foreign rivals by projecting American influence beyond the republic’s borders.

MA (Master of Arts)
Intelligence, Political History, Diplomacy, Early American State, Thomas Jefferson
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