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First Great Triumph

How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power

Warren Zimmermann

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book

Warren Zimmermann examines the development of the United States as an imperial nation a century ago, with the conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and (indirectly) Panama within five short years (1898-1903). How did the United States become a player in world politics so suddenly and what inspired the move toward imperialism in the first place?

Longtime diplomat and writer Zimmermann seeks answers in the lives and relationships of five remarkable figures: Theodore Roosevelt; naval strategist Alfred T. Mahan; senator Henry Cabot Lodge; secretary of state John Hay; and the hard-edged corporate lawyer turned colonial administrator Elihu Root. Faced with difficult choices, these extraordinary men, all close friends, instituted new political and diplomatic policies with alternating audacity, arrogance, generosity, paternalism, and vision.

Zimmermann's discerning account of these five men also examines the ways they exploited the readiness of the American people to support a surge of overseas expansion. He makes clear why no discussion of America's international responsibilities today can be complete without understanding how the United States claimed its global powers a century ago.

REVIEWS

Praise for First Great Triumph

"Excellent . . . An engrossing and timely history of five men who embraced the imperialist ethic." --James Chace, The New York Review of Books

"What gives Mr. Zimmermann's book its special character is his singling out of Roosevelt, Lodge and company as 'the fathers of American imperialism' and showing how their vision of the nation was transformed into reality. And that makes for a good story, full of craggy individualists and events that retain their power to amaze." --Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

"Riveting . . . [First Great Triumph] is essential background for anyone interested in how the United States arrived at its present place in the world . . . [and] a fascinating visit to an era that has received far too little attention." --Richard Holbrooke, Foreign Affairs

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Warren Zimmermann

  • Warren Zimmermann spent thirty-three years as an officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving in France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela, the Soviet Union, and as our last ambassador to Yugoslavia. He has taught at Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities and is the author of Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers, which won the American Academy of Diplomacy Book Award in 1997. His work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, Newsweek, The National Interest, and national newspapers. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C., area.
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    First Great Triumph

    How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power

    Warren Zimmermann

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