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Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
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Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,286 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Is America an empire? Certainly not, according to our government.Despite the conquest of two sovereign states in as many years, despite the presence of more than 750 military installations in two thirds of the world’s countries and despite his stated intention "to extend the benefits of every corner of the world," George W. Bush maintains that "America has nev ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published April 26th 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,861)
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Jun 20, 2007 Joeji rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring Imperialists
This book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampling the Asian teas from the top of a pagoded camel, smiling at your Mohammedean fez-headed domestic servant condescendingly... ahh...

Apparently, Imperialism can be a good thing. Countries of old British colonialism were given decent infrastructures (in exchange for total subserviance), not to mention America's two big post-occupied nations of Japa
Mar 24, 2010 Stephen rated it it was amazing
5.0 stars. This was an insightful and incredibly enjoyable read. Despite being exhaustively researched, the writing was clear, consise and, unexpectedly, entertaining. Ferguson puts forth a compelling case for the benefits of the U.S. embracing the role of a "liberal" empire while at the same time identifying the internal and external conditions that will likely prevent the U.S. from accepting the role. Highly recommended!!
Erica Mukherjee
Jul 21, 2009 Erica Mukherjee rated it liked it
Though my political tendencies are decidedly left-leaning, it was interesting to read Colossus, by Niall Ferguson, a staunch conservative. While the book had a tendency to spend more time on digression and example than the main thesis, Ferguson laid down the argument that the United States is an imperial nation and should uncomplainingly accept the purple mantle rather than shy away from her responsibility. From a man whose previous books include a eulogy to the British Empire, his love of impe ...more
Jul 30, 2013 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah, cheshire
everybody knows, so to speak, that the Brits have an edge in literature and non-fiction writing, but is it possible to quantify this edge? and does the UK, a nation of 63 million, really produce more and better material than the US, population 310 million and economy correspondingly 6x the size? I was thinking of scribbling out this screed on a Simon Winchester entry, but intellectual tasks happen when they do. we can't go around planning everything of course.

I guess in goodreads terms there is
Jun 08, 2008 Eric rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics, history
Interesting read, but a clear indicator that Ferguson's foreign policy worldview is best confined to paper.
May 29, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it
Many deny that the United States is an empire, but, actually, it is: in its military, political, economic, and cultural dominance, influence, wealth, and impact it is unparalleled, perhaps in all of history. In lieu of indignant or heated denial, why not accept it; indeed, why not embrace it? The United States has many flaws, and in its interaction with the rest of the (suppliant and envious) world there are numerous areas where improvement is not only possible, but necessary. This state of affa ...more
La pointe de la sauce
Apr 23, 2010 La pointe de la sauce rated it did not like it
Niall Ferguson is a confused man. In his introduction he begins by making the assertion that the U.S has an imperialist mindset and argues that this could actually be a good thing.

He paints a picture of an empire hungry America, with an appetite for 'untrammeled command over it's military ventures' looking for ways to circumvent the U.N, is inhibited by a 'no casualties mindset' while at the same time remaining indifferent to collateral damage that inevitably resulted from high-altitude bombing.
Bas Kreuger
Feb 10, 2012 Bas Kreuger rated it it was amazing
What a book! What a joy to read. Hefty stuff on the way the US should choose to be an empire and behave consiously as such. Ferguson takes the British Empire as an example how to rule (part of) the world and takes the point of view that an empire isn't a bad thing by definition. When you compare several African states in the 19th century within the Empire with the ghastly condition they are in now as independant states, he makes a choice for stability, food, work and a healthy economy instead of ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 09, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Tata J
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 501, non-fiction
This is my 3rd book among to the 50 that are classified as HISTORY books in 501 MUST READ BOOKS by Bounty Books (2006; UK). Like the previous two: HIROSHIMA by John Hersey (1946) and CHE GUEVARA: A REVOLUTIONARY LIFE by John Lee Anderson (1997), I enjoyed this a lot too. In the 501 INTRODUCTION, the publisher explained that these 50 history books are so different in terms of style and context and yet, if you were to read every title recommended here you would have a phenomenal understanding of, ...more
David Sarkies
Oct 03, 2014 David Sarkies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians
Recommended to David by: Saw it in a book shop and said - oh, Niall Ferguson
Shelves: history
In favour of the American Empire
19 October 2009

