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From Colony to Superpower : U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776
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The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation in print. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize-winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of the prestigious Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. From Colony to Superpower is the only thematic volume commissioned for the series. Here, George C. Herring uses foreign relations as the lens through which to tell the story of America's dramatic rise from thirteen disparate colonies huddled along the Atlantic coast to the world's greatest superpower. A sweeping account of United States foreign relations and diplomacy, this magisterial volume documents America's interaction with other peoples and nations of the world. Herring tells a story of stunning successes and sometimes tragic failures, captured in a fast-paced narrative that illuminates the central importance of foreign relations to the existence and survival of the nation, and highlights its ongoing impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. He shows how policymakers defined American interests broadly to include territorial expansion, access to growing markets, and the spread of an "American way" of life. Herring does all this in a story rich in human drama and filled with epic events. Statesmen such as Benjamin Franklin, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, and Dean Acheson played key roles in America's rise to world power. But America's expansion as a nation also owes much to the adventurers and explorers, the sea captains, merchants and captains of industry, the missionaries and diplomats, who discovered or charted new lands, developed new avenues of commerce, and established and defended the nation's interests abroad. From the American Revolution to the fifty-year struggle with communism and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, From Colony to Superpower tells the dramatic story of America's emergence as superpower--its birth in revolution, its troubled present, and its uncertain future.


Read an Amazon Exclusive interview with author George C. Herring and David M. Kennedy, editor of the Oxford History of the United States series.

Questions for George C. Herring

Kennedy: Your book covers the entire span of the history of the United States. What was the biggest challenge of writing a book of this scope for the Oxford History of the United States series?

Herring: Managing such a large subject and such a vast quantity of source material was daunting, indeed, at times, downright intimidating. Somewhat to my surprise, I also found it more difficult to write those chapters dealing with subjects I knew the most about, the Vietnam War era, for example. The great joys of doing the book, on the other hand, were to have the opportunity to pull together in some meaningful fashion what I had been teaching and writing about for forty years and especially to find myself learning new things each day.

Kennedy: Do you accept the conventional notion that the United States was isolationist for much of its history?

Herring: The idea of an isolationist America, still included in some textbooks, is one of the great myths of United States history. For good reasons, the nation for its first century and a half did pursue a unilateralist foreign policy, avoiding alliances that would restrict its freedom of action or entangle it in wars. But it was never strictly isolationist. Especially in the realm of economics, Americans sought full engagement with the world. The one time when the United States can accurately be said to have been isolationist is the era of the Great Depression, the 1930s.

Kennedy: What period did you find yourself most surprised by as you wrote this book?

Herring: I’m not sure that surprise is the right word, but I especially enjoyed doing the chapter covering the period 1837-1861. I got to know wonderful characters such as naval officers Charles Wilkes and Matthew Perry, merchant/diplomats Caleb Cushing and Edmund Roberts, filibusterer William Walker, and statesmen Henry Clay, James K. Polk, and Daniel Webster. More than I had appreciated, Americans were engaged in a great variety of activities and running up against different people all over the world. Through the Oregon treaty and the war with Mexico, the United States added a vast expanse of territory. There was so much energy, so much happening.

Kennedy: In what ways has religion shaped American foreign policy?

Herring: From the founding to the present, religion has played a subtle but often very important role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. Americans have seen themselves as a chosen people, “God’s American Israel,” the Puritans called it, uniquely virtuous and benevolent. In the nineteenth century, they believed it their Manifest Destiny to spread across the North American continent and later to uplift lesser peoples in overseas territories. The influence of religion has especially been felt through individuals such as Woodrow Wilson, a minister’s son, whose sense of America’s destiny and his own had powerful religious undertones, and the born-again Christians Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.

Kennedy: How did the current interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan shape your writing of these events as history? Was it a challenge to write about them in a non-partisan way?

Herring: It was of course difficult to treat these events as history since at the time I was writing the outcome in each case was very much in doubt. I had strongly opposed the war against Iraq, and I would be less than honest if I said that my opposition to that war did not influence my writing about it. I do believe that I was able to put the two wars in the larger framework of post Cold War and 9/11 U.S. foreign policies. These wars also caused me to look more closely at earlier interventions–of which, going back to 1775, there have been many–and to conclude that while Americans generally have viewed themselves as liberators the principal result in most cases has been to spur nationalism on the part of the people invaded.

Kennedy: With all of the foreign policy issues facing the U.S. right now, what will readers take away from reading about the deep history of America’s relationship with the world?

Herring: I hope, first, that readers will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing about the exciting events and colorful personalities described in these pages. I also hope that they will take away from the book a fuller and more balanced appreciation of America’s dealings with other nations. The United States has been a “force for good in the world,” as the mantra of this year’s election campaign goes, but that is only part of the story, and I hope by gaining a fuller and more complex view they will better understand who we are as a nation and how others see us. I would also hope that readers might gain a better comprehension of the complexity of diplomacy and the reasons why it works or fails to work. Finally, by seeing where we as a nation have been, I hope that readers might have a better sense of where we are and where we need to go.


