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Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  962 ratings  ·  80 reviews
“Grandin has always been a brilliant historian; now he uses his detective skills in a book that is absolutely crucial to understanding our present.”
—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo

The British and Roman empires are often invoked as precedents to the Bush administration’s aggressive foreign policy. But America’s imperial identity was actually shaped much closer to home. In a
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2006)
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Simon Wood
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Empires Workshop stands a good head and shoulders above most works of this nature I have recently read. Grandin writes fluently about the relationship between the United States and Latin America over the last hundred years or so, identifying the continuities as well as the innovations. The only innovation that comes across as being halfway sensible is FDR good neighbour policy. The rest of the presidents would seem to require some sort of International ASBO to keep them
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
A number of George W. Bush’s supporters, both during and after his presidency (2001-2009), vocally expressed their belief that history would judge Bush’s polices favorably. In Empire’s Workshop, however, Greg Grandin judged Bush Administration policy in regard to historical precedent. Grandin traced the development and implementation of a new United States imperialism from the late 1970s to the present. In conflicts in Central America and financial crises across the region, Reagan Era neoconserv ...more
Aug 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who want to know about U.S. involvement in Central America
Shelves: central-america
U.S. policy in Latin America has served as a model for actions throughout the world especially the Middle East according to "Empire's Workshop". Unfortunately Greg Grandin doesn't make his point terribly well, although this book can serve an important function as an introduction to the role of the United States in creating and supporting right wing dictatorships, military coups against democratically elected governments and rule by terror.

El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua became, in Grandin'
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
The second half of this book is definitely much better than the first half. Don't expect deep exploration of the issues in any particular Latin American country; rather, this book is a big picture analysis of howU.S. foreign policy tactics, strategies, and the resultant ideological apparatus to support them is being spread into the Middle East. One issue I had with this book was that too much credit was given to ideas, in that, in some passages it almost seems as if it is ideas themselves that a ...more
Jack Hrkach
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I bought this book because I thought it might help me to remember all the terrible things the US did to Latin America in the name of containment (from the communist threat) and continuing on through the 80s (Regan's reign particularly egregious) to 2006, in Bush II's time, when the book was published. I'm an old guy and was around for much of this, but it was good to get it straight from the hip in one book. I've been thinking a lot about the "caravan" and how much the US have done through the d ...more
Matthew WK
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Grade: B+
A fascinating look at America's foreign policy and imperialist desires towards Latin America and how it shaped the war in Iraq. Grandin draws the line from 1970s America through the 1980s in Latin America and into the 21st century and the Iraq war. The promiment figures from the Iraq war (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Negroponte, etc...) all cut their teeth in Latin America during the 1980s; here they developed the propaganda, military techniques, and economic repression that would be brought to be
Terry Earley
Dec 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very disturbing commentary on US treatment of countries in our own hemisphere. Although critical of both Republican and Democratic administrations, Grandin makes sense when he points out that the same neocons who designed and implemented policy in South and Central America were instrumental in US policies toward the Middle East, specifically in the invasion of Iraq.

The concluding chapter is especially damning when conventional wisdom, however false and exaggerated, of our "successes" in democr
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A sobering and impeccably detailed account of how the U.S.'s current nation building spree in Iraq and Afghanistan had its genesis in the neocon awakening of the 60s, 70s and 80s in developing foreign policy and interventionism in Latin America. The insidious and largely clandestine machinery used to usurp democratically elected governments in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Mexico is illuminated in these pages, and in doing so Grandin's demonstrates how those f ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Super useful books for activists and radicals in understanding the extent of US imperial meddling in Latin America. But, this book is definitely a product of drinking too heavily the New Right/Bush Doctrine kool aid and lets liberals and Democratic politicians largely off the hook for their support for and leading of the right of the US government and corporations to push their economic and military might on other countries.
Jason Canada
Just as we are fed propaganda about Islam and the Middle East, so too are we fed lies about Nicaragua, Cuba, and most other Central American countries. Our government seeks to implant democracy in other countries while oligarchic neocapital corporatism is good enough for us here at home.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enlightening but super dense read about America's empire in Latin America and its connections to the war on terror. ...more
Demetrius Lindsey
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The United States has always believed in practice over theory. Latin America is the practice ground that the U.S. uses to better their ability to be an empire and global power. In this week’s book Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of New Imperialism the author demonstrates how the U.S. used Latin America as a testing ground and workshop for the formation of the American Empire. Greg Grandin is the author of the book, he is a professor at New York University and is ...more
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
So many books have been written about US intervention in Latin America that, when this one was published a decade ago, it might easily have been overlooked. Grandin’s approach was different however: he concentrates not so much on how the US intervened, but why it does, and how this fits into evolving US foreign and domestic policies more generally. He shows that US intervention has at different times had strong political, economic and even religious motives, with the US often treating Latin Amer ...more
Peter Jana
The central thread of Empire’s Workshop is that the war on terror – including the Iraq War – is an extension of policies pursued in Latin America during the Cold War. Grandin’s historical coverage is broad, but the focus is on the Reagan administration. In the 1980s, Neoconservative secularists and the religious right found common cause in promoting an aggressive foreign policy in El Salvador and Nicaragua – a policy that led to the creation and support of death squads, rural terror, and massacr ...more
Justin Evans
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-etc
I didn't read this very closely after the first two chapters, for reasons that will become obvious, so I apologize to Mr. Grandin if the latter parts of this book are literary masterpieces. But:

there's a great paper in here on how the Bush administration's foreign policy was shaped by the U.S.'s experience in Latin America from the late '70s through to the present. Unfortunately, that's swamped by ridiculous claims (e.g., U.S. troops ignore human rights because they play video games; Christian m
Carlos Smith
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Empire's Workshop reminds us of the often forgotten or untold sins The U.S. has committed in relation to Latin America for the past two centuries and how our exploitation of the continent evolved to become Bush's preemptive national security policy, the basis for the Bush Doctrine. Sure, there is a lot of history to cover if you consider yourself a novice in South & Central American history, but Grandin fills in the blanks pretty well.

The main lesson learned from this book is provocative and ope
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
As juvenile as this may sound, something that kept crossing my mind while reading this book was a lyric from a song in Disney's Pocahontas: "how can there be so much that you don't know you don't know?"

Empire’s Workshop: The United States, Latin America, and the Rise of the New Imperialism strives to explain to its readers how the "current" events taking place in Iraq and the Middle East are not only related to politically but also are extremely similar to the past 60 years in Latin America (thi
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
An unfortunately forgettable book on a topic that deserves better. Grandin gets in his own way by not organizing the rich history he's mining from in a coherent way. American Imperialism in Latin America has way too much history to fit in 300 pages, I was hoping that this book would give me a good survey of the basic contours, but while the author DOES cover each country where the US had a significant influence, I came out of each story with more confusion. The author does not set enough context ...more
Michael Brickey
Jul 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Michael by: American Empire Project
Grandin does a good job underscoring the hemispheric policies of the US in the last century. His thesis ties the current neo-conservative foreign policy in the Mid-East with that of the Reagan administration's approach to Latin America. He also describes how US efforts toward "economic development" have often led to economic growth, but rarely to development. He does well to introduce the reader to corporate involvement in Latin America and how US policy has worked to preserve and grow corporate ...more
Zachary F.
"'We're an empire now,' boasted a Bush staffer after the invasion of Iraq, 'and when we act, we create our own reality.'"
-pg. 237

I try to be sparing with the Orwell quotes and references, since they tend to be overused to the point of meaninglessness, but it would be hard to find a more fitting summary for Empire's Workshop than "WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

An unpleasant, disconcerting, revelatory book. I don't have enough base knowledge of the subject matter to mak
Shariq Chishti
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
The history of USA meddling in Latin America is as old as the US itself. And because of its ubiquitous nature it is missing from the daily news unlike the Middle East even though the strategies for the Middle East are formulated and tested in Latin America. This premise of the book is interesting and very important and the book should have been a great one considering the deep research author has done but for me the writing falls flat. Every chapter left me more confused than the previous one an ...more
Jun 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. It's not like any of the history in here is news to me at all, but the frame it's put it is new.

The idea is that the neo-conservative/hyperpower/preemptive foreign policy was first tested in Latin America in the post-Vietnam era, where we more or less always acted according to that policy.

It wakes you up to the reality that a lot of our talk about foreign policy includes a lot of implicit exceptions, and a lot of them include our actions in Latin America.

