How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States is a fascinating and engaging read. I learned so much! Even the most mundane topics (standards and practices, anyone?) were somehow incredibly compelling. This side of U.S. history really lays out how systemic white supremacy is in our government and culture. I mean, wow. Also, I did not expect to be so infuriated by Woodrow Wilson. Immerwahr is an excellent writer, and this will fill in a lot of gaps left out of history class! Recommended By Lesley A., Powells.com
The history of the United States’ territories, possessions, and colonies is largely untaught in American schools. Daniel Immerwahr covers this history and clearly maps the interconnections between American imperialism and world affairs. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Named one of the ten best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune
A Publishers Weekly best book of 2019 - A 2019 NPR Staff Pick
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.
"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
"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." The New York Times
"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 ...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
"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
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.