American Foreign Policy in Images

Take a look at paintings, an engraving and an photograph that depict pivotal moments in war and diplomacy.
Click any detail below for the full image and explanatory text by George C. Herring.









The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation in print. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize-winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of prestigious Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. From Colony to Superpower is the only thematic volume commissioned for the series. Here George C. Herring uses foreign relations as the lens through which to tell the story of America's dramatic rise from thirteen disparate colonies huddled along the Atlantic coast to the world's greatest superpower.
A sweeping account of United States' foreign relations and diplomacy, this magisterial volume documents America's interaction with other peoples and nations of the world. Herring tells a story of stunning successes and sometimes tragic failures, captured in a fast-paced narrative that illuminates the central importance of foreign relations to the existence and survival of the nation, and highlights its ongoing impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. He shows how policymakers defined American interests broadly to include territorial expansion, access to growing markets, and the spread of an "American way" of life. And Herring does all this in a story rich in human drama and filled with epic events. Statesmen such as Benjamin Franklin and Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman and Dean Acheson played key roles in America's rise to world power. But America's expansion as a nation also owes much to the adventurers and explorers, the sea captains, merchants and captains of industry, the missionaries and diplomats, who discovered or charted new lands, developed new avenues of commerce, and established and defended the nation's interests in foreign lands.
From the American Revolution to the fifty-year struggle with communism and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, From Colony to Superpower tells the dramatic story of America's emergence as superpower--its birth in revolution, its troubled present, and its uncertain future.

Customer Reviews:

  • I am not a poli-sci major
    I must admit I was more than a bit taken aback when I discovered this 950+ page tome in my vine box. Goodness, so much diplomacy! I thought it would be a big snore.

    Wrong. This book has riveted me from the first page, by illuminating the contradictory strands of American foreign policy (sometimes dubiously named, even into the present) throughout our history.

    For a precursor to GWBush, try James Polk. We've always been conflicted between our idealism and our economic interests, and it's both encouraging and discouraging to discover that we remain remarkably consistent.

    The style is perfectly (breezily) attuned to the need to squeeze 230+ years of history into the pages of even one heavy volume, and keep the reader engaged.



    ...more info
  • Should get college credit for reading this book!
    The promo for this book says it's one of the most respected and once you've read it you'll know why - at just shy of 1000 pages, From Colony to Superpower is packed full of insightful stories, key figures and significant events that helped shape our nation's relations with the rest of the world. A great edition to your library - if only for the sheer volume of this behemoth of a book to impress others!...more info
  • Magisterial
    Magisterial- that's the only world for this 900+ page tome. This book single handedly rekindled my interest in the "Vine Voice" program. What a treat!!! I read a fair amount of history, but typically steer clear of diplomatic history, so it was great to get a one volume history of American foreign policy, from soup to nuts.

    And what a history! Herring advances his main thesis: that the United States has been a pretty sophisticated player on the international scene from the very beginning, with dexterity, and does a good job of integrating the full gamut of historical research. Classic history, revisionist history, specialist journals- Herring (or his grad students) have read it all and it shows.

    This book is useful both as a one stop shop for understanding us foreign relations and as a jumping off point for further research. What a great book. I'm impressed....more info
  • A very dry presentation
    After having read some truly excellent works of historical presentation such as Schirrer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I was quite a bit disappointed in the dry delivery in this book. While the subject has the potential to be exciting, especially for those times leading up to various wars, I was simply bored to tears at the unexciting prose. While the compilation of information seems pretty exhaustive, the actual writing is what has turned me off from this. As a reference work, I think the book serves fine. But as a book to grab and hold interest, this one falls short. ...more info
  • A comprehensive reference with some surprising storytelling
    I find it unlikely that many people would read this large book cover to cover, and in fact I imagine that as part of a highly-respected reference series, a great many copies are going to wind up on institutional reference shelves, seldom to be taken down again. That's too bad because, while this is an excellent and well-sourced reference work, it's also a very well-written and well-told story. Opening almost anywhere, the reader will find not only a wealth of information and references, but also a perhaps-unexpected emphasis, not just on power politics or impersonal "forces," but on the individual people involved in America's diplomatic history. That's what reveals George Herring, not only as a skilled researcher, but as a writer who can keep a reader involved, even in a volume like this one that might otherwise so easily tempt us to file and forget....more info
  • A Very Comprehensive History of American Foreign Relations
    I have a lot of the Oxford works in my personal library and have found them to be among the best works for serious study.

    This book is no exception. But be aware that "From Colony to Superpower: US. Foreign Relations Since 1776" is not for the reader looking for an "easy" read. It is a truly comprehensive work of over a thousand pages of detailed information. As a "leisure read" it fails, of course. For the serious student of American history or international relations, it is a gem.

