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The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Evan Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 April 2010
On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded in the Havana Harbor. Although there was no evidence that the Spanish were responsible, newspapers such as Hearst's New York Journal whipped up a frenzy, claiming that Spain had destroyed the ship. Soon after, the easily influenced President McKinley declared war, sending troops to both Cuba and the Philippines In this rip-roaring history Thomas reveals that the hunger for war had begun years earlier. Depressed by the 'closing' of the Western frontier and embracing theories of social Darwinism, a group of warmongers including a young Teddy Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge agitated incessantly that the US exert its influence across the seas. US foreign policy was transformed and when Roosevelt became president there began a war without reason, concocted within the White House - a bloody conflict that would come at huge cost. Thrillingly written and brilliantly researched, THE WAR LOVERS is the story of 6 men at the center of history: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, McKinley, William James and Thomas Reed and confirms once more than Evan Thomas is a popular historian of the first rank.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Lrg edition (27 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316085111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316085113
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,097,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"While most Spanish-American War histories focus on the military angle, this engaging book humanizes the conflict by also providing useful insights regarding the political and academic leaders of the time, allowing the war to resonate with later American adventures abroad and with the dilemma of reconciling American ideals with a new global world. Highly recommended." "Library Journal"" --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Book Description

One of our great - and greatest selling - historians looks at America's ferocious drive toward empire during the Gilded Age. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War Lovers, War Makers 31 May 2010
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"The War Lovers" introduces the reader to the remarkable handful of men who molded their country into a frame of mind which could not resist the siren call of war. Products of privilege, these three eccentric politicians each played a role in preparing the U.S. for its emergence into the Imperial Age. While Theodore Roosevelt, Cabot Lodge and William Randolph Hearst played leading roles, supporting actors in this drama are Henry Adams, Thomas Reed and William McKinley.

Theodore Roosevelt reached maturity as an energetic young man bound to make America purer, stronger and more virile. While rising in public life, he fought official corruption while compromising enough to maintain his own political viability. Taking advantage of the relaxed work ethic of Navy Secretary Long, Assistant Secretary Roosevelt prepared the Navy for the war with Spain while his collaborators prepared public opinion. It was in this position that TR expanded the fleet, arranged for supplies of coal and ammunition, transferred his friend, Commodore Dewey to the Far Eastern Fleet and issued the order under which the Philippines were captured. After setting everything in motion, Roosevelt abandoned his post to follow the siren call to martial glory as colonel in the Rough Riders, the most colorful and best known unit of the Spanish American War. A substantial portion of the book recalls the unit's mobilization, training, transport to Cuba and its crowded hour of combat with the enemy.
The second leading character is Henry Cabot Lodge, the Boston Brahmin of the Senate. It was Lodge who befriended Roosevelt and guided his advancement in Washington. Lodge was the legislative wing of the War Lovers who guided the appropriations that enabled the Navy to grow and ready itself for the coming war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Teddy Roosevelt is totally one of my favourite historical figures, but even I have to admit, the man was a bit war-mad. I wouldn't go so far as to argue that the Spain-American War wouldn't have happened without his involvement and role in encouraging the tensions, but he did nothing to prevent that war, indeed did everything he could do encourage it.

That he wasn't alone in this is the subject of this book. America has a somewhat dubious track-record of 'inventing' causes for war or manipulating situations to create a cause - 'Remember the Maine!' can sit quite comfortably alongside the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, or indeed September 11th if one wants to be truly controversial. There were definitely parties in America that wanted Spain out of Cuba; whether because they truly desired freedom for Cuba or freedom for America to operate in Cuba is almost immaterial. Certain individuals in America, the American press and a large portion of the American public wanted a war - one almost gets the sense that almost any war would have done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial TIme Magazine View of History 3 Aug 2011
This book about the American war against Spain in the late 19th century in Cuba is described as "popular history", i.e. a superficial account of events of the past with the emphasis on characters and action and a lack of depth and rigor.

The book, written by a former Time magazine journalist, is an exercise in self-indulgence in which the reader finds himself in the hands of an author who sets his own rules.

The fact that not a single work in Spanish is mentioned in the bibliography shows that the author did not even try to see how the Spaniards - and the Cubans - saw the conflict.

Even though he constantly criticizes the condescending and "racist" approach to the Cuban conflict by Americans at the time, he does not seem to have made any effort to do some original research and find out how Spaniards and Cubans felt about what was going on.

