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How to Hide an Empire

A History of the Greater United States

Daniel Immerwahr

Picador

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ISBN10: 1250251095
ISBN13: 9781250251091

Trade Paperback

528 Pages

$20.00

CA$26.99

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Finalist for the Mark Lynton History Prize

We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an “empire,” exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories—the islands, atolls, and archipelagos—this country has governed and inhabited?

In How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century’s most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.

In the years after World War II, Immerwahr notes, the United States moved away from colonialism. Instead, it put innovations in electronics, transportation, and culture to use, devising a new sort of influence that did not require the control of colonies. Rich with absorbing vignettes, full of surprises, and driven by an original conception of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire is a major and compulsively readable work of history.

Reviews

Praise for How to Hide an Empire

"To call this standout book a corrective would make it sound earnest and dutiful, when in fact it is wry, readable and often astonishing. Immerwahr knows that the material he presents is serious, laden with exploitation and violence, but he also knows how to tell a story, highlighting the often absurd space that opened up between expansionist ambitions and ingenuous self-regard . . . It’s a testament to Immerwahr’s considerable storytelling skills that I found myself riveted by his sections on Hoover’s quest for standardized screw threads, wondering what might happen next. But beyond its collection of anecdotes and arcana, this humane book offers something bigger and more profound. How to Hide an Empire nimbly combines breadth and sweep with fine-grained attention to detail. The result is a provocative and absorbing history of the United States—'not as it appears in its fantasies, but as it actually is.'"—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

"[Immerwahr's] book is written in 22 brisk chapters, full of lively characters, dollops of humor, and surprising facts . . . It entertains and means to do so. But its purpose is quite serious: to shift the way that people think about American history . . . Immerwahr convincingly argues that . . . the United States replaced colonies with chemistry,' and partially 'substituted technology for territory.' It is a powerful and illuminating economic argument . . . the book succeeds in its core goal: to recast American history as a history of the 'Greater United States' . . . deserves a wide audience, and it should find one."—Patrick Iber, The New Republic

"Consistently both startling and absorbing . . . Immerwahr vividly retells the early formation of the [United States], the consolidation of its overseas territory, and the postwar perfection of its 'pointillist' global empire, which extends influence through a vast constellation of tiny footprints."Harper's Magazine

"There are many histories of American expansionism. How to Hide an Empire renders them all obsolete. It is brilliantly conceived, utterly original, and immensely entertaining—simultaneously vivid, sardonic and deadly serious."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Twilight of the American Century

"How to Hide an Empire is a breakthrough, for both Daniel Immerwahr and our collective understanding of America’s role in the world. His narrative of the rise of our colonial empire outside North America, and then our surprising pivot from colonization to globalization after World War II, is enthralling in the telling—and troubling for anyone pondering our nation’s past and future. The result is a book for citizens and scholars alike."—Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal Age

"This book changes our understanding of the fundamental character of the United States as a presence in world history. By focusing on the processes by which Americans acquired, controlled, and were affected by territory, Daniel Immerwahr shows that the United States was not just another 'empire,' but was a highly distinctive one the dimensions of which have been largely ignored."—David A. Hollinger, author of Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America

“Historian Immerwahr argues in this substantial work that . . . for more than two centuries the U.S. has been . . . a kind of empire . . . made up of territories . . . barely acknowledged in popular conceptions of the country . . . This insightful, excellent book, with its new perspective on an element of American history that is almost totally excluded from mainstream education and knowledge, should be required reading for those on the mainland."Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"President Jefferson imagined an 'Empire of Liberty' . . . [but] Immerwahr illustrates how American territorial expansion included control over and governance of millions of Spanish speakers and various Indian tribes who had to be forcefully subdued . . . a useful and informative work, since many of these overseas territories remain under our governance."Booklist

"A richly detailed, thoroughly researched history . . . the author engagingly depicts the nations' conquests . . . Immerwahr animates the narrative with a lively cast of characters . . . A vivid recounting of imperial America's shameful past."Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Reviews from Goodreads

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

1

THE FALL AND RISE OF DANIEL BOONE


The thirteen colonies that would make up the United States declared independence from Britain in 1776. Freedom, however, takes many forms. Just a year earlier, the hunter Daniel Boone and thirty...

About the author

Daniel Immerwahr

Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, which won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award. He has written for Slate, n+1, Dissent, and other publications.

Daniel Immerwahr

Official Links

Author Website at Northwestern University