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Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire [Hardcover]

Niall Ferguson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 April 2004
Is America the new world Empire? The US government emphatically denies it. Despite the conquest of two sovereign states in as many years, despite the presence of more than 750 military installations across two-thirds of the world's countries and despite his stated intention "to extend the benefits of freedom - to every corner of the world," George W. Bush maintains that "America has never been an empire". "We don't seek empires," insists Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We're not imperialistic." In Colossus Niall Ferguson reveals the paradoxical reality of American power. In economic and military terms, he argues, America may be the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. And its ambitions are closely akin to those of the last great Anglophone empire: to globalize free markets, the rule of law and representative government. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower, time and money that are also an intrinsic part of empire. This, Ferguson argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it's an empire in denial - a hyperpower that refuses to acknowledge the scale of its global responsibilities. And this chronic myopia may also apply to US domestic politics. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from within - and it will reveal that the American Colossus has more than merely feet of clay.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997705
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 16 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 319,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of Britain's most renowned historians. He is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World and The Ascent of Money. He also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world.

Product Description

Amazon Review

"The United States today is an empire--but a peculiar kind of empire", writes Niall Ferguson in Colossus: the Rise and Fall of the American Empire. Despite overwhelming military, economic and cultural dominance, the US has had a difficult time imposing its will on other nations, mostly because the country is uncomfortable with imperialism and thus unable to use this power most effectively and decisively. The origin of this attitude and its persistence is a principal theme of this thought-provoking book, including how domestic politics affects foreign policy, whether it is politicians worried about the next election or citizens who "like Social Security more than national security".

Ferguson, author of Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, has no objection to an American empire, as long as it is a liberal one actively underwriting the free exchange of goods, labour and capital. Further, he writes that "empire is more necessary in the 21st century than ever before" as a means to "contain epidemics, depose tyrants end local wars and eradicate terrorist organisations". The sooner America embraces this role and acts on it confidently, the better.

Ferguson contrasts this persistent anti-imperialistic urge with the attitude held by the British Empire and suggests that America has much to learn from that model if it is to achieve its stated foreign policy objectives of spreading social freedom, democracy, development and the free market to the world. He suggests that the US must be willing to send money, civilians and troops for a sustained period of time to troubled spots if there is to be real change, as in Japan and Germany after World War II--an idea that many American citizens and leaders now find repulsive. Rather than devoting limited resources and striving to get complex jobs done in a rush, Americans must be willing to integrate themselves into a foreign culture until a full Americanisation has occurred, he writes.

Overall, this is a trenchant examination of a uniquely American dilemma and its implications for the rest of the world. --Shawn Carkonen, Amazon.com

Review

Colossus confirms Niall Ferguson's standing as one of the most incisive writers of history, politics and economics today (Sunday Telegraph)

One of the timeliest and most topical books to have appeared in recent years (Literary Review)

Yet another tour de force from a writer who displays all his usual gifts of forceful polemic, unconventional intelligence and elegant prose ... guaranteed to spark fierce debate (Irish Times)