The result is little more than a series of connected articles which are presented through the lives of five influential figures - Theodore Roosevelt, William Randoph Hearst, philosopher William James and Senators Henry Cabot Lodge and Thomas Reed.

As Roosevelt and Hearst and are the only interesting characters, the other three become bit players of little relevance.

There is plenty of action and gossip - and it is quire enjoyable at times - but no historical depth and the writer makes no real attempt to link the war with the resulting strained relationship between the US and Cuba.

This is a pity because there are probably many Americans who do not even know that the US helped Cuba gain independence and then ran the place almost as a colony thereby losing its credibility and leading to the rise of Communist dictator Fidel Castro. The parallels with Iraq are obvious.
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124 of 149 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully written, thought-provoking book, and yet....... 31 Mar 2010
By Archie Mercer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have to admit this was a hard book to review. On one hand you have a historical book that is written in a manner to be not only informative but actually enjoyed. The book has a wonderful fiction-like flow that grabs your attention right from the beginning and keeps you turning the pages. The author has obviously spent his time being diligent in his research and the result is the most detailed account of the events leading to the Spanish-American war that I personally have read. Along with that we have a great character study of the men who played a pivotal role in the country's decision to declare war on Spain, including Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, William Randolph Hearst, William James, and House Speaker Thomas "Czar" Reed. I truly feel I came to know each individual in great detail. The author also gives a riveting account of the battle of San Juan Heights, the battle that made Roosevelt a hero and ultimately led to his being in place to assume the presidency upon McKinley's assassination.

On the other hand, I almost put the book down before ever starting the first page. When I first opened the cover I was treated to a forward by the publisher making points on the book being about how great men will falsify truth in order to go to war, and how in this war American soldiers would engage in savage brutalities. True statements, by the way. He then follows these statements up by saying, No, this is not Dick Cheney's memoir. A rather idiotic comment if I ever read one. Whether you think Cheney is a great American fighting terrorism or the Antichrist whose sole purpose was to lead America into war for oil and profit, the Iraq war has absolutely no resemblance or comparison to the Spanish-American War. Different era, different type of events, different motivations, and actually a completely different result. Then, after reading 413 pages, the final sentence in the book tries to tie Cheney and Scooter Libby to the "old war lover" Roosevelt. If this was the author's purpose in writing the book, he failed miserably.

Again, overall I enjoyed reading The War Lovers. I came away knowing more about the events and the people than I ever knew. But as much as I enjoyed it I will also hesitate before picking up another book by Evan Thomas. Seriously, I can not stand dumb comparison's just to push an agenda. The amazing thing is, I'm not a fan of Dick Cheney in the least.
56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read . . . 8 Mar 2010
By David Zampino - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
. . . but fails in its attempt to "connect the dots".

Evan Thomas' new book "The War Lovers" is an interesting and provocative read about the events leading up to the Spanish-American war. This is a part of American history that is little-known to most Americans and understudied. The events leading up to the war propelled Theodore Roosevelt to the forefront of national politics -- and eventually to the Presidency. The portrayal of Roosevelt prior to his presidential years paints a very different picture than the more cautious, less blustering gradual Progressive of his presidency.

Thomas fails, though, in a couple of points. 1) Much of the book seems to be as much amateur psychological analysis as history, and unless Thomas actually does have a background in psychology, his attempts at analysis fall into the realm of speculation. 2) Both the blurb on the back of the book, and the blurb on the inside cover seem bent on forcing a comparison between American policies of the late 1890's and American policies during the Bush administration, even to the point of ending with a portrait of Roosevelt peering down at Scooter Libby. Now I'm a political independent and am not going to use this review to argue for or against the merits of either the Spanish-American war or the Gulf war. But as an historian, the attempt at somehow linking to two foreign policies is extremely tenuous at best. Indeed, when discussing this book with a friend of mine -- also a political independent (but from a very different perspective from my own) also felt that the connection was forced.

To me, the book would have been far better if the author had merely told the story of the events leading up to the war and its aftermath, than trying to moralize. As it is, the premise is unproved.

