How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr – Book Review

This is a book l have been meaning to read since it was published last March in hardback and is now available in paperback. And after reading the 22 brisk chapters over the extended break, Its confirms to me that its a must read for anyone of us who has struggled with the the many histories of American expansionism as it exceeds them all with its own brilliant analysis. 

He says quite clearly that “The history of the US is the history of Empire” while giving empire his own additional definition which is not subjective in the manner accustom amongst the left. He suggests the shape of the empire is critical with its outposts and colonies and in the case of the United States it is all to often forgotten even by its own citizens.  A case in point is Puerto Rico which many Americans do not consider part of the mainland even though their are American citizens! 

The book itself is divided in two parts, the Colonial Empire and the Pointillist Empire. The first part takes you through the history of the United States on the mainland and territories it acquired via the expansion westwards and of course the gains made via the American-Spanish wars. For those who may well have no background of American history, these 200 pages give a quick and ready knowledge of what you need to known for the normal definition of empire and many interesting insights to America history which you may not get anywhere else. For example how the history of the name of the state of Oklahoma explains well how native Americans were treated in the formative state and the struggles of the Filipinos, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and others for their freedom in America’s conquered territories.  Much of which l heard about for the first time in this book!  

The second half is when the book takes on its shape and argument with the Pointillist Empire redefining empire today based how the US acquired its base network which often raise the same issues of direct colonialism. There are sovereignty concerns in places like Okinawa and the exclusion of locals from ancestral lands in the Chagos Islands to name a few. Unfortunately these modern-day America’s territorial holdings face a lot less public scrutiny by US democracy and along with other advantages including English language, standardisation of production along US standards have made sure that the US reigns supreme today. 

This a important book if ever America is going to change its view of itself as a republic, not an empire and thus acknowledge their own past. As a result its is a must read for all.

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