'Wry, readable and often astonishing... A provocative and absorbing history of the United States' New York Times
The United States denies having dreams of empire.
We know America has spread its money, language and culture across the world, but we still think of it as a contained territory, framed by Canada above, Mexico below, and oceans either side. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is the story of the United States outside the United States – from nineteenth-century conquests like Alaska and Puerto Rico to the catalogue of islands, archipelagos and military bases dotted around the globe. Full of surprises and previously forgotten episodes, this fascinating book casts America’s history, and its present, in a revealing new light.
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 anti-imperialism, 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 empire-building, through, for example, its massive network of overseas military bases and economic globalization.) Present-day residents of territories "have no representation in Congress... cannot vote for president... 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.