Three stars.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big names in American history. An engaging and educational read 12 May 2010
By Chip Hunter - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like most reviewers, I found THE WAR LOVERS highly enjoyable, both entertaining and educational, with its interesting insights into the personalities and political machinations of late 19th century America. Evan Thomas's writing is excellent, being engaging and imaginative, as he concisely details the history and influence of his star characters. This book, despite being quite long and full of interesting history, is a rather easy read. Even those with very little foreknowledge of the time and characters will feel comfortable reading this, as Evans does an excellent job of giving all pertinent back-story and keeping the focus on the basics. I have new found respect for the remarkable writing skills of Evan Thomas. This book also contains many nice black-and-white photos throughout, further connecting the reader to the time and maintaining the accessibility of the subjects.

THE WAR LOVERS is really a history told through limited biographies of some of the most powerful American Movers of the late 19th century. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, William Randolph Hearst, William James, and Thomas Reed provide a broad spectrum upper-crust America's thoughts and attitudes during this time. Evan Thomas presents Teddy Roosevelt (the real star of the book) in a strikingly negative light, casting him as arrogant, bullying, not-always-truthful, and sometimes downright crazy. The other characters are given a more kind treatment here, but nothing is sugar-coated. As these powerful figures debate the future of America and its role in the world, the reader gets interesting insights into politics, human nature, the rich and powerful, and America of ~1900. The development of Manifest Destiny and the White Man's Burden are fascinating subjects of world history, and this book provides a wonderfully unique (but limited) glimpse into this period.

As others have observed, the blatant and almost snide political daggers contained within this book are unnecessary, distracting, and off-putting. I suspect that selling books provided the primary motivation for putting the silly comments about Iraq and Dick Cheney on the back cover and in the editor's comments. Really disappointing to see such senseless (and baseless) political jabbing into what is really a wonderfully-done and insightful book on history. And while I don't want to justify the attempts to link the invasions of Cuba and Iraq with a response, I do want to point out one glaring difference (among many). In 1898, American leaders didn't think that Cubans were fit for self rule (because of racism), while in 2003 American leaders were maybe over-confident in Iraqi's ability of self rule. This meant we planned on staying in Cuba as hegemon, while in Iraq, we had hoped to not stay.

One other comment. Thomas here claims that part of the reasons behind pushing for war (by Teddy and Cabot) was to unify the country. He fails to discuss the fact that in many ways that aspect of their plan succeeded, at least temporarily.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable book. Especially for history-lovers. This one will keep your attention and further develop your knowledge of this interesting part of American history. Just ignore the irrelevant political jabs. Recommended!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mediocre book that fails to deliver in the end. 22 Jun 2010
By Narut Ujnat - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Talk about disappointing. I was excited to begin reading this book as I have enjoyed the writing of Evan Thomas in the past in other books and his articles in Newsweek.

The topic on this book is the lead-up to the Spanish-American War and the role a number of important and powerful Americans played in involving the United States in that war by tilting events in favor of 'war fever.'

Firstly, the book is very slow to develop as it describes the the personalities of people like Teddy Roosevelt, William Hearst, Henry Cabot Lodge. The message of the author seemed to be (whether you agree or not) is the characters were odious figures willing the nation to war for empire. I couldn't help but feel that the writer was taking every quote and statement from correspondence, memoirs and speeches to make the people involved look like blood-thirsty monsters, while those who opposed the war (like William James) emerge as more saintly figures.

Just as the author discusses how some people in the country felt manipulated by the efforts of the people discussed above in exorting the nation to go to war against Spain, I felt manipulated by the author into believing the entire Spanish-American War was one giant con-job. And I am not sure the historical record completely supports this conclusion. Thomas basically makes you believe that turn-of-the-century Americans were just too stupid to believe anyone who didn't support the march to war with enthusiasm (and where have I heard this exact argument before?). I didn't like this feeling and it really distracted from some very provocative information which emerges about the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, for instance. It seemed like Thomas was tilting the information to support his theses, not to give the reader the full story in a more objective fashion.

Once the book is gripped by 'war fever' in the actual run-up to the War, the book is much, much better, and far more interesting. Unfortunately, this doesn't occur until more than 1/2 way through the book's 400 page length and I fear many readers will give up in frustration on the book. In fact, the last 1/2 of the book probably makes up for the mediocre aspect of the first 1/2 - though this is a close one, and I, too, almost gave up reading, and I am a patient reader.

Overall, though I give this book 3 stars, I still believe it is a good read and a worthwhile book. Certainly Thomas has done a service in letting us know that this nation has dealt with issues of torture; the meaning of empire and American colonialism, and the responsibility of American leaders to the concept of restraint in exercising American power in 'foreign entanglements.'

