Foreign Policy Magazine


How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

WHEN MOST PEOPLE PICTURE A MAP OF THE UNITED STATES, they usually envision what is known as the lower 48—the contiguous continental states. Maybe they’ll add on Alaska and Hawaii. But they’re missing the bigger picture, argues the Northwestern University history professor Daniel Immerwahr in How to Hide an Empire. The United States also includes territories such as Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. And in the 20th century, it controlled the Philippines, the Panama Canal Zone, and hundreds of tiny islands in the Caribbean and Pacific.

“The history of the United States is the history of empire,” Immerwahr argues. For the most part, he doesn’t mean an empire like Britain’s, where prime ministers and

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