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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of history, the best of stories
History writing rarely is this good... even Stanley Karnow's more famous book on Vietnam pales in comparison. The best part of this book is that it doesn't read like a dry history, but like a very rich and interesting novel. No wonder Stanley Karnow won the Pulitzer prize for writing this book.
The reality is this book details the wonderful, rich, benevolent, and...
Published on August 18, 1999

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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay at best, but Filipino readers researching their history should look elsewhere.
Yes this book does have arguments going for both sides and can be a good informative read, but it doesn't touch on the deeper, almost unspoken issues of Filipino people today in relation to their past. I used to agree with the "positive" things this book said, and the Uncle Tom-ish obsession that too many fellow Filipinos have with the United States and all things...
Published on February 5, 2012 by AcleraTactical


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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of history, the best of stories, August 18, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
History writing rarely is this good... even Stanley Karnow's more famous book on Vietnam pales in comparison. The best part of this book is that it doesn't read like a dry history, but like a very rich and interesting novel. No wonder Stanley Karnow won the Pulitzer prize for writing this book.
The reality is this book details the wonderful, rich, benevolent, and sometimes tragic relationship that the US had with its one and only true foreign colony. And as someone who has traveled extensively and lived in the Philippines, this book is spot on.
As an American, I can only shake my head at President Clinton's sheer ignorance for not visiting the PI during the national celebrations of their Centennary of Independence from Spain in 1998, an independence that the US helped them get... and then took away for another 50 years.
Read this book, especially if you are American, and learn something important about America's involvement in Asia... some may argue even more important that America's involvement in Vietnam. To this day, the Philippines is the world's third largest english speaking nation behind the US and UK....
A monumental piece of history.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering Case Study of Exporting America, January 2, 2004
By 
T. Graczewski "tgraczewski" (Burlingame, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
From the valiant death of Ferdinand Magellan in the azure surf of Mactan in 1521 to the fall of Ferdinand Marcos at the hands of Cory Aquino and a disillusioned Reagan administration in 1986, Stanley Karnow, the venerable Asian correspondent for the Washington Post, traces the arc of the Philippines' long, tumultuous relationship with the West. Briskly-paced and engaging, "In Our Image" won the 1990 Pulitzer-prize for history and presents a balanced, yet sobering perspective on America's only traditional colonial experience.
Those looking for anti-American or anti-imperialist fodder will be sorely disappointed by Karnow's generally positive assessment of US policies in the archipelago. He praises the massive investment made in developing and improving the indigenous education system and industrial infrastructure, and frequently notes that American policies were far less exploitative and more politically liberal than any other colonial administration in history. Indeed, he argues that the Washington's voluntary grant of independence to the Philippines was nothing short of revolutionary at the time, and that the islands were actually more subject to American domination after independence in 1946 than before.
On the other hand, those seeking inspiration in how American democracy and industry can be successfully exported to different cultures will be equally disappointed with this case study. Most politicians today, liberal and conservative alike, bristle at the notion that some people or cultures are simply incapable of American-style democracy, and the freedom and justice that comes with it. Karnow, however, makes a strong case that dreams of self-duplication in the Philippines were doomed to fail in a society with an entrenched oligarchy, a powerful tradition of compadre loyalty, and an inherent respect for unabridged power. He notes, for instance, that both Marcos and his prime political opponent, the martyred Benigno Aquino, believed that only an all-powerful head of state in the mold of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew or South Korea's Syngman Rhee would be capable of making any positive difference in the Philippines.
Karnow is a brilliant writer and this book shows him at his best. Each chapter covers large swaths of American and Filipino history, so the narrative is far from comprehensive. Those seeking a detailed understanding of US colonial administration, the bloody and controversial fight against Aquinaldo and the Filipino insurgents, or the epic tale of the Bataan death march and MacArthur's reconquest of the Philippines would be well-advised to seek other, more focused works. However, for an introduction to the political history of the Philippines, her close and unusual relationship with the United States, and the experience of re-creating American institutions in lands unlike our own, this book is not to be missed.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Karnow produces classic work on Philippine-US relations, December 24, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
The main complaint I have about this work is that it was for too long out of print or hard to find (a failing now apparently remedied). That's good, because Karnow has produced one of the definitive works on Philippine-US relations -- and one that I will use for classes I teach on the subject. While Karnow has been called a "nostalgic colonialist" for his sometimes slightly "White Man's Burden" view of Philippine history as, roughly, "better under the Americans than the Spanish," his criticism of turn-of-the-century American jingoism and broken promises to the Philippines redeems him in my eyes. All in all, a thorough, well-told tale of a too-invisible chapter in American history.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Historical Read, July 11, 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (Treasure Island, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
