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Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire Paperback – 26 Mar 2009
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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)
Is America the new world empire? Presidents from Lincoln to Bush may have denied it but, as Niall Ferguson's brilliant and provocative book shows, the US is the greatest military and economic colossus of all time. What's more, it always has been an empire, with its founding fathers battling westwards for territory and their successors spreading freedom across the world - at gunpoint if necessary. Yet is the US really equipped to play Atlas, bearing the weight of the world on its shoulders? America, Ferguson reveals, is now an empire running on empty, backing away from the crucial imperial commitments of time, money and manpower - and resting on perilous financial foundations. When the New Rome falls, its collapse may come from within.See all Product description
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Finally, it was Winston Churchill who said that the further one can see into the past, the greater our insight can penetrate into the future, in this sense Ferguson's major thesis here seems to be a desire to provide lessons for the American Empire from a considered understanding of the British one. In this style, he paints a fascinating picture of the many similarities and shared experiences of the two Anglophone powers that should be read by anyone who wishes to understand what may lay ahead for the world's only current superpower.
Mr Ferguson's statistics and therefore premise have been overtaken by seismic shifts over the last twelve years. His pessimism over "the sick man of Europe", Germany has been confounded; American unemployment is now three percentage points higher than German. The developed countries GDP per head listed on p.175 have all made substantial gains on American levels since 1998.
His contention that China will not surpass the U.S in total GDP until 2050 looks unlikely, 2020 now looking highly probable due to continuing strong Chinese growth of c8% per annum and American economic stagnation. Indeed China has now surpassed the U.S as the world's largest energy producer and consumer,exporter,motor vehicle producer and market and also the world's largest manufacturer.
His statement on p.299 "there is no regime it(U.S) could not terminate if it wanted to...
(it)would emerge from the rubble more or less unscathed."
This is plainly untrue with regards to Russia, which could equally devastate the U.S. China, Britain and France could also inflict vast damage in a nuclear exchange.
His view that the nation state is a modern invention is denied by ancient Egypt,Israel,Assyria,Armenia and even Japan, that were nation states par excellence.
Nevertheless,his core contention that financially irresponsible countries with feckless,venal governments would benefit from competent foreign rule has merit.
One can only hope that the U.S becomes a Chinese protectorate in the very near future.
One final point,describing John Lennon's "Imagine" as a dirge shows Mr Ferguson, whatever his merits as an historian, has no ear for music.
The author points out the both the positive outcomes and good intentions of US military actions as well as the failures that influenced subsequent policy. The US comes off well (as the UK did in his history of the British Empire).
I expect history books to focus on the past, not the future. It must have been tempting for the author in 2004 to speculate on the outcome of the Iraq War, American policy post 9/11, and the weaknesses of the EU as he clearly holds strong views on these subjects. However, these chapters (about half the book) now look dated as he muses about the chance of oil reaching $30/barrel, the possibility of the US remaining in Iraq for 3 or more years, and laments the policies that have made Germany the sick man of Europe. This review was written in 2011, if you're reading it in 2018, then more fool me.
There is a chapter about the EU with very little to anchor it to the rest of the book.
A very good read, but too much irrelevant material and soapbox to be considered a good history book.