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The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  2,189 ratings  ·  476 reviews
In 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt dispatched Secretary of War William Howard Taft on the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in history to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, China, and Korea. Roosevelt's glamorous twenty-one year old daughter Alice served as mistress of the cruise, which included senators and congressmen. On this trip, Taft concluded secret agreements in Roosevel ...more
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2009)
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John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best American History Books
138th out of 1,069 books — 1,526 voters
Prayers That Open Heaven by Jamie T. PleasantThe Imperial Cruise by James D. BradleyPieces of a Rainbow by Maria SavvaThe Devil's Alphabet by Daryl GregoryScenting the Dark and Other Stories by Mary Robinette Kowal
Best books of November, 2009
1st out of 8 books — 13 voters

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Community Reviews

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Sean O'Hara
Just came across this gem:

"In 1844, America elected James Polk to the presidency. At the time of his election, the United States was a small country with states exclusively east of the Mississippi. The Louisiana Purchase territory was unorganized. Great Britain claimed the Oregon Territory in the Northwest, and Mexico held what would later be Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California."

Let us review all the errors in this paragraph.

1) The United States was never a small country. E
This book is, in a word, drek.

Written in a thoroughly PC manner, this book goes far beyond revisionism. Bradley cherrypicks his quotes (including many from some dubious sources), takes US actions completely out of the context of its times (as if the US were the only country taking similar actions), and his interpretations of events are, to be charitable, questionable. All the non-US countries dealt with are viewed as utopias, full of enlightened populous who wouldn't dream of even looking crossl
How does one judge the accuracy or perspective of revisionist history?

That is, after all, what The Imperial Cruise is: revisionist history. And Howard Zinn would be proud.

In the mode of Zinn, Bradley digs up original documents and straight-from-the-horse's-mouth quotes to build this contrarian case: Theodore Roosevelt was a raving racist who openly promoted Aryan superiority, who saw nothing wrong with ethnic cleansing in the name of Teutonic superiority and inevitability, and whose arrogant di
Mal Warwick
Rarely when history texts or popular books on U.S. history are written are such phenomena as slavery and Jim Crow, the efforts to exterminate Native Americans, the “Yellow Peril,” and the U.S. conquest of Cuba and the Philippines treated as anything other than isolated and disconnected. Dig a little deeper into the sources, though, and it becomes unmistakably clear that unapologetic racism dominated Americans’ thinking for at least the first century and a half of our history as an independent na ...more
An uncomfortable read on many levels that might also be one of the most poorly researched history books to come out in the last decade, if not longer. The only reason this book deserves a star at all is because Bradley attempts to address a touchy time and issue in American history, namely the Anglo-Saxon belief of white superiority prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Bradley's premise, that Theodore Roosevelt's "Imperial Cruise" of 1905 led directly to World War II, gr
MK Brunskill-Cowen
This is not an easy book to read because Bradley forces the American reader to open their eyes to American imperialism. He depicts Teddy Roosevelt perhaps as he really was - not as a real rough rider, but as a gentleman rancher who was a racist at heart. A president who ruled from the gut, made international pacts without informing the Senate and condoned the use of force and torture against the people of the Philippines. I couldn't help but compare his values to that of a certain 20th century d ...more
Hoping to learn more about this diplomatic mission and understand some historical significance of Roosevelt's interactions in Asia, I came across The Imperial Cruise and thought it would do just what I wanted. To my dismay, I found that the title was only a 'bait and switch' trick. The author seems far too interested in making his own suppositions about the mission and firing his own shots at Roosevelt (and every other white male in 'turn of the century' America); and in fact, told very little a ...more
James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise is a book that could have been quite good, and perhaps even important, but it isn't. Instead it is a maddening, bitchy book that attempts to reassess Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy. Bradley's thesis is that the American ruling class had an ideology based around an Aryan ideal of the Anglo Saxon. Raising the Anglo Saxon above all others, the US felt free to trample across anyone in its path. The US recognized the Japanese as almost Anglo Saxons and gave th ...more
The author seems to be riding his success on prior works. I don't doubt any of his research, but I do doubt the amount of blame that he casts on TR.
The thing that is interesting to me is that he seems shocked that Teddy Roosevelt, the best politician of the age, would say one thing and do another. Like all Presidents, he had a public persona and he would say the things that he needed to say in order to get things done. When it came time to execute plans and strategies, he did what he needed to
I just wrote a very clever review of Imperial Cruise, and while I was proofing it, it disappeared. I simply can't reconstruct it now, but...

