A Northwestern University history professor argues that the United States represents an empire invisible to most of its inhabitants, one that consists of vast overseas possessions and a troubling history of interventionism abroad.
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 ... Seen through Immerwahr’s lens, even the most familiar historical events can take on a startling cast ... 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.'
... meandering but never boring ... Immerwahr sometimes wanders far afield, almost like a psychoanalysis patient in free association ... This book, however, is somewhat one-dimensional ... Immerwahr is right to remind us of victims like those [mentioned in the book], but the legacies of colonialism are never in colonies alone.
The 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 looks less like an empire than its European counterparts did not because U.S. policy maintains any inherent commitment to anti-imperialism, but because its empire is disguised first as continuous territory and later by the development of substitutes for formal territorial control ... 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' ... Immerwahr’s book deserves a wide audience, and it should find one. In making the contours of past power more visible, How to Hide an Empire may help make it possible to imagine future alternatives.