cover image How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

Daniel Immerwahr. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-0-374-17214-5

Historian Immerwahr argues in this substantial work that the U.S. is more than the 50 states its name references, and that, despite its identification with anti-imperialism, for more than two centuries the U.S. has been “a partitioned country, divided into two sections, with different laws applying in each”—in short, a kind of empire. The second section is made up of territories, many of which were once called colonies, and which are now barely acknowledged in popular conceptions of the country: first, native lands near the “frontier” of the nascent country; then for a time Hawaii, Alaska, and the Philippines; and to this day places including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. (And, Immerwahr goes on, the U.S. engages in other kinds of empire-building, through, for example, its massive network of overseas military bases and economic globalization.) Present-day residents of territories “have no representation in Congress... cannot vote for president... [their] rights and citizenship remain a gift from Washington,” and their status as U.S. citizens is unknown by almost half of the states’ population. This insightful, excellent book, with its new perspective on an element of American history that is almost totally excluded from mainstream education and knowledge, should be required reading for those on the mainland. (Feb.)