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  • Published: 28 February 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473545335
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 528

How to Hide an Empire

A Short History of the Greater United States

A fresh, spirited and myth-busting history of the Greater United States and its hidden empire, upending the idea of an anti-imperial America.

'Wry, readable and often astonishing... A provocative and absorbing history of the United States' New York Times
The United States denies having dreams of empire.

We know America has spread its money, language and culture across the world, but we still think of it as a contained territory, framed by Canada above, Mexico below, and oceans either side. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is the story of the United States outside the United States – from nineteenth-century conquests like Alaska and Puerto Rico to the catalogue of islands, archipelagos and military bases dotted around the globe. Full of surprises and previously forgotten episodes, this fascinating book casts America’s history, and its present, in a revealing new light.

  • Published: 28 February 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473545335
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 528

About the author

Daniel Immerwahr

Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, which won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award. He has written for n+1, Slate, Dissent, and other publications.

Praise for How to Hide an Empire

This book changes our understanding of the fundamental character of the United States as a presence in world history. By focusing on the processes by which Americans acquired, controlled, and were affected by territory, Daniel Immerwahr shows that the United States was not just another "empire," but was a highly distinctive one the dimensions of which have been largely ignored.

David A. Hollinger, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Protestants Abroad

There are many histories of American expansionism. How to Hide an Empire renders them all obsolete. It is brilliantly conceived, utterly original, and immensely entertaining - simultaneously vivid, sardonic and deadly serious.

Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Twilight of the American Century

How to Hide an Empire is a breakthrough, for both Daniel Immerwahr and our collective understanding of America’s role in the world. His narrative of the rise of our colonial empire outside North America, and then our surprising pivot from colonization to globalization after World War II, is enthralling in the telling -- and troubling for anyone pondering our nation’s past and future. The result is a book for citizens and scholars alike.

Samuel Moyn, professor of law and history at Yale University

To call this standout book a corrective would make it sound earnest and dutiful, when in fact it is wry, readable and often astonishing … It’s a testament to Immerwahr’s considerable storytelling skills that I found myself riveted by his sections on Hoover’s quest for standardized screw threads, wondering what might happen next. But beyond its collection of anecdotes and arcana, this humane book offers something bigger and more profound. How to Hide an Empire nimbly combines breadth and sweep with fine-grained attention to detail. The result is a provocative and absorbing history of the United States — ‘not as it appears in its fantasies, but as it actually is.’

New York Times

Lively and fascinating … [Immerwahr] is incapable of writing a dull page, and he has a real gift for making striking and unusual connections

Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

[A] smashing new book… fascinating

Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph

A deft disquisition on America, and America in the world, with a raconteur’s touch and keen sense of the absurd

Stephen Phillips, Spectator

[A] lively new book… Immerwahr peppers his account with colourful characters and enjoyable anecdotes… [How to Hide an Empire] throws light on the histories of everything from the Beatles to Godzilla, the birth-control pill to the transistor radio


This is an easily readable and vividly written book, filled with numerous fascinating tales, some well known, but many obscure… [How to Hide an Empire] illuminate[s] the wider history of both the United States and its colonies

Andrew Johnstone, BBC History

How to Hide an Empire…achieves a strong grounding in its sources material and the wider history of empire studies… [it] is timely and raises weighty questions on themes of identity and belong that are all very relevant today

All About History

[A] vivid, and sometimes quirky, retelling of American expansionism… The originality of Immerwahr’s book… [is] in his explanation of how Washington purposely avoided converting its occupations to annexations

Gavin Jacobson, New Statesman

Daniel Immerwahr… writes in the manner of an entertaining and informative lecturer who cannot wait to tell the class his latest discovery from the archives

James Michael, Times Literary Supplement