- Hardcover: 576 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 21, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374179395
- ISBN-13: 978-0374179397
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,025,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power Hardcover – October 21, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Like Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, Zimmermann's account takes its readers deep into a small, captivating circle of figures instrumental in shaping American thought and history: in this case, the five men most responsible for making the United States a major player on the international stage at the start of the 20th century. The key players are Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge (Republican senator from Massachusetts), John Hay (enigmatic secretary of state to McKinley and TR), Elihu Root (hard-edged New York corporate attorney, later to serve as a gruffly paternalistic colonial administrator), and naval strategist Admiral Alfred T. Mahan. Mahan, perhaps the least well-known of the five, emerges as the group's touchstone. An ardent admirer of the standing British fleet and the British colonial system it helped police, Mahan believed the United States should institute similar military might to help administer an American world view. He aggressively lobbied for the establishment and maintenance of a large, well-funded navy and for strict enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine, with U.S. domination of such strategically important outposts as Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. In this fascinating and engaging account, Zimmermann (Origins of Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers), a former U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia), does a brilliant job of showing how Mahan's views enabled the United States to bootstrap up to the status of world colonial power within the short space of just five years, from 1898 to 1903. Illus. not seen by PW. (Oct.) Forecast: The readers who made The Metaphysical Club and Theodore Rex bestsellers are the ideal audience for this outstanding history; if they learn of the book, expect healthy sales.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
America's preeminence as a superpower has its roots in how corporate lawyer Elihu Root, naval strategist Alfred T. Mahan, U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Secretary of State John Hay, and politician Theodore Roosevelt led the nation in articulating and shaping American imperialism. A career diplomat and a former ambassador to Yugoslavia, Zimmermann (Columbia Univ. and Johns Hopkins; Origins of a Catastrophe) argues that the "consequences right up to today" of American expansionism between the 1880s and 1910s "owes a great deal to" the five fathers of modern American imperialism. Part one comprises the biographies of these architects of an aggressive imperialist policy, and part two narrates mainly the war against Spain and TR's presidency. Zimmermann admirably presents complex individuals and their extremely complex historical era in a manner accessible to the layperson. This readable, richly detailed, scholarly work, based on primary and secondary sources, is rewarding to readers who want more than an introductory historical treatment of the origins of today's American foreign policy. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I would give this book 4.5 stars if I could, but I enjoyed it so much I round it up. There are some very minor flaws which, if corrected in a second edition, would result in self-contained perfection. First, there are a couple grammatical errors in the early chapters (ex, "a friend of Roosevelt's" should be "a friend of Roosevelt"), which the editor should have corrected. The second issue is the author, who succeeds in writing highly-cited analysis, makes flippant, uncited, and incorrect remarks about 19th century robber baron Jay Gould, who modern historians have shown to be no more evil and no more altruistic than any other baron from his era (again for the editor to catch). The third problem is, in the conclusion of the book, the author soils what is a timeless analysis on timeless subject matter with references to fleeting issues which took place at the time of his writing, around 2003, which, particularly in hindsight, pale in importance, influence and relevance to the grand themes and events he dedicates 500 pages to discussing.
This book is serious subject matter for a serious reader; it begins with the life stories of Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred Mahan, Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge and John Hay before picking up momentum with a narrative of the context and events of 1898 and beyond. However, the care the author takes to be as brief and focused as possible comes across and is well done, and the 500 pages it takes to tell this story is a testament to the subject matter's ginormous scope. I highly recommend this work for an interested student of this period in American history.