Empire in Retreat The Past, Present, and Future of the United States Victor Bulmer-Thomas

Publication date:
15 May 2018
Yale University Press
480 pages: 235 x 156 x 33mm
21 b-w illus.
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A sweeping history of the United States through the lens of empire—and an incisive look forward as the nation retreats from the global stage

A respected authority on international relations and foreign policy, Victor Bulmer‑Thomas offers a grand survey of the United States as an empire. From its territorial expansion after independence, through hegemonic rule following World War II, to the nation’s current imperial retreat, the United States has had an uneasy relationship with the idea of itself as an empire. In this book Bulmer‑Thomas offers three definitions of empire—territorial, informal, and institutional—that help to explain the nation’s past and forecast a future in which the United States will cease to play an imperial role. Arguing that the move toward diminished geopolitical dominance reflects the aspirations of most U.S. citizens, he asserts that imperial retreat does not necessarily mean national decline and may ultimately strengthen the nation‑state. At this pivotal juncture in American history, Bulmer‑Thomas’s uniquely global perspective will be widely read and discussed across a range of fields.

Victor Bulmer‑Thomas is professor emeritus at the University of London, honorary professor of the Institute of the Americas, University College London, and associate fellow in the U.S. and Americas Program, Chatham House, where he was Director from 2001 to 2006.

“Empire in Retreat still participates in the necessary work of acknowledging the imperial basis of American nationhood.”—Edward Watts, The Journal of American History

“This work will no doubt take its place as a contribution to the current cannon of literature on the changing international order, and the popular debate surrounding the demise of the American unipolar era.”—Jeffrey M. Alston, Strife Journal

“This is a comprehensive study of the United States as a long-standing empire and world power by a leading economic historian of Latin America and the Caribbean. It explains why its global leadership is increasingly challenged. It is a must read for those interested in the origins and causes of this change, notably in the Trump era.”—José Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University

“This new book by Victor Bulmer-Thomas, a leading authority in the study of the Americas, compellingly redefines the notion of American imperialism, while explaining that the current transitional period in U.S. world standing can be both painful and liberating for its citizens. A must read.”—Alfredo Toro Hardy, former Venezuelan ambassador to the United States

“An insightful book that offers a compelling vision of the history of the United States as a semi-global empire.”—Oleg Ivanov