Karnow has painstakingly crafted a rich, densly fact filled historical biography centering on America's forgotten involvment with it's only true colony, obtained through dubious pretenses from Spain in 1898. The book follows foreign involvement in the Philippines from Ferdinand Magellan's landing in 1521 to the end of the Regan era. Karnow's narrative provides expert and eye-opening insight into the inside workings of the Spanish and American colonial powers and their abusive, beneficial and at times comical consequences on the long-suffering Philippine people. An original book about a unique country with an even more unique history. An excellent read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fillipinos have their own history, December 6, 1998
By 
Nancy K. Oconnor (PAWHUSKA, OK United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
The average American knows little about the Philippines except for occasional news stories about tradgedies, and most Americans have visited this lovely country only as members of the armed services. However, Philippino history is more complicated and diverse than one would think from such contact. Stanley Karnow's book is a good introduction to the history and politics of this fascinating country, and his insight into the way the culture works, including the importance of family connections, is a good introduction to anyone who intends to visit this country and to understand it's ways and its people
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of the Philippines, December 1, 2001
By 
Nancy K. Oconnor (PAWHUSKA, OK United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
Most books on the Philippines are about American experiences there, mainly in World War II.
This is a well written, easily read history of that fascinating country.
It not only gives the history, but informs on the culture of the Philippines, and explains history that otherwise might be invisible or hard to understand. (For example, how Chinese immigrants influenced the richest families, the love/hate relationship of Filippinos with the USA, the reason why some Filippino politicians sided with Japan, etc.).
If you have to read just one book on this fascinating country, this is the one to read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Historical Writing, May 17, 2002
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
Stanley Karnow's "In Our Image" does exactly what it purports to do in the subtitle. It is a very complete political history of U.S. involvement in the Phillippines and how American influence has shaped that country. It is, in fact, as much a history of the United States during the same period, giving detailed portraits of important figures like William Howard Taft, who was the first civilian governor of the Phillippines after America won the colony from Spain in the Spanish American War, and who considered the islands to his personal political domain, even after he became President in 1909. Another American who looms large is, of course, General Douglas MacArthur, whose father Arthur fought during the little remembered Phillippine insurrection against American rule at the turn of the last century and who became an icon to the Phillippine people despite his serious personality flaws.
Karnow begins the book with an overview of Phillippine history under Spanish rule that sets the stage quite well. He then describes America's conquest and subsequent torment as it found itself bogged down in a jungle guerilla war quagmire that unfortunately portended the Vietnam War six and a half decades later. Over 100,000 Phillippinos and 4,000 American soldiers died in one of the bloodiest colonial wars ever. Once the islands were finally subdued, however, America became the most benevolent of all colonial powers, granting the Phillippines unprecedented autonomy and zealously undertaking to educate its people and improve its infastructure. After World War Two, the U.S. became the first colonial power to voluntarily relenquish a colony, granting the Phillippnes full independence with a minimum of fuss.
Overall, Karnow's book is a very throroughly researched and highly readable account. It is also very well balanced, and describes America's colonial experience fairly. One comes away from the book conflicted about whether the America's colonial rule in the Phillippines was ultimately a good thing or a bad thing. Certainly, there are plenty of arguments on both sides.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just Facts, but Personalities as Well., June 8, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
I was recommended this book by a fellow Filipino friend of mine who had just completed it. For some reason or other I waited about two years before reading it. The loss was all mine. Stanley Karnow has made an incredibly complex and complicated history of the Phillippine islands come alive with a well researched arsenal of facts, insight, and interpretation. I think it does a great justice for researchers everywhere to have a book such as this that shows history as a result of an almost inconprehensible mix of intent, accident, prejudice, and personality. I recommend it for all who are interested in Phil-Am History. My only complaint is that it leaves me wanting to find out more about my people and my culture.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What lies beneath the surface, September 7, 2009
By 
Red Fox (Perth, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
To a Westerner, the Philippines is a mass of contradictions. A country in which the most vocal calls for representative democracy can come from an unelected, unaccountable male leader of the catholic church; a society in which national identity and patriotic culture are expressed through foreign rituals from TV game shows to the school flag-salute; where the elements most identifiable as Filipino are remnants of imperial conquest - from Spanish patronymics to the ubiquitous catholic faith and to the Filipino language itself.

