American Empire: A Global History.
A.G. Hopkins arrived in the United States to take a position at the University of Texas at Austin on 10 September 2001. The events of the following morning, as he explains in the preface to his new book, motivated him to begin researching a project to re-interpret American history "by looking at it from the outside in, instead of from the inside out" (xv). The events of 9/11 and the U.S. responses to it, including the disastrous U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, inspired Hopkins, who is a scholar of globalization, imperialism, and economic history, "to turn to the past to trace the roots of present discontent" (5). The resulting work will be of interest both to historians and to scholars of the United States and of empires in general.
This sweeping and ambitious work of synthesis is organized, after an opening prologue and introductory chapter, into four chronological periods: Decolonization and Dependence, 1756-1865; Modernity and Imperialism, 1865-1914; Empires and International Disorder, 1914-1959; The Outcome: Postcolonial Globalization. The author's broader analysis, however, maintains that Western Europe (with a primary focus on Great Britain) and the United States each moved through three broad phases during the period covered in this book, that each phase was the result of "globalization" (broadly defined), and that each ended in a crisis. The first period, "proto-globalization," was marked by British expansion and colonization of parts of North America, Asia, and the Caribbean, which led to the American Revolution. The period after the Revolution saw the "ex-colonial state's" effort to "make formal independence effective", while the British continued to exert "informal influence" on the United States (694).
The second broad phase, "modern globalization", included "nation building", in both the U.S. and Europe, and industrialization, plus all the social changes that accompanied both phenomena. U.S. imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Hopkins maintains, borrowed significantly from that of Western European nations. Decolonization followed the end of World War II. The final phase, "postcolonial globalization", is still underway. Decolonization continued apace, and the 1950s were marked by a "postwar reconstruction boom" (697). Regional and international organizations encouraged economic integration, as well as military alliances. The new century opened with the attacks of 9/11 and the American-led "war on terror". The economic crisis of 2008 resulted in increasing income inequality and increasing suspicions about globalization itself.
American Empire's 738 pages of text, fifteen chapters, and 200 pages of small-font endnotes "may well stretch the reader", as the author freely acknowledges. This is not only because of the book's length, but also because it "covers nearly three hundred years and extends across the Atlantic and into the Pacific, and because it seeks to unite two sets of literature that have yet to be integrated systematically: the history of the United States and the history of other Western empires" (41). The book is a challenging read, but it is worth the effort as a challenge to traditional periodization and the still-lingering tendency to see the story of the United States as "exceptional", rather than as being strongly linked to that of Western Europe and as part of a much-wider global context.
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|Title Annotation:||THE AMERICAS|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2019|
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