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The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  3,431 ratings  ·  688 reviews
In 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt dispatched Secretary of War William Taft, his gun-toting daughter Alice and a gaggle of congressmen on a mission to Japan, the Philippines, China, and Korea. There, they would quietly forge a series of agreements that divided up Asia. At the time, Roosevelt was bully-confident about America's future on the continent. But these secret pacts ...more
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Two and a half stars rounded down.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – its Teddy Roosevelt’s fault.

So it’s not this Teddy featured in this book:

But this one:

If you want to bolster James Bradley’s premise even more, according to him, it was the Aryan (read: white, Anglo-Saxon) destiny to subdue the locals (read: Native Americans, Hawaiians, Philippines, anyone who isn’t white) and rule (read: slaughter/trick/manipulate) them because they aren’t white and can’t govern themselves. Plus, we’ll get
Sean O'Hara
Oct 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history-american
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
Apr 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
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
Mal Warwick
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
MK Brunskill-Cowen
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
May 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Charles  van Buren
Apr 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
Charles van Buren


2.0 out of 5 stars

Revisionist tripe

April 17, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

Review of Kindle edition
Publication date: November 5, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Language: English

I never have thought much of Henry Ford's comments about history being bunk. However bunk is an apt description for this piece of revisionist politically correct tripe. To sum up its theme, Bad white people try to run the world and botch it. Judging people of previous
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Bill Gartner
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jill Hutchinson
This book blasts the reputation of President Theodore Roosevelt to smithereens. He was known as a peacemaker and won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of the Sino-Japanese war. The era covered here concerns the first political dealings by the United States with the East; Japan, China and Korea. If what the writer relates about these negotiations is true, it is a shameful period in American history and TR was a man not to be trusted who knew a few things about creating a public image. ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Imperial Cruise uses the itinerary of a Roosevelt diplomatic mission that carried his Secretary of War, William Taft and a large contingent of American Senators and Congressmen from Washington to important points in what was for America, its new Pacific Ocean holdings and newly significant allies. Call this America’s first pivot toward the Pacific. Providing the photo ops and entertainment was his less beloved daughter, Alice Roosevelt. She was known as the Princess and by expectations if no ...more
Gary Pearson
May 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Neill Goltz
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
William Howard Taft, already a great friend of Theodore Roosevelt from their time living in the same Washington, DC neighborhood as junior associates of the Justice and Naval departments, respectively, was appointed Governor-General of the Philippines by William McKinley after our war against Spain (both there and in Cuba. See Doris Goodwin's "The Bully Pulpit"....) TR became president after McKinley was assassinated and Taft later became TR's Secretary of War (and thus subsequently annointed as ...more
Jun 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-us, politics
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
Apr 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, military
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
Kym Robinson
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book that perhaps comes into the category of 'revisionist history', not because Bradley invents some obscure series of events or manipulates facts in a manner to convince the reader to adopt an ideologically flavoured balloon of crud. It is 'revisionist' because it merely presents many of the facts and indulges in horrible admissions and not the important omissions that are integral in popular history.

The standard history that many of us are fed is based upon the romantic illusions of
Erik Graff
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This rather distressing book focuses on the racist convictions, imperialist ambitions and deceitful foreign affairs of Theodore Roosevelt with particular application to Japan. The author's thesis is that TR set the conditions for, indeed inspired, Japan's own Monroe Doctrine, the Co-prosperity Sphere, and for Pearl Harbor. This argument is scattered about an account of the visits to Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines conducted by Alice Roosevelt, his daughter by his first marriage. Consider ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War is both an excellent read and a truly tough read. James D. Bradley paints turn of the century America and its politics in a very poor light. Teddy Roosevelt is a master of public perception, Taft is a gentlemanly lightweight and American politics are genuinely racist.

The reality is all concerned, are men of their times and reflect as such. It is hard to read about them now. James D. Bradley does an excellent job of showing how misreading a
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
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
John Uit
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I did not want to like this book. I resisted its message. It shares disturbing and shocking details of American imperialism in the Philippines. While I was well aware of slavery and Indian slaughters, this was a new chapter in American history to me. The author does seem to push his bias (his constant use of “White Christian” and capitalizing the term “foreign devils” for instance). Sometimes I think he put too much blame on Roosevelt for events 25-30 years later. However, it is a needed read if ...more
Paul L'Herrou
Jun 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron Million
Jan 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: american-history
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
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James Bradley is an American author of historical non-fiction. His subject is the Pacific theatre of World War II.

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It’s October, which means it’s the perfect time to scare yourself with a truly unsettling book. But if you’re a casual reader of dread and...
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“A popular U.S. Army marching song, “The Water Cure,” gleefully described the process: Get the good old syringe boys and fill it to the brim. We’ve caught another nigger and we’ll operate on him. Let someone take the handle who can work it with a vim. Shouting the battle cry of freedom. Chorus: Hurray. Hurrah. We bring the Jubilee. Hurray. Hurrah. The flag that makes him free. Shove in the nozzle deep and let him taste of liberty. Shouting the battle cry of freedom. We’ve come across the bounding main to kindly spread around Sweet liberty whenever there are rebels to be found. So hurry with the syringe boys. We’ve got him down and bound. Shouting the battle cry of freedom. Oh pump it in him till he swells like a toy balloon. The fool pretends that liberty is not a precious boon. But we’ll contrive to make him see the beauty of it soon. Shouting the battle cry of freedom. Keep the piston going boys and let the banner wave. The banner that floats proudly o’er the noble and the brave. Keep on till the squirt gun breaks or he explodes the slave. Shouting the battle cry of freedom. Chorus: Hurrah. Hurrah. We bring the Jubilee. Hurrah. Hurrah. The flag that makes him free. We’ve got him down and bound, so let’s fill him full of liberty. Shouting the battle cry of freedom.” 0 likes
“As the American Aryan’s desire to expand across the Pacific grew, Christian ministers observed that heathen Japan needed salvation and that Japan’s seclusion policy was not God’s way. The missionary Samuel Wells Williams wrote, “I have a full conviction that the seclusion policy of the nations of Eastern Asia is not according to God’s plan of mercy to these peoples, and their government must change them through fear or force, that his people may be free.”13 In 1852, the secretary of the Navy, John Kennedy, wrote that Japan must recognize “its Christian obligation to join the family of Christendom.”14 Echoing similar arguments made earlier about Native American gold mines, the secretary of state, Daniel Webster, argued that Japan had “no right” to refuse the U.S. Navy’s “reasonable” request to commandeer Japanese sovereign soil for its coaling stations because the coal at issue was “but a gift of Providence, deposited, by the Creator of all things, in the depths of the Japanese islands for the benefit of the human family.” 0 likes
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