However, I did not like the author's ham-handed attempts to link the Spanish-American War to the Bush Administration and the Iraq War. Though history is a great guide, events are unique and have their own impetus. By so clearly inserting the author's views on the Bush Administration and the Iraq War into a work of history of a period 100 years prior, it really destroys the reliability of the book. Let the reader draw his own conclusions!

Worthwhile, but not great given its promise.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent history, questionable analysis 17 Sep 2010
By Hancock the Superb - Published on
Evan Thomas is a fine journalist and historian, and I am as big a TR fan as you could hope to find. So I was hoping The War Lovers would be a great read. My reaction, however, is decidedly mixed.

Thomas analyzes the Spanish-American War, and the apparent need of certain leading Americans - Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, William Randolph Hearst - to engender a war with Spain to prove the nation's manhood. It's good if unspectacular as a primer on the Spanish-American War, and is worth reading on that score. Thomas's writing style is a bit clipped but he makes these hoary (if widely-forgotten) events interesting and compelling - even if he spends a bit too much time on the build-up to the conflict.

The most compelling sections, though, are his accounts of the war itself. Many other books have covered the same ground, but Thomas takes through the haphazard organization of the Army, its chaotic trip to Cuba, and the bumbling battles of Las Guasimas and San Juan Hill with admirable verve and detail. The only drawback is his glossing over the Filipino-American War, a topic where his connections to current events are more pertinent (as Stanley Karnow's In Our Image demonstrates).

However, I have serious reservations with Thomas's two biggest premises: his psychological explanations of TR and company's motivations for provoking conflict, and to compare it to the War in Iraq.

For the first, Thomas tries to peruse Roosevelt, Lodge and Hearst's correspondence and private letters to answer his main question. He engages in half-assed psychological profiling, ultimately coming up short in his inexpert analysis and musings. His depiction of TR as needing to prove his manhood by fighting a conflict is half-convincing, but extending this personal obsession to the nation at large is dubious. His argument that humanity intrinsically *needs* war is wholly unconvincing, sub-Robert Ardery pontification, and Thomas doesn't do much to support this claim. More interesting avenues - say, American trying to heal its Civil War wounds once and for all - are skimmed over or dropped. His answer to the question of why isn't wholly fleshed-out or convincing, especially in his portrayal of his individual subjects.

Thomas's portrayal of his protagonists is equally flawed. He's very harsh on Roosevelt in particular, focusing on his jingoism and racial views, which is harsh but not unfair. I would say, however, it's an incomplete portrait of a complex man. He does a better job with Hearst, but Lodge and the anti-war counterparts - Harvard Professor William James, Speaker of the House John Reed - seem lightweight ciphers. Thomas wants a dramatic balance between them but Roosevelt, and to a lesser extent Hearst, completely dominate the proceedings.

On the second score - the Iraq comparison - Thomas provides hardly anything to support this premise, stressed in the introduction but immediately dropped. There are some loose parallels - an arguably-unprovoked conflict, liberating a tyrannized people only to become their de facto colonizers, use of torture - but Thomas is really grasping at straws and does little to support his argument. In a bit that reminded me uncomfortably of Pat Buchanan's idiotic opus on WWII, the book ends with Scooter Libby staring at a portrait of TR in his office. Give me a break. I remember a History Channel special several years ago in which Thomas gave an interview stressing the same comparison. This may be a personal hobby-horse of his, but if so it's not a very productive one.

Don't misunderstand: We can (and should) learn a lot from our past. But making parallels with contemporary events has its own pitfalls, and often comes off as posturing to seem relevant. In books and articles I've read in just the last year, Iraq has been compared to the American Revolution (Patriot Battles by Michael Stephenson), World War II (Pat Buchanan's Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War) and the Algerian War for Independence (a Thomas E. Ricks review of A Savage War of Peace). And now the Spanish-American War. There are too many variables for these direct comparisons to succeed, and all of these gentlemen, whatever the other merits of their work, can't make a convincing case why Iraq and x-conflict should be conflated.

So, as an account of the Spanish-American War, The War Lovers is reasonably successful, and Thomas does a good job depicting America's delirious and alarming desire for conflict. But his key question - the *why* - isn't sufficiently answered, making for a disappointing read.
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