Colossus : The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Paperback

Colossus : The Rise and Fall of the American Empire Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Is America the new world empire? Presidents from Lincoln to Bush may have denied it but, as Niall Ferguson's brilliant and provocative book shows, the US is in many ways the greatest imperial power of all time.

What's more, it always has been an empire, expanding westwards throughout the nineteenth century and rising to global dominance in the twentieth.

But is today's American colossus really equipped to play Atlas, bearing the weight of the world on its shoulders? The United States, Ferguson reveals, is an empire running on empty, weakened by chronic defecits of money, manpower and political will.

When the New Rome falls, he warns, its collapse may come from within. "One of the timeliest and most topical books to have appeared in recent years." (Literary Review). "Yet another tour de force from a writer who displays all his usual gifts of forceful polemic, unconventional intelligence and elegant prose...guaranteed to spark fierce debate." (Irish Times). "A bravura exploration of why Americans are not cut out to be imperialists but nonetheless have an empire.

Vigorous, substantive, and worrying." (Timothy Garton Ash).


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of the Americas
  • ISBN: 9780141017006



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Niall Fergueson, having examined the workings of the British empire, makes the case for an American empire. His book is divided into two parts. The first part is a splendid analysis of US imperialism up to the Iraq invasion. Arrived to the present, the historian tries to analyze America and the world in the second part. The first part is a joy to read and filled with insights. The second part is a stumbling hack job. Unnecessary errors (the Schwarzenegger Terminator is not the only one, Kosovo is not a city, ...) and weak excursions (about the byzantine European Union, the British empire or modern China) can barely conceal that a historian is not equipped to predict the future. Ferguson is overconcerned with the Iraqi occupation which in the long run will be an episode of American Folly but hardly relevant for US history.Unfortunately, Ferguson never clearly defines 'empire'. He dismisses the exact definition in the introduction which clearly do not apply to the US. Most clearly, America lacks subject peoples (as it did in Cuba and the Philippines). It sometimes occupies countries but no longer for keeping the territory. What Ferguson is talking about, and what his title 'Colossus' implies, is not empire but superpower. Trying to translate his knowledge about the British empire to the US is a flawed approach. He predicts the fall of the American empire due to three deficits: the economic deficit, the manpower deficit and the attention deficit. The last one shows the basic flaw in his argument: Most Americans do not care for empire, they barely know much about the world outside the US, they do not speak foreign languages, they do not travel abroad. Compare this to the British empire where the elite was deeply involved with India and their other colonies.Read the brilliant first part, especially the lessons of the Philippine adventure, and forget the second part.

Review by

Analysis of what an empire is and how America is an empire but lacks the political or cultural will to deal this consequence. Explores the political implications of that failure. Interesting how empires don’t seen to last as long as in the old days of the Roman or Ottoman Empire

Review by

Disappointing - reportage rather than history. Ferguson can do better than this.

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