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Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance--and Why They Fall Hardcover – October 30, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chua (World on Fire), a Yale law professor and daughter of immigrants, examines a number of world-dominant powers—a none too rigorously defined group that lumps together the Persian, Roman, Mongol and British empires with the contemporary United States—and argues that tolerance and multiculturalism are indispensable features of global economic and military success. Such hyperpowers rise, Chua argues, because their tolerance of minority cultures and religions, their receptivity to foreign ideas and their willingness to absorb and empower talented provincials and immigrants lets them harness the world's human capital. Conversely, hyperpowers decline when their assimilative capacities falter and they lapse into intolerance and exclusion. The sexy concept of a world-dominant hyperpower, in addition to being somewhat erratic—the smallish Dutch Republic makes the cut, while the far-flung (but inconveniently intolerant) Spanish empire doesn't—is doubtful when examining an America that can hardly dominate Baghdad and not much more convincing when applied to earlier hegemons. Chua does offer an illuminating survey of the benefits of tolerance and pluralism, often as a tacit brief for maintaining America's generous immigration policies. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Amy Chua smartly condenses the complex histories of the Persian, Mughal, Dutch, and other empires into an irresistible argument: that empires expand through toleration and contract through close-mindedness. As with any shrewd and elaborate argument, the getting there is half the fun.”
—Robert D. Kaplan, Atlantic Monthly correspondent, visiting professor in national security at the U. S. Naval Academy, and author of Balkan Ghosts and Imperial Grunts

"Scintillating history, breathtaking in scope and chock-full of insight. Amy Chua argues persuasively that the real key to acquiring and maintaining great power lies in the ability to attract and assimilate, rather than to coerce or intimidate.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War

“Amy Chua is a law professor, but in this book she writes as a sage historian. She draws lessons from the past that one who cares about the future cannot afford to ignore.”
—Amitai Etzioni, author of Security First: For A Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy

“From ancient Achaemenid Persia to the modern United States, by way of Rome, Tang China and the Spanish, Dutch and British Empires, Amy Chua tells the story of the world's hyperpowers -- that elite of empires which, in their heyday, were truly without equal. Not everyone will be persuaded by her ingenious thesis that religious and racial tolerance was a prerequisite for global dominance, but also the slow solvent of that cultural "glue" which holds a great nation together. But few readers will fail to be impressed by the height of this book's ambition and by the breadth of scholarship on which it is based.”
—Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor History, Harvard University, and author of Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385512848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385512848
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #846,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amy Chua is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Her first book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, a New York Times bestseller, was selected by both The Economist and the U.K.'s Guardian as one of the Best Books of 2003. Her second book, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance-and Why They Fall, was a critically acclaimed Foreign Affairs bestseller.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My biggest complaint about this book is that it is almost like a term paper that has been expanded into a book. Some of the other reviews have done a good job about summarizing the argument so I will be brief, so as not to recover ground that has already been covered.

Her basic thesis is that (1) hyperpowers fail because they become intolerant, thus excluding the skills and contributions of some of their most promising minorities, causing these minorities to emmigrate and enrich their rivals, and in extreme cases causing these minorities to revolt and overthrow the hyperpower;(2) successful hyperpowers have a "glue" that binds its members together, in the form of a shared idea or citizenship and she cites the Roman Empire and the British Empire have been successful at this generating this idea of citizenship that its members have aspired towards. The United States has a strong glue that binds its citizens through a shared ideaology but because it is a democracy it cannot extend this citizenship to other nations as they will then have vote in how it is governed, thereby excluding other nations from what makes it successful.

Both these ideas are extremely interesting and could provide much fodder for in depth analysis. Unfortunately she aims for breath over depth and leaves me unconvinced. For instance when dealing with a massive subject such as the fall of the Roman Empire she spends a paragraph dealing with alternative explanations for the fall, but then quickly cuts to her major argument that the intolerance of a Christian Rome was a significant factor in the subsequent decline. This approach would be acceptable were it to provide penetrating insights, or pertinent anecdotes, or little know facts or figures to bolster her argument.
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Format: Hardcover
First it must be stated that the author is a lawyer & not a professional historian, so take her thesis & my overly positive review with a grain of salt.

The author compares hyperpowers of the past to those who almost were as well as to the contemporary ones. Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan & the former Soviet Union are some examples. The book is divided into three parts with four chapters in each. "Part- 1 Ch1, The Tolerance Of Barbarians. Ch-1, The First Hegemon-Achemenid Persia. Ch-2, Tolerance In Rome's High Empire. Ch-3, China's Golden Age. Ch-4, The Great Mongol Empire.Part-2 The Enlightening Of Tolerance Ch-5, The Purification Of Medieval Spain. Ch-6, The Dutch World Empire. Ch-7, Tolerance & Intolerance In The East. Ch-8, The British Empire.Part-3 The Future Of World Dominance. Ch-9, The American Hyperpower. Ch-10, The Rise & Fall Of The Axis Powers. Ch-11, The Challengers. Ch-12, The Day Of Empire." I would read this chapter first & then the whole book.
In short the hyperpowers of Persia, Rome, Tang dynasty China, the Mongols, the Dutch, the British, & the USA in different ways & for various lengths of time were the most successful & influential in history. While Ming China, & the empires of Spain & the Ottoman Turks were "might have beens as far as hyperpowers go." The former do to its isolationism, & the latter two do to their varying degrees of intolerance, the suppression of knowledge, & lack of a home grown innovative & commercial class. Both of these constantly had to hire foreigner merchants & bankers to keep their economies going. They also often had to hire foreigners to help build their navies since their own technology was often stagnant. The irony that the Jews & Arabs who were brutally expelled from Spain, would eventually reinvigorate the Ottomans.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amy Chua is a professor of law at Yale Law School, but it seems that her true passion is history. In her previous book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, she did a series of case studies on market-dominant minorities and the countries in which they reside. As these countries transitioned to democracy, the minorities became targets of resentment and even violence. It was an original work showing some of the adverse consequences of rapid democratization.

This new work is equally original. Now she has done a series of studies on history's hyperpowers, and how they achieved that status. Surprisingly, the key to achieving hyperpower success is not brute force and imposition of a monoculture, but tolerance and acceptance of other cultures. And, on the downside, if this diversity is not properly managed, it will lead to the hyperpower's decline.

The hyperpowers studied are a diverse group. They include Achaemenid Persia, Rome's High Empire, Tang China, Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire, the Ottoman and Mughal Empires, the Spanish, Dutch, British, and American Empires. With such a varied list, critics will pounce and demand a sharper definition of terms. Professional historians will be quick to point out novice mistakes.

First the term hyperpower. By this term, Chua means not merely a great power or a superpower, but a world-dominant power. A power that amassed such military and economic strength that no other power on earth could challenge it.
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