I find Professor Ferguson to be an incredibly insightful historian and a very concise writer, and I must say that I have really enjoyed the books of his that I have read. However, I did find that this book did start to become a bit dry and depressing near the end, but it is still a very good book and well worth the read. Without going into extensive arguments and discussions about what America should do with her unprecedented power, and also the co
May 09, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book with wonderful conclusions that is ill-served by a rather poor historical argument in the first half. Ferguson, swimming against the political currents, argues that not only has the U.S. always been an "empire in denial," but a Liberal American empire focused on ending genocide, introducing democratic values, and lowering poverty levels would be the best thing for the world. He makes the rather unique argument that, contrary to popular belief, the British Empire of old b ...more
Dec 22, 2007 Ron added it
Niall Ferguson is predictably well-reasoning and thorough about making his case that the United States is an empire, and has been since the late 1800s. He makes the case that it is an empire in denial, and that this poses risks to the world peace. So while many on the extreme left would happily agree with everything so far, Ferguson then goes on to say that the USA needs to recognize it is an empire in order to fulfill it's duties properly as an empire. So I guess in summary, he has the view a b ...more
Aug 01, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Niall Ferguson's account of how America became a "liberal empire" - replacing the British one - and how she can keep that status is sadly out of date by now. Ferguson predicts in this book that if anything will keep America from fulfilling it's basically benign role in the world, it's the government's insane fiscal policies and enormous deficit. If anything, things now are far worse (the book was written in 2003) what with the Obama administration's health care scam, bailout poncy schemes, and i ...more
Jul 03, 2012 Shiloh rated it liked it
Colossus displays Ferguson's usual talent for advocating unconventional propositions (in this case, that imperialism is in fact good and that the U.S. should embrace its imperial role in the world today). Unfortunately, Ferguson's analysis is somewhat unfocused and outdated. For example, if published today Colossus would devote much more attention to the rise of China as a peer competitor to the U.S. rather than on the European Union, which is itself crumbling. However, Colossus convincingly pre ...more
Extremely interesting view of America's role and behavior in world history. Ferguson assets that 1) the United States has unconsciously been an empire throughout much of history, 2) The U.S. is not just a 'traditional' empire, as it also focuses on soft/economic power, 3) Both U.S. citizens and foreigners have had mixed feelings towards Empire, 4) The U.S.'s imperialism may yet be a positive in world affairs. Covers a wide range of topics, from the Middle East to economics to the relationships b ...more
Derek Ide
Oct 02, 2015 Derek Ide rated it liked it
Feeguson's an enemy of anyone engaged in anti-imperialist politics, but it gets 3 stars because he's one of the most honest right-wing authors out there. He doesn't mince words, and despite the employment of (sometimes not so) clever euphemisms, his project is one we ought to take seriously in combating.
Jul 02, 2009 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Major premise is that America has always been an Empire. We're like the Egyptians because we're just in de-nile.

We are different type of empire than previous ones, namely that we rebuild and let the conquered nation take over its own destiny. We also used the Monroe and Truman doctrine to keep a maintain a hold on spheres of influence. We also looked after struggling people groups, keeping our interests firmly in place. We must embrace our destiny and come to terms the fact that we are the most
Athan Tolis
Jan 31, 2016 Athan Tolis rated it liked it
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.

Todd Stockslager
Dec 30, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Review Title: Empire with lead feet

Ferguson follows up Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, where he documented the contemporary and future (indeed ongoing) benefits of the Empire alongside its flaws, with this study of the American version. His subtitle gives away the answer to one of the questions he addresses: the US indeed is an empire, despite its historical reluctance to believe it, accept it, or act upon it. And Ferguson argues further t
Jan 22, 2015 Nshslibrary rated it really liked it
In Colossus, Niall Ferguson explores the complex questions of America’s role and power in the world. Ferguson argues that America is an empire and has historically acted in an imperial nature. To support his controversial thesis, Ferguson offers political and economic analysis of both current and historical events that support his claim.

