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Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire Hardcover – 29 Apr 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st edition edition (29 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997705
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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,


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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By Athan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 Jan. 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Tony Blair handed over to Gordon Brown, the Economist ran a very clever cover. It was a full list of all the issues he had tackled as Prime Minister, all his initiatives and all his achievements. This was in tiny, tiny print and it covered the whole front page. But some of those words were in darker print and some in lighter print, the overall effect being that if you looked at the cover of the magazine from a distance any longer than an inch all you could really discern was the word IRAQ.

That would be an excellent summary of Colossus. Ostensibly, this is a book about empire in general and the American “empire” in particular. We’re taught extensively about previous empires, such as the British Empire, potential challengers to the American “empire” (with plenty of scorn thrown the EU’s way) and we’re given the author’s view on empire in the introduction: a liberal empire can be a force for good in Niall Ferguson’s view. It’s almost your duty to run one if you can.

A list of reasons is given, furthermore, that make the US “Empire in denial” unlikely to succeed the way the British Empire had done: it has lost the willingness (and, increasingly the ability) to dedicate the necessary finances to the cause of running an empire, it lacks the manpower to rule (Americans are very reluctant to spend time abroad running an empire the way the British used to), it lacks the patience to wait the minimum one generation it takes to see nation-building through, it is allergic to loss of American lives in combat etc. etc.

But if you ask me, this is all filler. This is a book about the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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