Click here to read reviewer Marie D. Jones' take on Colossus.
Scholars of American history or political science will appreciate the depth of attention Ferguson has paid to the various events of the last 200-plus years that have shaped our lives and our world. Lay people with the barest familiarity with history or current events will enjoy the facts and examples that explain so much of what we see happening in the world today. Recent American activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia are the central focus of his writing, and he backs up his writing with detailed descriptions of past actions and events that have, if not directly led to today’s problems, are at least partly to blame.
Ferguson begins by defining the term empire, then comparing various aspects of America to the most well-known empires, namely the Egyptian, ancient Chinese, Greek, and Roman empires. He points out that, while America has never called itself an empire, critics and champions alike claim it to be one. This begins a pattern of argument throughout the book: he states a perspective, describes the opposing perspective, and then presents a detailed, abundantly foot-noted argument that leads to a logical conclusion.
Even though there are two parts – Rise and Fall – and the book is largely chronological through each part, I did not interpret Ferguson’s writing as to suggest that we are currently in the decline of an empire. Nor are we in the ascension. Ferguson states quite plainly in the prologue that he had two goals for the book: one, to prove that America has always been an empire, and two, to suggest that being an empire isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He also amusingly tells readers that this perspective has annoyed both conservatives and liberals alike, which indicates this is probably one of the few non-partisan books written in our time and is therefore automatically more credible than the party loyalty-driven books we are inundated with daily.
Intellectually stimulating and well-referenced, Colossus is powerfully compelling to any individual interested in the fate of our country. While this is not the easiest book to read, it is hardly a dry college textbook that only a genius can follow. I found it interesting enough to plod through the complex parts, and stimulating enough to devour it quickly.