by Daniel Immerwahr
A pathbreaking history of the United States' overseas possessions and the true meaning of its empire
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.
"[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
"How to Hide an Empire takes you on a whirlwind tour of the islands and territories the U.S. has governed from the 19th century on. It draws you in with smartly weaved, gripping stories and constructs an impressively expansive tale of America's global conquests. Manifest destiny takes on a whole new meaning. Simmering beneath all these stories is a powerful throughline: As classic colonialism was being fazed out in the 20th century, a new, more covert form of empire-building set in - with the U.S. at the forefront. It's not a stretch to say that this book will make you think about American history in a new way." --Ramtin Arablouei, NPR
About the Author:
Daniel Immerwahr is associate professor of history at Northwestern University and author of Thinking Small: The United State and the Lure of Community Development, which won the Organization of American Historians' Merle Curti Prize. He has written for N+1, Slate, Dissent, and other publications.