American Empire: A Global History by A.G. Hopkins

Date01 March 2020
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
A.G. Hopkins
American Empire: A Global History
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018. 980 pp. US$39.95 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-6911-7705-2
Reviewed by: Graeme A. Thompson (
In recent years, imperial history, rebranded as “global” history, has experienced a
remarkable revival. Liberated from hackneyed clich
es and maps painted red, impe-
rial historians have published remarkable studies of the dynamic and integrative, yet
often violent and oppressive, processes of global empire-building. Few have offered
insights as penetrating as British historian A.G. Hopkins, past holder of distin-
guished posts at the University of Cambridge and the University of Texas at
Austin. Now, the co-author of the classic British Imperialism, 1688–2000 has pro-
duced another landmark in the f‌ield. Building on the work of innumerable specialists
as well as early converts to American history’s “global turn,” Hopkins’s American
Empire: A Global History seeks to fundamentally reinterpret the role of the United
States in the process of globalization that made the modern world.
Two ironic observations underpin Hopkins’s ambitious and weighty account:
f‌irst, that despite the importance of American power in buttressing global integra-
tion, popular frameworks of American history have remained resolutely national,
seemingly insulated from the broader currents of global and especially European
history; and second, that it was only after Washington relinquished and reorgan-
ized its often-forgotten imperial possessions following the Second World War that
historians and international relations scholars began to employ the “E” word—
empire—to characterize the US’s dominant international position. By resituating
American history in global and imperial contexts, Hopkins seeks to dispose of
American exceptionalism while revising the concept and chronology of “empire”
in the history of the United States. In so doing, he advances three overarching
arguments: f‌irst, that globalization—the increasing volume and velocity of the
movement of people, goods, and ideas around the world—developed in a series
of historical stages or sequences; second, that these stages transformed through a
dialectic in which the emergence of new forces undermined and overturned older
political and economic patterns; and third, that territorial empires, including the
International Journal
2020, Vol. 75(1) 104–118
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0020702020912483

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