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In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  372 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
In a swiftly paced, brilliantly vivid narrative, Karnow focuses on the relationship that has existed between the two nations since the United States acquired the country from Spain in 1898, examing how we have sought to remake the Philippines 'in our image, ' an experiment marked from the outset by blundering, ignorance, and mutual misunderstanding.
Hardcover, First Edition, 494 pages
Published March 18th 1989 by Random House (first published March 1989)
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(showing 1-30 of 988)
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Ian Kemp
To a Westerner, the Philippines is a mass of contradictions. A country in which the most vocal calls for representative democracy can come from an unelected, unaccountable male leader of the catholic church; a society in which national identity and patriotic culture are expressed through foreign rituals from TV game shows to the school flag-salute; where the elements most identifiable as Filipino are remnants of imperial conquest – from Spanish patronymics to the ubiquitous catholic faith and to ...more
Jan 10, 2014 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really readable, interesting account of the history of the Philippines, from Spanish colonization up to Cory Aquino's presidency. Definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to the country. It gave me a better understanding of Filipino society and culture while I was there. The author has spent decades covering the country as a journalist, and includes really interesting insight and anecdotes from his time there. Good book.
Nick Klagge
Oct 26, 2013 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Philippines--particularly Americans who, like me, haven't had much exposure to the history of the country. Although this book does focus on the relationship between the Philippines and America, it's a pretty comprehensive history of the country, from the arrival of Magellan through Cory Aquino. Karnow is a good storyteller and, I think, a fairly objective historian. I was kind of hoping to find in this book some Filipino heroe ...more
Aug 07, 2007 Jed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beautiful archipelago of 7,107 islands and home to a bunch of crazy islanders including my mother. Ask Magellan. Just kiddin, ma! Salamat po, for such an illuminating book about the engrossing history of the Philippine islands. The book is a panoramic study and includes, history of the 400 year colonization from Spain, the blundering attempt by America to purchase and make the P.I. in "our image", and a great recipe for chicken adobo... Okay, the last bit I added, but my copy has one. Hah!
Ryan Mcconville
Jan 02, 2016 Ryan Mcconville rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this before a trip to the Philippines and it really helped me understand the historical context of the country. It is a pretty dense read - so not likely great for someone who wants a quick, breezy intro. History buffs on the other hand will likely really enjoy it.
Rosalinda Morgan
If you like Philippine History, this is one of the best books written about the Philippines. It is well researched. Born and raised in the Philippines, I thought I knew a lot of Philippines history. There were some new information in the book that I did not know - most of the history about the Spanish-American War and the role Teddy Roosevelt played. That was never emphasized in school when I was young. There were some characters that I haven’t heard about and it was interesting to know about th ...more
Carina Salazar
May 09, 2016 Carina Salazar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeni Enjaian
I wasn't sure what to expect of this book when I started read since the only reason I added it to my amazon wishlist was because it's a Pulitzer prize winner. Also, I know very little about this part of American history.
After finishing, I realize once again just how easy it is to critique something that's good but just quite good enough. (That's an inadequate way of saying that. It's to contrast the difficulty in writing a review of a terrible book.)
In no particular order, here are my thoughts a
Sep 30, 2014 Leah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horrid
Revisionist history that makes widely reactionary conclusions without much backing, such as the assertion that Filipinos "submitted voluntarily to their own exploitation" and the imperialist beliefs that the Philippines would not have formed its own infrastructure had it not been for American intervention.

For more specifics, see Peter Tarr's review in The Nation and various scholarship by E. San Juan Jr.
Joe Perez
Jan 01, 2013 Joe Perez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Great book for Filipinos, Americans of Filipino descent, and for anyone who wants to learn more about America's role as a colonial power...and it explains to many Americans why Filipinos are able to not only assimilate quite easily to American culture, but why so many of them have a working knowledge of the English language.
Dec 27, 2011 Gerald rated it really liked it
Having visited The Philippines a number of times while on active duty with the Navy, I had always wanted to learned more about this 7,000+ island nation, especially its history. Stanley Karnow's book is an excellent read. I really enjoyed it a lot.
May 05, 2016 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the historical U.S. and Philippines relationship is fascinating, and the current relationship is taking on greater importance for both countries. With that in mind, Stanly Karnow gives a detailed account of this fascinating and important relationship that helps the reader develop a good sense of how the U.S./Philippines relationship has evolved over the years and how many Filipinos see the U.S. and vice-versa. This understanding can help policy makers, and those tasked with executing pol ...more
Although this book is valuable in its readability, it lacks the rigor of true scholarly historical writing.
Karnow does not include any reference material to his source work, which brings into question where some of his claims stem from. In addition, he sometimes comes across as paternalistic toward the Filipino people, comparing them to petulant teenagers seeking their parents approval, diminishing their contribution to the fight against the Spanish when recent scholarship demonstrates how impo
Apr 01, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
I blogged about this excellent book here. I learned that my eighth-grade English teacher was right: if you really want to retain what you've read, try writing about it after you read it.

