My book bearing this title is available at and select bookstores




This book is about the role of many American lawyers and statesmen in international politics who have striven since 1776 to make governments and laws of other peoples more like their own.  It was written in 2003, and published in 2004.  I had hoped that it might generate some more prudent thinking about American military ambitions in Iraq.  It did not.  In reflecting on the subject, I have written a sequel that will be published in the William and Mary Law Review in 2008.  It is counterhistorical and suggests that we might imaginably have been able to democratize the middle east had we undertaken to do so in 1919.  It is entitled: "Could and Should We Have Made An Ottoman Republic?


Some reactions to the book:


"The impulse of American lawyers to go abroad in search of opportunities to promote the rule of law has a long and colorful history.  Paul Carrington's learned, wonderfully written book brings that history to life.  The result is not only an informative story starting at the French Revolution and continuing up to the U.S. intervention in Iraq, but also a highly instructive message about the limits of American power."


Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


�Spreading the Word is a brilliant, erudite, wonderfully readable book on a subject that could not be more timely.  Offering sobering and constructive lessons from earlier periods of American history, this book should be read by lawyers, policymakers, and anyone interested in globalization.�


Amy Chua, Professor of Law, Yale University, Author of World on Fire (2003)


"Paul Carrington's firm grasp of legal history extends across centuries and around the globe. The result is a book of breath-taking ambition, dazzling scholarship and profound significance, not least to our understanding of the United States' conflicted role in today's complex world."


Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia


"Spreading the Word" is far more than a brilliant cautionary history about the downside of civilizing missions, both secular and religious.  It is a persuasive indictment of one major strand of contemporary American foreign policy thinking, stretching from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush.  It is a stunning critique of the ethnocentrism, arrogance and naivety associated with the idea that we are the greatest because God is on our side.  Paul Carrington suggests that if the West is to be best we must revalue the virtues of humility and tolerance for cultural differences.  His book is a major challenge to the claim that the world would be a better place if only our laws, norms and conceptions of human rights could be exported to all regions of the world and universally embraced as divine or universal truth.� 


Richard A. Shweder, William Claude Revis Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago.



From the Introduction:


            In September 2002 the President of the United States stated The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. In the document, he foretold, as if for the first time, that

[T]he United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets and free trade to every corner of the world.


This was an echo of President Woodrow Wilson, and indeed, of every American President serving after 1941, and of many others before that time. � Strange as it may seem to many Americans, the virtues of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and President Wilson�s proposal to make the world safe for democracy are not obvious to many strangers.   For that reason, the record of those who have tried to propagate the American ideology is replete with failures, and marked with few successes.  Optimists of the 21st century appear to be unfamiliar with the record.  This is unsurprising, for that record has been repeatedly overlooked or forgotten by generations of American lawyer-generalists.



Paul Carrington has been teaching law since 1957, and at Duke University since 1978. He has been engaged at times in the mission of changing foreign legal systems and informing foreign lawyers about American law.  In that role he has worked in Columbia, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Germany. He is also author of many books and articles about law and the legal profession.  For more information about the author, see


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