Cover image for How to hide an empire : a history of the greater United States
How to hide an empire : a history of the greater United States
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.

Physical Description:
viii, 516 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Introduction: Looking beyond the logo map -- A note on language -- Part I: The Colonial empire. The fall and rise of Daniel Boone -- Indian Country -- Everything you always wanted to know about Guano but were afraid to ask -- Teddy Roosevelt's very good day -- Empire state of mind -- Shouting the battle cry of freedom -- Outside the charmed circle -- White city -- Doctors without borders -- Fortress America -- Warfare state -- There are times when men have to die -- Part II: The pointillist empire. Kilroy was here -- Decolonizing the United States -- Nobody knows in America, Puerto Rico's in America -- Synthetica -- This is what God hath wrought -- The empire of the red octagon -- Language is a virus -- Power is sovereignty, Mister Bond -- Baselandia -- The war of points -- Conclusion: Enduring empire.
"A history of the United States' overseas possessions, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines and beyond, and what they reveal about the true meaning of American empire."--Provided by publisher.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Note
Book 973 IMM 1
New 973 IMMERWAHR 1 .SOURCE. BT 4-2-19
Book F965.I46 2019 1

On Order

Prescott Public Library1Received on 2/26/19



A pathbreaking history of the United States' overseas possessions and the true meaning of its empire

We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an "empire," exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories--the islands, atolls, and archipelagos--this country has governed and inhabited?

In How to Hide an Empire , Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century's most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.

In the years after World War II, Immerwahr notes, the United States moved away from colonialism. Instead, it put innovations in electronics, transportation, and culture to use, devising a new sort of influence that did not require the control of colonies. Rich with absorbing vignettes, full of surprises, and driven by an original conception of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire is a major and compulsively readable work of history.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Historian Immerwahr argues in this substantial work that the U.S. is more than the 50 states its name references, and that, despite its identification with antiimperialism, for more than two centuries the U.S. has been "a partitioned country, divided into two sections, with different laws applying in each"-in short, a kind of empire. The second section is made up of territories, many of which were once called colonies, and which are now barely acknowledged in popular conceptions of the country: first, native lands near the "frontier" of the nascent country; then for a time Hawaii, Alaska, and the Philippines; and to this day places including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. (And, Immerwahr goes on, the U.S. engages in other kinds of empirebuilding, through, for example, its massive network of overseas military bases and economic globalization.) Presentday residents of territories "have no representation in Congress... cannot vote for president... [their] rights and citizenship remain a gift from Washington," and their status as U.S. citizens is unknown by almost half of the states' population. This insightful, excellent book, with its new perspective on an element of American history that is almost totally excluded from mainstream education and knowledge, should be required reading for those on the mainland. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

America extends far beyond the mainland.In a richly detailed, thoroughly researched history, Immerwahr (History/Northwestern Univ.; Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, 2015) chronicles the vast American empire from its vigorous westward expansion on the mainland to its reach around the world. Drawing on archival sources and much scholarship, the author engagingly depicts the nation's conquests, first displacing Native Americans, followed by the claiming of uninhabited islands, the spoils of war, and strategic locations. By World War II, territories comprised nearly one-fifth of America's land area. Unacknowledged by most mainland citizens, these possessions have been relegated "to the shadows," with the populaces, at various times, "shot, shelled, starved, interned, dispossessed, tortured, and experimented on." America's early forays abroad led to the annexation of small uninhabited islandsnearly 100 of themthat were piled high with bird droppings, coveted as fertilizer. In 1898, Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War brought a bounty: the Philippines (which the U.S. bought), Puerto Rico, Guam (which came free), and Cuba, which the U.S. occupied under military control. Later, the Virgin Islands, Samoa, and various other sites in the Pacific became American territories, which today comprise around 4 million people "who have no representation in Congress, who cannot vote for president, and whose rights and citizenship remain a gift from Washington." Immerwahr animates the narrative with a lively cast of characters: brusque, egocentric physician Cornelius P. Rhoads, for example, who conducted medical experiments on Puerto Ricans, whom he deemed "the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere." Standing up for colonists' rightsoften to their frustrationwere Ernest Gruening, governor of the territory of Alaska, and Douglas MacArthur, who led troops in the Philippines during WWII. Although the U.S. has divested itself of colonies, not needed in an era of economic globalization, the nation has invested heavily in military bases, which today number around 800. "The Greater United States," the author notes, "is in everyone's backyard."A vivid recounting of imperial America's shameful past. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Contemplating the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the nation, President Jefferson imagined an ""Empire of Liberty"" stretching to the Pacific. As a staunch republican, Jefferson would be appalled if his remark were associated with the trappings of kingship and imperial pomp. But if empire is defined in the broadest possible sense, Jefferson's words were prophetic. Immerwahr illustrates how American territorial expansion included control over and governance of millions of Spanish speakers and various Indian tribes who had to be forcefully subdued. The purchase of Alaska and the takeover of the Philippines and numerous islands, atolls, and archipelagos in the Pacific and Caribbean dramatically increased both the territory and population under U.S. rule. While most Americans saw their administration as a form of benign stewardship, Immerwahr stresses that the native inhabitants were often disrespected, mistreated, and marginalized. Perhaps that is an unbalanced view, but this is still a useful and informative work, since many of these overseas territories remain under our governance.--Jay Freeman Copyright 2019 Booklist

Library Journal Review

What does bird guano and screw threads have to do with empire? Actually, quite a bit. Immerwahr (history, Northwestern Univ.; Thinking Small) explores U.S. history by placing America's overseas colonies and their inhabitants front and center. He shows how westward expansion served as a starting point for America's imperial dreams. In the 1850s, the United States sought out and laid claim to hundreds of islands covered in bird guano, as the excrement reinvigorated soil that was depleted of nutrients. These same islands later served as fueling stations and airfields for America's military. After World War II, with American troops occupying bases around the world, the United States gave up its empire, granting independence to many of its former colonies, such as the Philippines. Immerwahr notes that the resistance of the colonized as well as U.S. technological advantages made an empire no longer necessary. Such advantage allowed America to force other countries to adapt its standards, such as the angle threads wrapped around screws. VERDICT Through archival and secondary source research, Immerwahr recasts American history in a new light in this thought-provoking and insightful work.-Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Looking Beyond the Logo Mapp. 3
A Note on Languagep. 21
Part I The Colonial Empire
1 The Fall and Rise of Daniel Boonep. 25
2 Indian Countryp. 36
3 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Guano but Were Afraid to Askp. 46
4 Teddy Roosevelt's Very Good Dayp. 59
5 Empire State of Mindp. 73
6 Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedomp. 88
7 Outside the Charmed Circlep. 108
8 White Cityp. 122
9 Doctors Without Bordersp. 137
10 Fortress Americap. 154
11 Warfare Statep. 171
12 There Are Times When Men Have to Diep. 187
Part II The Pointillist Empire
13 Kilroy Was Herep. 215
14 Decolonizing the United Statesp. 227
15 Nobody Knows in America, Puerto Rico's in Americap. 242
16 Syntheticsp. 262
17 This Is What God Hath Wroughtp. 278
18 The Empire of the Red Octagonp. 298
19 Language Is a Virusp. 317
20 Power Is Sovereignty, Mister Bondp. 336
21 Baselandiap. 355
22 The War of Pointsp. 372
Conclusion: Enduring Empirep. 391
Notesp. 403
Acknowledgmentsp. 485
Indexp. 489