Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire” as Want to Read:
Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,556 Ratings  ·  121 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 ne ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published April 26th 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Colossus, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Colossus

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jun 20, 2007 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
Aug 30, 2008 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 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 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
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 08, 2009 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
May 29, 2011 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
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
Interesting read, but a clear indicator that Ferguson's foreign policy worldview is best confined to paper.
Bas Kreuger
Feb 10, 2012 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
La pointe de la sauce
Apr 15, 2010 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
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written in 2003, published in 2004, this is Economist/Historian Niall Ferguson's attempt in the Wake of the US Military Successes in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq(at first)to lay out a way forward for the "American Imperium". He uses trends, stories, graphs, and anecdotes, with the British Imperial experience as a guide, to show how America can proceed, and if we have the economic underpinnings to do so. It seems so promising and within reach. Unfortunately in the wake of that promising start, c ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 22, 2011 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
Lukas op de Beke
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Having arrived at the end of this dazzling book, I feel almost bound to agree with Niall Ferguson's argument that if the United States had pursued its imperial ambitions in a more overt, self-assured and sustained fashion, many 'lesser' states would have benefited enormously- with the obvious cases being Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and several other central American and Caribbean nations, but also North Korea and (South) Vietnam, and even still later, the Balkans, the Middle-E ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very worthwhile read. The history of global imperialism was particularly interesting, as was the multi-dimensional comparison of current global powers. However, the author's fundamental theory - that America is an empire - suffers from a fatal oversight to which he has an incredible blind eye.

When an empire takes over, or colonizes, a new region, it does so with the expressed purpose of taking full control of the regional resources. Those resources are used and expended as the empire
Oct 17, 2011 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 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 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
Nov 28, 2016 rated it liked it
The author is determined to goad the US to take more rigorous role and far-sighted responsibility in the world affairs. US remains, he argues, as a reluctant empire, if not an empire in denial. She, therefore, has been vacillating between isolationism and unilateralism ever since her emergence as an indisputable world power. These ambiguity and incoherence bode ill for the rest of the world as well as America.

In defense of his claim, I want to add raison d'etre of an empire. It has been persist
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
Jul 03, 2012 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
Jul 02, 2009 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
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

Derek Ide
Oct 02, 2015 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.
Jun 18, 2012 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 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 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Joseph Stieb
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
A book with a provocative central thesis that nevertheless ranges about too widely and overlooks several key problems in exercising global power. Ferguson's central argument is that the US is an empire in denial, meaning that it has for at least a century played a hemispheric and then global role of establishing norms and standards, providing public goods, confronting , policing smaller states, and maintaining a relatively high level of economic openness. This kind of behavior fits with many pre ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The title is a bit misleading, as there is nothing here about "the fall" of the American Empire. Rather America is viewed as an empire in transition, an empire trying not to be an empire, in Ferguson's view. The book was released in 2004, and is remarkably prescient, given events from then until now (2018). Ferguson's greatest concern for America was its attention deficit disorder, and how that might play out in Iraq. His concern was warranted, as America moved from the over-optimism of Bush, to ...more
Vivek Agarwal
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: skimmed
α - Picked this up after looking for a Noam Chomsky book in the library and failing to find it. Title sounded interesting.

Ω - I read the introduction and conclusion. The author reads like a bad pop song - not really saying anything useful, but name dropping all the cool kids from Lennon to the Terminator. America is an empire. No shit. America has a short attention span. No shit. Not finishing things you start leave wounds open to fester. No shit.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Frozen Desire: The Meaning of Money
  • Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World
  • Pax Britannica: Climax of an Empire
  • Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
  • Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul
  • Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years
  • That Sweet Enemy: Britain and France: The History of a Love-Hate Relationship
  • The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century
  • The Armada
  • Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain
  • Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life
  • Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire
  • Dangerous Nation: America's Place in the World from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century
  • The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War
  • The Hour of Our Death
  • The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House
  • The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
  • Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department
Niall Ferguson 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 Magdalen College, Oxford.

He is best know
More about Niall Ferguson...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Living: The Classical Mannual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
    $10.49 $1.99
“Lo que de verdad llevó a Estados Unidos a Oriente Próximo en los años cincuenta no fue Israel o el petróleo, sino el miedo a la Unión Soviética; para ser exactos, miedo de que los rusos pudieran sacar provecho de la crisis de los imperios europeos con tanto éxito en el mundo árabe como lo habían hecho en Asia.” 0 likes
“Michael Burleigh de un modo esclarecedor ha empleado en fechas recientes para explicar la característica esencial del nazismo: el liderazgo mesiánico, la necesidad de adoctrinar, el afán de persecución.55” 0 likes
More quotes…