It's about time somebody called Theodore Roosevelt out/.He was: a racist, imperialist blowhard who mucked up US foreign policy so bad, that we're in the mess we are today mainly due to him. For those who scream that Theodore was a great president, all I can say is read the book, read the footnotes, read the sources. It's primary. The murders of hundreds of
Wow. Mr. James Bradley, I am disappointed in you. I am disappointed in your attempt to be a historian and revise history to your agenda. You cannot honestly set sole blame to Roosevelt and his foreign policy for Japanese imperial aims of the 20th century. You are grasping for straws and although you have meticulously research the subject matter, your conclusions do not hold water. Roosevelt, Taft and Victorian racism is not the primary reason for Japanese Imperial expansion which inevitably lead ...more
One never realizes about the actions from the past how they will affect the actions of the future. The untold death and destruction of WWII may have been avoided altogether had we the ability to see into the future. What appears to have been practically unnoticed cruise by a few key representatives resulted in some unfortunate results. America's unwillingness to understand other cultures and societal mores resulted, ultimately, in a world war. The history lessons I was taught in school was Japan ...more
I liked James Bradley's earlier books, but this one's a dud. I only made it through the first hundred pages, most of which was a rant about the horrors of assuming whites were the superior race. No really, pages upon pages of it. Examples, snide remarks, appalled declaiming, etc.. Yes, Mr. Bradley, that was a common belief of the time among white men. Yes, it was wrong. But I don't see any righteous indignation about any of the other beliefs of the time that turned out to be wrong, and there wer ...more
Bradley has produced a strident one-note tirade against the policies of Theodore Roosevelt and the Japanese expansion of influence in Asia. In very broad strokes Bradley seems to say that, but for Roosevelt's encouragement, World War II might not have occurred. Bradley's approach is angry, abrasive, and at times openly sarcastic. His references to Alice Roosevelt add little to the book other than to bolster his opinion that Americans were a bigoted lot of superficial personalities that deepened ...more
Aaron Million
Bradley bases his premise on the theory that Theodore Roosevelt strongly adhered to the myth of the White Aryan being the dominant race on the planet. This thinking, combined with U.S. expansionist policies, was at the root of America's seizing Cuba, Hawaii, and the Phillipines. TR also influenced, behind the scenes, the treaty to end the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. I think Bradley, much like TR did then, overstates TR's role in this process. While I do agree that race was definitely a factor in ...more
Paul L'Herrou
Just finished reading The Imperial Cruise, by James Bradley (2009). It is about the Congressional jaunt, sent across the Pacific by Teddy Roosevelt in 1905, and headed by Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, accompanied by the president’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt.

The book interested me because of my previous conclusion, from my reading of Japanese history and of how Hawaii became a US territory, that we at least partially brought the Pacific conflict during WWII on ourselves. Also, because T
Bob Woods
Having lived in the Far East I thought I knew a lot about Japanese and Asian history...but after reading this book my understanding has had a serious re-write. James Bradley did another excellent job (Flags of our Fathers, Flyboys) with this book, which focuses on the influence of the US on recent Asian history. He walks you through the story by using a cruise taken by then Secretary of State Taft out of San Francisco to Hawaii, the Philippines, China, Korea and Japan during the Teddy Roosevelt ...more
Gary Pearson
I found this book to be one of the most troubling I have ever read.

First, but not most importantly, it is poorly written. The author can't seem to decide: is he writing about the title, the cruise to the Far East, is he writing a social history of the time, is he writing about Alice Roosevelt, is he writing about the settling of the Russo-Japanese war, is he writing about American expansionism and manifest destiny and if so on this continent or across the face of the earth, or is he writing abou
I finished this book a month ago, but have delayed giving a review because the task seemed so beyond me. Put simply this is one of the most disturbing and difficult histories I have ever read. That said, it is also one of the most revelatory as well.