Americans were ask
Rob Mills
May 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Very well researched with an impressive accumulation of citations, though often they would be as casual as a NYT article. He runs through the history of US / Latam relations but, despite great amounts of detail on certain things and some direct quotes, it isn't really contextualised appropriately and thus falls a bit flat. I didn't leave with a greater understanding of Latin America or how US foreign policy interacted and changed cultures and institutions. This book is more a rant about how vari ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Whatever policies the US wanted to impose on the world got their start in Latin America. Maybe this is news to some, to those of us who have lived there pay attention to history and the news, this isn't earth shattering. I'm sort of ambivalent about this book. Maybe Naomi Klein did it better, maybe I've already read a lot of this history so it made the book more of a chore to read than something where I felt I was learning something. Having read Silence on the Mountain, Bitter Fruit, and The Sho ...more
May Ling
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
A decent overview of why Central and South America has issues with the US. At the same time I can understand why some readers, completely unknowlegeable of Latin America, might get a bit lost.

It is a bit biased, at the same time, it's hard to say the book wasn't fair. Indeed, it could have been much more harsh, but it takes on the difficult task of summarizing 60 plus years of US foreign politics in Latin America. The book definitely inspires me to read more about the various periods and people
I just... I don't even know what to do with this book. Read it for my class on Latin America during the Cold War. It was interesting but it took me forever to get through. Example: It normally takes me about an hour to read 60 pages. I had to read about 70 pages this morning to be ready for class discussion today and it took me almost three hours and I still had 14 pages left... But it was really interesting! Though it completely destroys how you look at some of the presidents. America really di ...more
Wes Pue
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A truly frightening book explaining some of the history of the USAs new right. Documents extraordinary atrocities across Latin America either perpetrated by USAers or supported by them: torture, rape, mass murder, geonocide. It documents the creation by Reagan of a WH propaganda office which produced fake news, distorted impressions and sucked some evangelicals into aggressive warmongering (because most Christians of that time were committed to social justice). Traces forward to GW Bush and Iraq ...more
Jon Morgan
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is an excellent two-for-one: both a primer on US policy towards Latin America over the 20th century and a provocative argument about how Latin America reshaped the US’s domestic political landscape, in particular by fusing fledgling neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists into the New Right. It’s not as comprehensive as the subtitle might lead you to believe - the real focus is Central America from the 50s to the end of the Cold War - leaving out some key areas, especially Colom ...more
Aug 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, book_club
I knew that the US had a hand in many of the violent histories of Latin American countries - but why? This book gets into the motivations behind policy, and how that policy was spun to Americans. It's as horrifying as you'd think, and the creepiest quotes of course are the ones straight from the people promoting the policies themselves. The author's main thesis is showing how the ideas and policies developed in Latin America now permeate national policy, especially in relation to Iraq. ...more
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it
definitely an interesting book, especially as an overview of US misadventures in LA. but the arguments get pretty weak when he tries to tie in trade and economic policy. it's also very poorly sourced. grandin frequently cites statistics without providing any source at all, and it tends to be the most shocking numbers that aren't supported. he occasionally cites his own books as sources, which I think is a little weak. ...more
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Obama, the U.S., and Latin America: Interview with Greg Grandin 1 15 Jun 23, 2009 12:34PM  
Bookshelf: Greg Grandin 1 4 Jun 23, 2009 09:02AM  

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Greg Grandin is the author of Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Professor of History at New York University, Grandin has published a number of other award-winning books, including Empire's Workshop, The Last Colonial Massacre, and The Blood of Guatemala.

Toni Morrison called Grandin's new work, The Empire of Necessi

News & Interviews

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
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“All told, U.S. allies in Central America during Reagan's two terms killed over 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands, and drove millions into exile.” 4 likes
“In December 1981, the American-trained Atlacatl Battalion began its systemic execution of over 750 civilians in the Salvadoran village of El Mozote, including hundreds of children under the age of 12. The soldiers were thorough and left only one survivor. At first they stabbed and decapitated their victims, but they turned to machine guns when the hacking grew too tiresome (a decade later, an exhumation team digging through the mass graves found hundreds of bullets with head stamps indicating that the ammunition was manufactured in Lake City, Missouri, for the U.S. government).” 3 likes
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