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Why did Woodrow Wilson Promote the Concept of "Self-Determination"? (Worksheet)

  • This cartoon uses the popular story of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree and depicts Wilson eliminating autocracy. February 22, 1919.
  • Preview of Wilson Self-Determination 1919 Worksheet.docx - page 1
Subject Social Studies — World History
Grade Level Grades 9-12
Resource Type Activity


During World War I, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson promoted the concept of "self-determination," meaning that a nation—a group of people with similar political ambitions—can seek to create its own independent government or state. The idea is also alluded to in the fifth of his Fourteen Points, although the words "self-determination" are never explicitly used.

Why did Wilson promote the idea of "self-determination" even though it conflicted with the colonial claims of many allies? The reading and worksheet found here as well as attached below explores this question and more through a brief excerpt from historian Erez Manela

The text for the worksheet is taken from a March 2019 Carnegie Council podcast entitled, "The Crack-Up: Egypt & the Wilsonian Moment, with Erez Manela" and is based upon a New York Times opinion piece written by Manela.


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