A bravura exploration of why Americans are not cut out to be imperialists but nonetheless have an empire. Vigorous, substantive, and worrying (Timothy Garton Ash) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
109 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
There have been some slightly disturbing comments left about this book, both in terms of failing to understand the underlying messages of the book, and in terms of individuals using the platform of leaving a review to impose their (frankly confused) ideas, safe in the knowledge that nobody can answer back directly. In particular the ramblings of the American reader from Hove (suzannemaria) who appears unable to see the irony of many of her statements, and who inadvertently manages to support some of the FEW genuine criticisms of the American population found within this book. That she feels it necessary to crudely insult the British nation and its citizens, while still living in this country (for far too long apparently!?) not only shows an astonishing lack of intelligence and respect, but also suggests that she must surely be being held against her will.:) I for one hope that her British oppressors release her from her hellish captivity soon, so that she can return to her beloved country and perhaps find work in the paranoid, inward-facing American media which promotes such confused and misconceived ignorance.
As a Brit who knows America well, and who genuinely enjoys the country and it's people (with the exception of narrow-minded individuals such as the aforementioned reviewer), I find it insulting to be told that Britain is fervently anti-American. While such feelings certainly exist (perhaps understandably given recent political movements emerging from the White House), they are FAR less prominent in Britain than in just about any other corner of the world. Perhaps the support given by Britain to America in recent conflicts, while the British government manages to retain a relatively high level of public approval is pure coincidence?
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Economic perspective on America Hegemony 3 Mar 2006
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The core argument of this book is that a world without an empire can be a dangerous place. Stability within the international system is guaranteed by the overwhelming power vested in the hegemon. Moreover, not all empires are despotic and Ferguson argues that liberal empires are beneficial for all parties in a range of ways.
The liberal empires (first the British empire and now, somewhat reluctantly, the American empire) are guided by the principle of the spread of liberal values across the globe. They are motivated by the desire to bring responsible representative government to countries in which it does not exist, to engender respect for the rule of law, create the stability needed for economic growth and encourage the peaceful coexistence of nations. Ferguson decisively rejects the Hobson theory of empire as some quasi mafia style protection racket run by elites in the imperial core.
Looking at the historical record, Ferguson argues that imperial status has done a great deal of good. The stability thereby created enhances the colonial state's credit ratings, thus allowing it to borrow and service its debts more cheaply than countries outside the imperial system. Also the guarantee of intervention by the imperial power in cases where the colony is threatened or otherwise in difficulty promotes further stability and positive attidues to the future, so necessary for investment and growth. This is backed up by statistical argument that growth rates within the British empire were superior to those of the same countries once outside the imperial framework.
This book is however about America.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ferguson's warning to confused Americans 18 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback
An interesting book, 'Colossus' is Niall Ferguson's warning to US citizens about how their national myth deceives them. We are now seeing the consequences of generations of Americans being indoctrinated to believe that the United States was born in rebellion against an empire. Of course the truth is that the 13 colonies had expansionist ambitions from the outset, and in the 1770s it was London that wanted peace with neighbours and was urging restraint on the budding imperialists in North America.

Ferguson looks at empires in general, and discusses to what extent the US now runs a global empire. He suggests that liberal empires can be good things, spreading positive values, and that the United States could administer its world empire much better if only it could admit to its longstanding mistake in seeing itself as anti-imperial in foundation and essence. Instead the US is embarrassed by its empire. It uses proxy rulers abroad, deceives its own citizens, and keeps abandoning foreign possessions instead of administering them for the benefit of both the inhabitants and itself.

Apart from this book, I have only read Ferguson's two equally readable articles in a paperback collection of writing about the current economic crisis Collateral Damage: Global Crash Phase Two - of which (full disclosure) I am one of the two editors.

'Colossus' is thoughtful, easy to read, and provocative - an unusual mix. I'm curious how many readers, especially in the US, really grasp the full force of Ferguson's case.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Colossus light
I read the author's book the Ascent of Money some years ago and as a former stockbroker I enjoyed it and would thoroughly recommend it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by H. Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
This is a very well written book thought provoking and stimulating. After reading this book I have purchased three others by the same author. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Brian K
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy this book
Complete waste of money. Bought this book after reading the ascent of money which was great. This book is a like poorly written thesis which has managed to get into the publishers... Read more
Published 10 months ago by jerson Pereira
5.0 out of 5 stars Strongly recommend this seller as a beacon if integrity
The product had damages which were not put in the description when sold to me. I complained and was given a full refund and the option to keep the book.
Published 10 months ago by Shabbir
4.0 out of 5 stars Spot On
Niall ferguson is brilliant economic historian who writes with great insight and far-sightedness. I bet Ferguson was not at all surprised by the advent of the GFC and the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Nico
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read to understand USA foreign policy failures.
Understanding US politics tests even the more erudite. Ferguson skillfully unravels its historical sinews in domestic and foreign affairs. Read more
Published 14 months ago by david haigh
2.0 out of 5 stars A tediously written discussion
Although Ferguson has some interesting ideas from time to time (such as in Civilization), this book is really mostly a dull argumentative text rather than a historical examination... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Anders
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Thoroughly enjoyable book, and an interesting read. After reading the reviews on Amazon, I had high expectations which were met.
Published 17 months ago by Daryl Beggs
4.0 out of 5 stars O.K but you must make some assumptions
There is no room here for a Doyle-esque treatise on what is an Empire or if there is a difference between Empire and Hegemony. Read more
Published on 13 July 2011 by D. J. Andrews
4.0 out of 5 stars 50% history book. Some interesting ideas about the future.
A good summary of the recent history of the American Empire - mostly WWII and after. I found the book to be an informative summary of US military interventions over the last 100... Read more
Published on 17 May 2011 by Dave C
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