This impressive work by Karnow presents the history of the Philippines as the history of underdevelopment. He repeatedly returns to the conclusion that the Philippine economic model is basically feudal, with absolute power wielded by a land-owning class consisting of wealthy dynasties. The social structure at the time of Spanish conquest in many ways resembled Anglo-Saxon Britain. Rather than challenge this ancient society, 300 years of Spanish rule, 50 years of US rule and 50 years of US rule-by-proxy reinforced the plutocracy. The concept of a unified nation governed by a democratic process is an illusion the imperial masters where happy to promote for their own purposes.

Karnow shows how the US relationship has largely made the Philippines what it is today. He shows with great insight and masses of evidential detail how the relationship moved from an initial benign mission to liberate and improve the lives of the Filipinos, eventually to a cynical desire to protect US interests, primarily to maintain the air and naval bases from which the Americans rained death and disaster on Vietnam - the common point being the primacy of US domestic politics.

I read this book at a time when Ninoy Aquino's son Noynoy is launching a carefully-managed campaign for the presidency, based on appropriating the myths and images surrounding his murdered father and recently-deceased and hugely revered mother Cory. Noynoy's naive and shallow discussions on policy are unimportant - to win he needs to conflate a sense of dynastic entitlement with a sanctified narrative of good over evil. The Filipino body politic seeks Messianic leaders and almost wants to be deluded. In what other society could Imelda Marcos, having been party to Ferdinand's plunder of $20Billion return to the country and be touted as a presidential candidate? And when denied, enthusiastically promote her children as suitable members of congress? In what other society can an ex-president (Erap) do jail time for plunder, then return to our TV screens as a sought-after celebrity, and, yes, be touted as a future presidential candidate?

Karnow's account of the recent history, and his thesis of a feudal Philippines certainly go a long way to explaining how such things can happen in a society which works hard to give the appearance of a modern democracy. His narrative ends during Cory's presidency, but his underlying conclusions are still well true today.

In summary the book is impressive in its wealth of detail and its extensive use of highly authoritative sources. If you are interested in the Philippines, get a copy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful book!, December 29, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (Paperback)
As a Filipino-American (state born), this was an amazing book. There is so much history to be learned about the Philippines. While my parents have told me much about their native land, this book tells an amazing story of this island nation. It not only gives the history of the islands, but also lets the reader understand the nature & thinking of a Filipino, as well. You learn of the many diverse regions of this nation & their individual traits, too. My father enjoyed this book just as I did. This book has sparked my interest in the history of the nation of my parent's birth. An exceptional book that I could not put down. A great book!!
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In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines
In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow (Paperback - March 3, 1990)
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