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A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 Hardcover – February 20, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Silbey, a historian at Alvernia College, merits praise for the best brief introduction to the complex subject of the U.S. conquest of the Philippines now available. Synthesizing a broad spectrum of published scholarship from both Philippine and American sources, he convincingly establishes that the Philippine-American War included three separate conflicts. The first was a Filipino-American war against Spain, which the Filipinos were on the point of winning by themselves. In the second, the U.S. decisively outfought the embryonic Philippine Republic. Silbey establishes the U.S. decision to annex the Philippines as a transition from a frontier to a global ethos, incorporating spiritual, modernist and Darwinian elements, aided by the American army. However, that lost war defined Filipino national identity—far more so than the third war, which was a guerrilla conflict between the U.S. armed forces and an increasingly locally focused insurgency. Though the American victory involved episodes of brutality, Silbey demonstrates that it was sufficiently quick, decisive and humane, and the former opponents cooperated so amicably, that Americans were arguably deceived regarding the general prospects of reconciling enemies. As America contributed to Philippine nationalism by establishing economic, social and linguistic connections, he shows that Filipino defeat came to look like victory. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

After the overwhelming American victory in the Spanish-American War, President McKinley, after considerable (he claimed) soul-searching, decided to annex the Philippine Islands. His move provoked considerable opposition from anti-imperialist Americans. More importantly, it provoked outrage among various Filipino nationalist groups, who had been struggling to liberate the islands from Spanish control. The result was a complicated, confusing, and brutal war that kept the Philippines under American control and solidified the nation's role as a Pacific power. Silbey's chronicle of that conflict is fair and frequently surprising. As Silbey indicates, the Americans were hardly brutal imperialists; their motives for holding the islands were a mixture of self-interest and altruism. Although Filipino nationalists fought bravely, they were hindered by a fragmented political movement and erratic leadership. Silbey's portrait of the personality and career of Filipino icon Emilio Aguinaldo is particularly interesting. This is a well-researched examination of a struggle that, ultimately, helped forge a new nation out of disparate elements. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809071878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809071876
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,328,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Silbey is the Associate Director of the Cornell in Washington program and a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war. He has taught at North Carolina State University, Duke University, and Bowdoin College. Dr. Silbey's first book, The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, 1914-1916 was published by Taylor & Francis in 2005. His second book, A War of Empire and Frontier: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 was published by Hill & Wang in Spring 2007. His The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China, 1900 was published by Hill & Wang in 2012. Dr. Silbey received his BA from Cornell University and his Ph.D from Duke University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yes, the subject of the Philippine-American War has not been sufficiently treated. Yes (p.xv), "Too much of Philippine history has been ... framed from an outsider's perspective." And yes (p.219), "the literature on the Philippine-American War is not of particularly high quality, with a number of important exceptions." Regrettably, I wouldn't make this book an exception.

An associate professor of history, the author was in position to contribute some insights into the connections between the Philippine-American War and both European history and domestic American politics. If he has actually accomplished that with any skill, it is negated by the numerous errors permeating the book which cast doubt on the credibility of almost every pronouncement. Distractions caused by those errors sometimes made it difficult for me to follow analysis in the text, and I found myself wincing.

Personal and geographic names are often wrong. Sorsogon is almost
unrecognizable as Sargosan, Dagupan is Pagupan, Banaue (or Banawe) is
Banane, Cagayan is Cagayen, Mariquina (or Marikina) is Mariquini, Santo
Tomas is San Tomas, Gen. Henry Lawton is misnamed William, Gen. Mariano
Trias is Antonio, Gen. Vicente Lukban is Vincente Lukhban, Apolinario
Mabini is Apollinaro, Reynaldo (Rey) Ileto is Raymond, etc.

Strangely wrong statements abound. Guam is in the Carolines and
Batangas is a plural which appears as The Batangas. The crucial category of mestizo is overlooked in the analysis of Philippine society. Aguinaldo was said to have been in Europe in the Spring of 1898, and his family owned a plantation. Andres Bonifacio was an ilustrado, which is defined as upper-class or educated in Europe.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Previously, historians have framed the American-Philippine War in the context of an insurgency. David Silbey, however, argues that even though "at the time of the conflict, the Philippine nation was barely formed," to label the war as an insurgency disregards the fact that "the two sides were both states substantially sovereign, using conventional armies, fighting conventional battles, with conventional lines and weapons" (xvi, 215). It was indeed a war of revolution and freedom from imperial rule from the Philippine perspective and a war that inaugurated the United States as a "Pacific power" under the auspices of "a new manifest destiny that saw the United States as too powerful to confine itself to one continent or hemisphere" (213, 215). Silbey's tome provides a brief military and political analysis of the American-Philippine War, arguing that the war itself can be separated into three separate conflicts: The Filipino struggle against Spanish rule, the formal struggle against the U.S. military and the ensuing guerrilla war. Moreover, Silbey argues that the U.S. was not as brutal in the conflict or as an imperial power as is often portrayed. The transition to Philippine independence following WWII was eased due to the relationships that formed with Filipino elites who "came to an accommodation with the Americans," and "in essence agreeing to integration rather than submission" (208). Filipinos, although still viewed as "inferior" in American eyes, were still held in higher esteem than other races. Overall, Silbey's book provides a solid introduction and overview of the war.

In his first two chapters, Silbey lays out the relationship between the Philippines and their centuries old colonial masters, the Spanish, by the dawn of the twentieth century.
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Format: Paperback
Most people have forgotten about the Philippine war. That is a shame. That little known war has shaped policy for the US for a lot of the 20th century. The war also has some valuable lessons for US military policy in the 21st century.

This book is a good story of the first two years of the war. It is written in an easy to understand format. It flows very well in an entertaining way. If you are looking for an in-depth book on the subject this isn't that book. There are seven or eight more years of the conflict he doesn't address. Also the US Army stayed in the Philippines for the next 40 years or so. Our ties there lead to large numbers of the US Army being lost there early 42 and later when we invaded in 44. How the war was fought then helped form the nation of the Philippines as it is today.

Some of the books stories or the war stories have lessons for us today. In some ways the war sounds like the Iraq war. The war wasn't popular back home either. The question of why we were there echoed across the country then much like the issue about Iraq does now. People forget that war was a guerrilla war which we won. How we won might have lessons that help us today. Of course as you read about the how you will ask yourself if we want to win. The hard stick approach then definitely works. However with 24/7 news coverage we have to ask if we have the stomach for that approach.

The book also briefly talked about a critical thing the Army did. This technique was priceless to the war effort. That thing was how they rebuilt the culture. US garrisons became city government. They set up schools to educate the population. Over time the Army introduced the locals into running things. This technique gave the land some strong institutions.
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