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Empire for Liberty:
A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz
Richard H. Immerman

Paperback | 2012 | $26.95 | £21.95 | ISBN: 9780691156071
288 pp. | 6 x 9 | 6 halftones.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400834280 |
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How could the United States, a nation founded on the principles of liberty and equality, have produced Abu Ghraib, torture memos, Plamegate, and warrantless wiretaps? Did America set out to become an empire? And if so, how has it reconciled its imperialism--and in some cases, its crimes--with the idea of liberty so forcefully expressed in the Declaration of Independence? Empire for Liberty tells the story of men who used the rhetoric of liberty to further their imperial ambitions, and reveals that the quest for empire has guided the nation's architects from the very beginning--and continues to do so today.

Historian Richard Immerman paints nuanced portraits of six exceptional public figures who manifestly influenced the course of American empire: Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, William Henry Seward, Henry Cabot Lodge, John Foster Dulles, and Paul Wolfowitz. Each played a pivotal role as empire builder and, with the exception of Adams, did so without occupying the presidency. Taking readers from the founding of the republic to the Global War on Terror, Immerman shows how each individual's influence arose from a keen sensitivity to the concerns of his times; how the trajectory of American empire was relentless if not straight; and how these shrewd and powerful individuals shaped their rhetoric about liberty to suit their needs.

But as Immerman demonstrates in this timely and provocative book, liberty and empire were on a collision course. And in the Global War on Terror and the occupation of Iraq, they violently collided.


"The book makes a very compelling case that imperialism has always been a centerpiece of the American project. Its brisk and readable style makes it useful for courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels."--Paul T. McCartney, Journal of American History

"Empire for Liberty deserves a wide audience of students, scholars, and even general readers. Immerman provides crucial, poorly understood background that helps place recent controversies in a broad context, and he offers fresh analysis of some of America's most colorful and complicated thinkers about America's place in the world."--Mark Atwood Lawrence, History Teacher

"Overall, Immerman has written one of the best descriptions and analyses of 'American empire'--its meaning, evolution, and key figures that have impacted the idea. Empire for Liberty is essential reading for students and enthusiasts of American history and the United States' place in and approach to the world, historically and contemporarily."--Stefan Fergus, Civilian Reader

"In this penetrating, lively account that introduces readers to diplomatic history in a most painless way, Immerman offers case studies of six public figures whose choices affected the ever-increasing power of the U.S."--Choice

"Immerman has produced a masterly if controversial conspectus that leads the reader far beyond the six men featured in the book."--Gill Bennett, RUSI Journal

"Empire for Liberty makes important contributions by demonstrating how U.S. efforts to expand its empire gradually pushed it farther from the East Coast and further from its constituting ideals. . . . Empire for Liberty puts a mirror in front of us, forcing us to accept the complexity of designing a moral foreign policy that still serves a national interest."--Barak Mendelsohn, Political Science Quarterly

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Contending with the American Empire 1
CHAPTER 1: Benjamin Franklin and America's Imperial Vision 20
CHAPTER 2: John Quincy Adams and America's Tortured Empire 59
CHAPTER 3: William Henry Seward Reimagines the American Empire 98
CHAPTER 4: Henry Cabot Lodge and the New American Empire 128
CHAPTER 5: John Foster Dulles and the Conflicted Empire 163
CHAPTER 6: Paul Wolfowitz and the Lonely Empire 196
POSTSCRIPT: The Dark Side 232
Notes 239
Index 257

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