Atkins and Wilson's latest work is the zenith of a long first-class collaboration in the area of US-Dominican history. Their vast inside-knowledge and accessibility to sources and personalities is what few scholars achieve, but most want. Probably because of it, this book appears to fit in the center of Dominican historiography. The authors managed to quote a variety of authors extensively, without directly putting schools of thought against each other. Indeed, the book's theoretical structure does not fit perfectly neither with the classical diffusionist-modernization school nor with dependencism, much less with post-structuralism. The book is honest about US imperialism, racism, greed, and highlights the role of North American evils. Actually, the reader might get the impression of an imperial confession in the company of a genuine effort to understand the context of US and Dominican relations-a progressive approach! This feeling is reinforced by an attempt on the authors to include cultural elements into what is, basically, a political and diplomatic history. They have sections about identity, cultural exchange, baseball, race and society. In their stories, the reader will find examples (albeit short and sketchy) of how Dominican people and governments have adapted to adverse circumstances, how they have manipulated powerful nations despite their size, and how they have resisted oppression admirably. We certainly needed an attempt to exhaustively cover the US involvement in Dominican territory. Moreover, notwithstanding that Balaguer and Trujillo's treatments are the best by far, both authors touch on all the high points, most of the middle ones, and even some less celebrated aspects of Dominican history since the 19th century. And despite the heavy use of passive voice on the first two chapters, the organization of the book makes it easy reading for undergraduates. In their efforts to bring an inclusive coverage of the US-Dominican relations, Atkins and Wilson went back to early colonial periods. The readers learn how the island evolved to include two countries, and how Haiti's slave revolution helped determine the future of the entire island. The book also highlights the importance of the period up to General Ulises "Lilís" Heureaux, when Dominicans were trying to identify themselves against Haitians, and how international powers played an important role in shaping the country's history. Moreover, in order to understand US 20th century involvement in the island the book places crucial value to the events leading to the 1916 intervention. Yet, despite the importance of the 19th century, the authors relied mostly on secondary sources to write these chapters. The focus of the book is clearly the 20th century. When Trujillo, Balaguer and current politics is the subject, the reading is undeniably engaging. At this level, the authors provide solid support with primary sources for their narratives and arguments. These topics, after all, have been their research interest for years, and have likewise attracted much attention from the academic community. Curiously, qualitative attention to the 20th century may have shaped the book's main argument. Focus on the US non-interventionist policy from the 1930s and again right after the 1965 intervention (an "oops") may have suggested the writers that North Americans have been doing their best in controlling their tendency to introduce their legs in Dominican affairs. An apologetic bias (from the Greek "to defend" or "to explain out") that emerges from this approach is nowhere more evident than in their efforts to free as much as possible the US from the notorious responsibility of bringing Trujillo to power (59-64). If asked to summarize the message of this book in two sentences, despite all the injustices that this entails, the answer by necessity will include a progressive dichotomy in North American imperialism. This reviewer' summary: The US acted imperialistically and intruded in Dominican Republic because of its perennial instability, its failure in making payments, its location within the North American perimeter of influence, and the numerous and constant international pressures (European involvement in Latin America, first and second World Wars, the Cold War, the 1990s "Haitian problem" etc.). However, the circumstances since 1966 are not imperialistic since they do not involve direct policy intervention in Dominican affairs-and most Dominicans feel comfortable with it! To most readers this might make plain sense, but to those with at least a small dose of Gramscian skepticism, this may sound as a new ingenious and accommodating strand of diffusionism, neo-liberalism or modernist approach to history.
Where is the clearly explained relationship (causes and consequences) of years of recurring and assorted foreign interventions to Dominican internal instability, habitual tendency of loan grabbing-defaulting, and stubborn regionalisms? It is true that Atkins and Wilson do not directly excuse North American interventions. Actually, they criticize it and honestly unveil the rampant racism, avarice and demeaning manners in some US policies and diplomats. Yet, the book's literary structure arranges historical events in a way that may produce in the reader the idea that, after all, it was the Dominicans who attracted intervention. Consequently, (following the logic of this thought) if they would not have been clamoring for European protection; if they would have stayed quiet and kept a democratic government running; and most importantly, if they would have at least tried to maintain the interest payment on their foreign debt, most surely the US would never have intervened. Unfortunately, by trying to explain political behavior in a vacuum, (with only a modest relation to US-Dominican identities, economic circumstances, survival tactics, cultural values, etc.) the Dominican predicament not only looks simplistic, moreover, it looks deserving! There is a lesson here that serves us for when we get the call to choose between a history that supports status quo (which promotes complacency), and a history that rocks its foundations (with the added warning against presumption). In the hands of a creative teacher, then, Atkins and Wilson's book is certainly a practical book for undergraduate and graduate courses in US imperialism and Dominican history. Furthermore, however, this work is an excellent introduction to anybody interested on the subject.