Ferguson splits his book into two parts-- “Rise”, where he discusses the origins of America’s power, and “Fall”, where he examines the potential challenges to t
Петър Стойков
Скучновата книга, която описва защо САЩ е империя, но не се държи като такава, какво печели светът, че именно САЩ (а не примерно Русия) е господстващата империя в момента и какво ще спечели САЩ ако се осъзнае и започне да се държи като империя.

Общо взето тезата му е, че САЩ имат военно, политическо, икономическо и културно влияние над по-голямата част от планетата, но го използват доста умерено, предвид колко огромно е превъзходството им във всички тия области над всички останали държави и тази
Bookmarks Magazine

Ferguson believes that empires are inherently good things. Colossus offers a provocative diatribe against America's underutilized power, self-absorption, and refusal to embrace a crucial global role. In the process, he analyzes the interaction between domestic and foreign policy, the roots of empires, the fit between globalization and imperialism, and America's many challenges, including funding the war on terror. Generally, Ferguson is balanced, readable, informative

Mar 29, 2015 Corey rated it liked it
Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire has a few pitfalls. While it is not as dry as some international relations books can be, even the popular ones meant to be read by non-scholars, it still is difficult to force oneself through. But then, I am sadly not usually compelled by non-fiction, so this might not be Niall Ferguson's fault. Less forgivable, however, is Ferguson's tendency to use cutesy-mnemonic-headline type devices that make me feel that some sections were written for a ne ...more
Daniel Njoo
Nov 08, 2015 Daniel Njoo rated it really liked it
Times reviewed Niall Ferguson as “the most brilliant historian of his generation.” As brilliant a writer – the first blank page of my copy, which resembles a miniature dictionary, is testament to this – as he is a historian, Ferguson tackles some challenging and ever-relevant questions in this novel. He explains how the United States, a nation born in the fires of an anti-imperialist war, became and continues to be an empire, whether this empire is beneficial for the rest of the world, and wheth ...more
Jun 18, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
Caveat: My five stars rating reflects the fact that this was an enjoyable, interesting read and I thought the book was well written and thought-provoking. My rating for Colossus is not necessarily in comparison with other books of its type or genre, since this is really one of the first books in contemporary economic & political analysis that I have read.
Dec 12, 2007 Arnold rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
His brilliant explanation as to why the USA only thinks it is an empire. Up to his usual ultra high sandards and vital for anyone wishing to understand the world in which we live
Kieran Evans
Aug 27, 2014 Kieran Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
An interesting and clever book, well worth reading by anyone concerned about present-day politics and the apparent hegemony of the U.S.
Meh. More of Niall Ferguson's smug nonsense.

Buuut entertaining enough.
Zachary Fletcher
Ferguson's views on American imperialism are more optimistic than Grandin's (Ferguson argues that a properly-organized American "liberal empire" would actually ultimately be a good thing, both for the country and the world), and for that reason they are also more appealing. He's an eloquent writer and presents his evidence convincingly, but ultimately not convincingly enough to win me over. His whitewashing of U.S.-sponsored atrocities in Central America and elsewhere (the same atrocities that w ...more
Spencer Willardson
Mar 31, 2014 Spencer Willardson rated it really liked it
This was a thought-provoking book that brought in many ideas from international relations and history to make a compelling argument for the U.S. as an empire. The normative implications of embracing that role are interesting and Ferguson does a good job of highlighting the conundrums of liberal empire building.

The book is a bit dated now with its focus on the beginning of the conflict in Iraq, but the way that we left Iraq and are working to leave Afghanistan are consistent with Ferguson's desc
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Niall Ferguson (born April 18, 1964, in Glasgow) is a British (Scottish) historian who specialises in financial and economic history as well as the history of empire. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He was educated at the private Glasgow Academy in Scotland, and at Magdal ...more
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