Author James Bradley's father was one of the six men who planted the flag on Iwo Jima and is featured in the most iconic photo of World War II. Bradley's research into his father's life and the war he fought is recorded in Bradley's excellent Flags o
Every once in a while you find a book that turns popular history on its head. "The Imperial Cruise" does just that by redefining who Teddy Roosevelt really was - a peacemaker and great world leader? Maybe not. James Bradley does a famous job of digging up history that has been conveniently set aside by many modern historians. I encourage you to come along on this cruise, see how Teddy Roosevelt and his side kick Taft during the waning years of the Nineteenth Century shaped the Far East into what ...more
This is as mean spirited a book as I've ever read. I don't know Mr. Bradley's politics but "Imperial Cruise" is exactly like all those revisionist history books which come out of the anti-American left. There are several thesis the author puts forth you will have to be comfortable. First, Theodore Roosevelt was guided by a white supremacist ideology embracing Arianism in which Roosevelt is Adolph Hitler. Second, that the United States is inherently evil and in which it is Nazi Germany. Third, th ...more
This book is ostensibly a history of a cruise that Taft and other American VIPs made prior to WWI, in which secret assurances were given to Japan that it could invade Korea. But it is also an indictment of how Teddy Roosevelt's racism and PR tactics changed the course of history in the Pacific, causing the inevitability of WWII, the rise of communism in China, and the Vietnam War.

You can't put this book down. It reads almost like a novel, although a few things are repeated several times (like Te
This was a very difficult read, in that it shattered a lot of beliefs I held about American history, based on what we were taught in high school. The prevailing belief of the wealthy ruling class in the early years of American history (and today?) was that White Supremacy, specifically an Aryan bloodline, was the primary indicator for leadership ability. Further the concept of Manifest Destiny meant that all indigenous races were inhabiting land that rightfully were needed to be owned by white p ...more
Bill Gartner
This was an AMAZING and disturbing book. Many of the reviews (e.g. NY Times) were very critical about the leaps Bradley made in connecting dots between events (e.g. Teddy Roosevelt's policies and behavior towards Japan encouraging imperialistic expansion and ultimately leading to WWII, Korean War, etc.) Even if you dismiss those assertions on the part of the author, the book provides fantastic (disturbing) insights into the blatant WASP-bias that influenced American culture and politics in the l ...more
I'm not sure what to make of this book, but it fell short of my expectations. First off, despite the title and description, the book had precious little to do with actual cruise and short shrift is given to the voyage and the people on it. If it wasn't for the cover of the book one might not know how then Secretary of War William Taft and the President's daughter Alice Roosevelt come to make appearances in Asia. It was before the invention of the airplane so they must have landed there via a sea ...more
This was a very engrossing book. I learned alot about American foreign policy in the T. Roosevelt and pre-T. Roosevelt years. Bradley paints a very unflattering picture of Roosevelt, at least as a leader in foreign affairs.
He portrays Roosevelt as a racist, Aryan supremisist, one convinced that the non white races were unquestionably inferior to the whites and justified in committing murder, theft, even genocide in our efforts to "civilize" these races. Do you "forgive" people who thought this w
Gary Null

Could a show of American power, and secret negotiations, in 1905 have led to increasing animosity between the Far East and the West, eventually culminating with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor almost forty years later?

This is an interesting theory, but I don’t think Bradley proves it, especially considering all the other events which occurred within that four decade span.

In the summer of 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt dispatched the largest diplomatic contingent in U.S. history—the secretary
Utterly disappointing, biased, and factually dubious, Bradley's "Imperial Cruise" isn't "A True Story of Empire and War," but rather, a collection of vitriolic outbursts and slurs against the White ("Aryan") men who dared to push past the boundaries of Manifest Destiny.

The title is entirely misleading, as Bradley exerts a good deal of his time pilloring Teddy Roosevelt, who wasn't even on the Cruise's passenger list. (Admittedly, the man was no saint; but neither is he the White Devil Bradley ma
Carol Foreman
In 1905 Teddy Roosevelt sent his Secretary of War Howard Taft, various congressman and senators and his 21 year old daughter “Princess Alice” on the largest diplomatic mission in history to Hawaii, the Philippines, Korea, China and Japan in what turned out to be a “cruise” that would have devastating effects on US Asian relations, and would set the stage for America’s entrance into World War II decades later.

James Bradley’s The Imperial Cruise traces the speak softly and carry a large stick pre
S2 Mc
Probably revisionist editing help to create the basis for this book, though the recounting of the US involvement in both the Philippines and Cuba in the Spanish-American War are both enlighting and ring with truth and some horror.

Bottom line to Mr Bradley's thesis - Teddy Roosevelt's belief in the supremacy of Aryan/Teutonic civilization and the need to continue the push of said enlightened governance further West gave impetus and overt US encouragement to Japan to develop its Asian Co-Prosperi
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Bradley is an American author of historical non-fiction. His subject is the Pacific theatre of World War II.
More about James D. Bradley...
Flags of Our Fathers Flyboys: A True Story of Courage The China Mirage: The Hidden History of  American Disaster in Asia Writing a Novel Anthology, 2012 A Man's Point of View

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