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Interviews | March 17, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Peter Stark: The Powells.com Interview

Peter StarkIt's hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world. In 1810, four years... Continue »
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Empires on the Pacific: World War II and the Struggle for the Mastery of Asia


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Empires on the Pacific smashes the standard narrative of World War II in the Pacific theater, showing America's aim to replace Britain as East Asia's New Imperial Power. Robert Smith Thompson offers a long overdue explanation of what America's war against Japan was really about--in a word: China. The over-reaching British Empire was waning yet unwilling to relinquish its foothold in China, while an increasingly ambitious Japan was determined to dominate the region by conquering China. Enter the young upstart, America. For Franklin Delano Roosevelt and for the United States, the war with Japan had little to do with revenge for Pearl Harbor. Japan would have to be vanquished so that it would never again be an imperial rival.Thompson's recasting of the Asian conflict profoundly alters our understanding of World War II in the Pacific and of what followed in Korea and in Vietnam. Revisionist history at its best, Empires on the Pacific is a far-reaching book that requires us to re-evaluate what we thought we knew about twentieth-century American history and what many still consider our last "good war."


"Robert Smith Thompson explores two primary themes in Empires on the Pacific. The first is to forward the argument that the Second World War in the Pacific was at its base a clash between imperial powers for the control of China. With the diminution of British power, and with the rise of American and Japanese power, the struggle for mastery of Asia was really about which of the two rising powers would rule China (directly or indirectly), thereby facilitating total domination of the Pacific. Ultimately, Thompson fails to put forth a persuasive case. This is not to say that the argument is without merit. Indeed the first part of this four-part work accurately depicts the mid 19th-century struggle among the imperial powers. Thompson should be praised for the clarity and forcefulness of his depiction of the competition for power and security among the expansionist states in the region. Unfortunately, the second task of this work undermines the first. Specifically, Thompson offers a seamless and fascinating narrative of the war in the Pacific. Thompson excels at this task, despite the fact that not much new is offered. In choosing to spend so much time on the military competition however, Thompson is distracted from the real task of this work: demonstrating how the war in the Pacific ties into the broader historical competition among the powers. Although this book is exceptionally approachable and well written, scholars of World War II history and of international relations will find Thompson's effort less than compelling." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)


Empires on the Pacific is to be celebrated as one of the best accounts available of the war against Japan.--Toronto Globe and Mail.

About the Author

Robert Smith Thompson teaches at the University of South Carolina. His book A Time for War: FDR and the Path to Pearl Harbor was the first serious work to argue that FDR provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor as a way of justifying America's entry into war. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Product Details

Thompson, Robert Smith
Basic Books (AZ)
Thompson, Robert S.
World - General
World History-General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
8 x 5.31 in 16 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Asia » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Politics
History and Social Science » World History » General
Metaphysics » Healing

Empires on the Pacific: World War II and the Struggle for the Mastery of Asia New Trade Paper
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Product details 472 pages Basic Books - English 9780465085767 Reviews:
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Empires on the Pacific is to be celebrated as one of the best accounts available of the war against Japan.--Toronto Globe and Mail.
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