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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

[haw-info] Historians Against the War "Empire" Project

Dear members and friends of Historians Against the War,

"Empire" has recently become a popular subject of historical research
and under the Bush administration it re-emerged in political
discourse. The flood of books on the subject has become overwhelming.
Both supporters and opponents of American foreign policy in general
and military policy in particular use the term "empire" to describe
U.S. hegemony in its various forms. Nonetheless, many Americans are
very resistant to thinking of the United States in terms of empire.
Non-specialists, even among the interested public, often lack
information about how historical empires actually worked and in which
ways historians and political scientists put the United States into
the historical context of past empires. They consider an empire to be
an entity which exercises direct and usually strict territorial
control over other (foreign) areas. This misunderstanding is
illustrated and fuelled by maps of world history that show broad
swaths of red for the British Empire, implying absolute British
control, and the contrast with current maps which show the patchwork
of states today, implying complete sovereignty and freedom from
foreign control.

We propose a project that will bridge the gap between a scholarly
understanding of empires in history and the applicability of the term
to the United States on the one hand and the
popular resistance to interpreting the U.S. in terms of empire on the
other hand. We would like to create an annotated bibliography of
recent and/or important scholarship on the United States and the issue
of empire. The brief book discussions/articles would address the
following issues:

- the author's understanding of the term "empire"
- concrete forms of imperialism discussed or addressed
- the use or abuse of direct or implied historical analogies with past empires
- time period considered (all of U.S. history, only 1898 to the
present, current or recent policy only, only since WW2, etc.)
- whether the author makes policy recommendations, implicitly or explicitly
- which assumptions the work makes about the nature and extent of U.S. interests

We may eventually present a working list of titles of books we would
like reviewed on these terms, but we'll start by opening the review
process to any titles of interest to HAW members. A worksheet/form
that reviewers would fill out to guide their reviews is already
available (http://historiansagainstwar.org/empire/FORM.rtf). We do not
seek to include only books that oppose U.S. policy. Books that discuss
the issue and historically argue that the U.S. is not an empire should
also be considered. The main criterion is the use of "empire" as a
theme, category, approach or model, not a position, for or against,
U.S. policy. While this kind of historiography is often politicized,
we strive to include monographs which are generally scholarly and not

The reviews will eventually be published at the HAW webpage and
perhaps as a pamphlet or short book. Information on this project will
be published periodically at http://historiansagainstwar.org/empire/
and at the HAW blog.

We need authors. If you would like to review a book about this theme
for the publication, please get in touch with Mark Hatlie


Dr. des. Mark R. Hatlie
Im Feuerhägle 1
72072 Tübingen
Cell: +49-163-1341718
Home: +49-7071-792696

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