When this book was published, some readers probably went directly to the final chapters – a detailed narrative of recently-passed events before, during, and after the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos regime – because they seemed the most important part of the book. Now, twenty years later, this narrative has lost
Feb 28, 2016 Saba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand the history of Filipino-American relations, there is no better book to read. Filipino history is fascinating, and the country has been deeply affected by American foreign policy. In Our Image covers the whole story, from Spanish colonialism to World War Two, in intense detail. It is a dense book, but the story of the Philippines is amazing and absorbing, the author is a fantastic writer, and I found myself eager to understand every part of it.
David Prichard
Feb 28, 2016 David Prichard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing read, impressive in its journalistic depth but also cohesive in its central narrative. The Philippines arguably constituted the United States' sole exercise in large scale colonialism, yet from the start it was beset with two painful contradictions: firstly, between America's maintenance of overseas territories and her traditions of limited government and isolation from foreign entanglements; secondly, between her stated desire, genuine at least in some quarters, to shepherd the Ph ...more
Glenn Fingler
Jul 13, 2012 Glenn Fingler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book on the subject covered. One weakness that bothered me, however, was the author's analysis of the causes of the Filipino failure to defeat the Americans seemed to equate the situation of the Filipinos with the North Vietnamese situation versus the Americans. It ignored the fact that the North Vietnamese received extremely extensive supplies from both Russia and China throughout their war with the USA and the South, as well as the benefit of 200,000 Chinese troops that wer ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As is usual with (the late) Stanley Karnow, he provides a sweeping, panoramic history of the country and its origins. In this case, the affect of 14th-century Chinese trading in the Philippines during the Ming Dynasty, Ferdinand Magellan's arrival in the 16th-century, and the subsequent ebbs and flows of Spain's enduring Catholic influence in an otherwise Asian corner of the world. And as Europe's 19th-century colonial influence lessened, America's century took hold first through Teddy Roosevelt ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Zac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does a great job of tracing all of the major players and events of Philippine colonial history. However, it's argely descriptive and short on methodical analysis (does some hand-waving arguments for American exceptionalism). Has little to say about the legal context for Philippine occupation or the Insular Cases.
Jun 03, 2016 Tracey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer, 2016
nonfiction (history of the Phillipines). this guy uses a lot of esoteric vocabulary! I think my brain stretched, just a little; I wasn't able to absorb as much of it as other people might, but you have to start somewhere.
Mike Harper
Very much like Karnow's Vietnam. Here's everything one needs to be informed about the history of the Philippines, and perhaps a little more. It's the little bit more that makes this a less than enthralling read. My motive for reading this was that I needed to learn more about the War of 1898, especially the part we Americans called the Philippine Insurrection, for a course I was scheduled to teach. I started the book intending to limit my reading to the era of the insurrection, but got hooked an ...more
Brian Stein
Aug 15, 2012 Brian Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So glad I read this history of the Philippines. Karnow does a great job giving perspective to the past century of Filipino-American history. Tends towards an American perspective, but that should be expected coming from a former American correspondent to Asia. I look forward to broadening my perspective on Filipino history, but this was a good entry point for an American with limited prior knowledge of the history of the Philippines.
Walter Burton
Sep 04, 2015 Walter Burton rated it really liked it
Great history of the Philippines, America's experiment with colonialism. The author is no stranger to the region and give an honest & unbiased picture of a country which little studied by Americans.

Very readable and full of insight into both the U.S. & Philippines love hate relationship.
Jul 27, 2012 Brent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, favorites
I loved reading this book, slowly and repeatedly, about this great country tied and intertwined with our own. It's as good as or better than his excellent history, Vietnam.
Jul 04, 2008 ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, clear and penetrating analysis of US foreign policy in the Philippines. Apparently MacArthur was not all he's cracked up to be!
In OUR IMAGE. America's Empire in the Philippines. by Stanley. Karnow (1989)
Jan 25, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Kind of superficial - worthy of a more scholarly effort.
Jun 27, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great book by Karnow
Mar 16, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I grew up in the Philippines, but I feel like I learned more about Philippine history reading this book than I picked up in 12 years in the country. That said, it is definitely not just a book for people interested in Philippine history.

While using the Philippines as its focus, the book walks the reader through turn of the 20th century US foreign politics, which could perhaps best be described as fumbling towards a semi-benevolent American empire. The lives and careers of Taft, Teddy Roosevelt,
Denise marked it as to-read
Jun 27, 2016
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Stanley Karnow was a well-respected American Journalist and Historian whose book "In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines" won him the coveted Pulitzer Prize for History. Karnow was a World War II veteran who graduated from Harvard and began his journalism career in the early 1950s. He is probably best known for his coverage of the Vietnam War.

Stanley Karnow died of congestive heart fail
More about Stanley Karnow...

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“Americans neglected to establish an effective and impartial administration in the Philippines—as the British did in the creation of the Indian Civil Service, still a model of efficiency. So Filipinos turned to politicians instead of the bureaucracy for assistance, a practice that fostered patronage and corruption. Nor were the Americans, with all their professions of righteousness, as racially tolerant as the French or the Dutch. Prior to World War II, an American who married a Filipino woman was banished from the American community in Manila.” 0 likes
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