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Habits of Empire [Kindle Edition]

Walter Nugent
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $13.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Since its founding, the United States' declared principles of liberty and democracy have often clashed with aggressive policies of imperial expansion. In this sweeping narrative history, acclaimed scholar Walter Nugent explores this fundamental American contradiction by recounting the story of American land acquisition since 1782 and shows how this steady addition of territory instilled in the American people a habit of empire-building.

From America's early expansions into Transappalachia and the Louisiana Purchase through later additions of Alaska and island protectorates in the Caribbean and Pacific, Nugent demonstrates that the history of American empire is a tale of shifting motives, as the early desire to annex land for a growing population gave way to securing strategic outposts for America's global economic and military interests.

Thorough, enlightening, and well-sourced, this book explains the deep roots of American imperialism as no other has done.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this compelling, controversial history, Nugent, an author (Into the West) and retired history professor, contends that the U.S. "has created three empires during its history," beginning with the march West, then the "offshore" acquisition of Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean territories, and the present era of "global/virtual" empiricism. Nugent's thorough chronicle peels back Thomas Jefferson's idea of an "empire for liberty" (which "rings just as true and right to Americans today") to find that high ideals do little to curb the aggression, deceit, cruelty and hypocrisy that have long characterized empire-buidling. Nugent spends most of his time examining America's achievement of Manifest Destiny, swallowing up Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Oregon, California, New Mexico and all points in between. Corrections, like the "imperfect pullback" of FDR's good neighbor policy, lead to the Cold War and, ultimately, to today's American empire, an expansion of power rather than territory. Covering a lot of ground in a short space, Nugent handles the relationships among governments and government players with clear, straightforward prose and easy-to-follow analogies: "American procurement of the Hawaiian Islands may be thought of as filibuster in very slow motion." Challenging some of America's most cherished ideas about itself, Nugent exposes an unsettling reality that outsiders-i.e., victims of American expansion-see all too well.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* As military history attests, the logistics and support side of war is no small matter, and now it’s mega-big business. Halliburton, the Texas-rooted corporation headquartered in Dubai and formerly managed by Dick Cheney, has spearheaded the rise of the private contractor in U.S. military affairs and brazenly conflated privatization with profiteering. Investigative journalist Chatterjee, winner of the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award, charts the full extent of the company’s corruption and transgressions in an impeccably matter-of-fact yet staggering work of military-industrial true crime. Chatterjee begins with the company’s revealing history and tracks key players Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld as they alternate between CEO positions and seats of power in the federal government. Chatterjee then presents a meticulously documented litany of Halliburton scams and crimes. He cites epic waste and lack of accountability and the suspicious failure to repair Iraq’s oilfields. He chronicles the tyrannical treatment of the army of migrant workers from Southeast Asia who outnumber the U.S. soldiers they serve in bases resembling upscale American towns. Hope resides in Chatterjee’s portraits of the courageous whistleblowers who have exposed the company’s heinous opportunism and brutal disregard of human rights. Time will tell if justice will follow. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 942 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (June 12, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001AX9QQU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,751 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When the Facts become legend still go with the facts. August 12, 2008
Format:Hardcover
In some ways this is a surprisingly iconoclastic but not an entirely polemic free rendition of American history: a virtual potpourri of vignettes and excursions down interesting side trails not usually covered in such great detail in similar sources. Many events are of first hand narrations of how familiar themes of purposeful U.S. trickery and diplomatic duplicity, out right lies, many un-kept promises, broken treaties, and genocide were used to "win the West."

However to the author's credit, with only a few exceptions (including the book's overall tone), his version of the U.S. story is told with the dispassion of a disinterested historian, not by "playing to" the patriotic heart strings of a "legend seeking public" (as say Lynne Chaney did in her "A Time for Freedom"). But nevertheless this rather skilful and detailed elaboration of American history comes at a distinct cost: other more interesting (and arguably more important) historical vignettes had to be excluded. In short, Nugent's side road excursions sucked up a lot of historical time and space. Either the book should have been longer, or the topics should have been more carefully prioritized. The most contentious (and in this reader's view also the least interesting), was the author's resurrection of a rather obscure Canadian historian's theory that U.S. military bases near the Canadian border are in fact a kind of pre-positioning for a future invasion of that nation. And speaking of delving into the obscure, I would have been pleased if he had explored more about the connection between slavery and U.S. expansionist designs.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What They Did Not Tell You In History Class October 30, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Outstanding. Excellent and very informative. Great read. The downside is that you may not have the same view of this country after reading it. Pay particular attention to the Polk/George W. comparison. Our country has not been kind to non-whites and Catholics over the past 300+ years. What really surprised me was that a very high birthrate allowed us to conquer new territories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 20-20 Hindsight May 3, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Because of this book I learned that "Remember the Alamo" was all about preserving slavery in Texas and not necessarily a valiant stand against an oppressive dictator. The information provided by the author is excellent and I learned a lot. However, he does analyze the past in terms of present day political correctness. There was a context for America's actions in the past that may be difficult to understand in the present. While Exceptionalism, open immigration policy, and Manifest Destiny are part of that context, America also invested heavily in transportation and communication infrastructure and had a vibrant, widely accessible, and strong free press that contributed to a strong sense of a nation. Other countries and territories that were in the path of America's expansion simply didn't have the means or the societal structure to stand up agains it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read for American History Buffs February 7, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you love American history, this is a great read on our country's history with foreign policy. Interesting facts you never learned in school. Even if you disagree with the author's premise of America being an empire, it is a fascinating read.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you enjoy the illusion and arrogance that we as a people are morally superior, this book may be disturbing. We were and still are an imperialist nation. But we were no worse than the others. The details of how we achieved our expansion, by force, lies, diplomacy, illegal immigration, legitimate purchases, but most of all by rapid population growth are fascinating, in many ways better than fiction.
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