    This is a very valuable reference tool for the student of political science or history. While the version I read (an uncorrected proof) does not contain the Index, I am going to assume that the Index will be at the same level of quality and detail that other indexes in other Oxford books have manifested. I mention this only because indexes and bibliographies are extremely important to me in my continuing research.

    There is no question that is a sweeping account of U.S. foreign policy. The last time I read such a comprehensive volume about U.S. foreign relations was way back in the 1950s when I was taking a course in international relations toward my degree in political science. Come to think of it (and I just checked my personal library), the textbook we used in that class was just about a thousand pages long; so this book by George Herring no longer seems so massive (although, again, it is not your beach book).

    I highly recommend this new entry into the series of Oxford History of the United States. It should be in every serious history or politics student's library....more info
  • Compelling History of USFP
    This new book on the history of US international relations since the founding of the country gives an intriguing portrayal of an often mundane subject, how US policy makers have undertaken relations with other countries and what the results of those actions have been. This book will be an interesting introduction for those new to the subject and should offer much new material for those well versed in the topic. I recommend this book....more info
  • The Full Sweep of U.S. Foreign Policy
    From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (Oxford History of the United States) By: George C. Herring is different than most of the Oxford "History of the United States" series in that it is not a chronological slice of history. Rather, it follows the development of U.S. foreign police from the colonial period through present day.

    As a college professor, I had the time to take three full weeks this summer to read the volume from cover to cover.

    While exhaustive in scope, the book is not a chore to read. Herring's prose is bright and very accessible. I was familiar with Herring's work from past reading, specifically his work on the Vietnam era and the Pentagon Papers. He takes the same care in covering all the bases in this work.

    From colonial days when it seemed we were in everyone's sights, to our current (tenuous) role as the world's only super power, Herring covers the upheavals, as well as the less dramatic transitional periods. What you end up with is a very comprehensive and detailed look at the history and evolution of America's relationship with other nations and our place in the world.

    A must read for every student of American History and anyone else interested in matters of state and foreign policy......Highly recommended.

    ...more info
  • An excellent read
    This is not a book I would have brought for myself, my son got it for me knowing how much I enjoy history. But one look at a 1,000 page book on a single topic had me holding off reading it. But once I picked it up, the first 500 pages flew by. Well written and the author keeps the topics lively and interesting. It has added tons of new facts to my knowledge and adds in solid opinion on 200+ years of American politics, policy and relationships. He's very even-handed with both sides of the politcal debate and politcial parties which is missing nowadays. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Excellent History of the Diplomacy of the USA
    There are so many things that you miss if you do a general history, this book gets to some of those details because it covers US history since 1776 but from the perspective of diplomacy. The US got involved in world politics and vying for assistance and a bit of chicanery along the way since the beginnings of the revolution. Names you have heard of, Franklin and even John Jay are mentioned in the book. I never Jay's role and why he was so important a person. You hear his name mentioned in place names and of course a college in NY.

    I have this book along with Old World/New World, so I will be getting an interesting multifaceted view of US history as opposed to Europe especially.

    One challenge to me is the perspective or somewhat biased commentary of the Author/Editor. He uses statements such as America's disdain for Amer-Indians and Mexicans. Really, just what we need our young people to be educated in, that we hate people. Is that not what disdain is. He does mention that the Indians were caught up in a battle of wits between European powers, getting caught in the middle of this when the White people, who did in fact think of themselves as superior, were fighting over the land. Simply put, the Indians were used as fodder for all sides. Prior to the Revolution, you will find that the Missionaries were trying to convert them, some believing them to be very important peoples. The disdain for Mexicans comment was really too much for me. Really, the battle for Texas was raging between the Tejanos, American Texans and Spain. When Spain was ousted from Mexico, just a couple of years prior to the Texas Independence movement, aka Alamo days, many of the Tejanos (those of Mexican/Spanish blood, did not want Mexican rule.) Additionally, in California, the ranchers in San Diego county did not want it either. Even the first governor of CA was Pio Pico, a Spanish American. So, I do not agree with his statement that we disdained others.

    In fact he uses the term American so often forgetting the fact that Canadians and Latin Americans are Americans too. Yes, race did play a big part in our history and did taint our approach to the move Westward and contributed to the Spanish American war. But even Pancho Villa was helped with his fight against the oppressors of his day by General Sherman and G Patton around WWI. He quotes Toqueville, but does not use his quote that America is great because America is good.

    It is okay to have your perspective and even inject it into a history book. But, please, say I feel they had disdain for, here is why, some may feel different because of this. I guess it is fashionable today to rag on the USA.

    If not for the above, I would definately have given this a 5 rating. This is really an excellent offering overall....more info
  • A Superb History of U.S. Foreign Relations by a Preeminent Historian
    "From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776" by George C. Herring is a very thorough survey of American foreign policy with the usual high standards we have come to expect in the multivolume Oxford History of the United States. Without question, this series is the most ambitious undertaken since the "New American Nation Series" was published beginning in the 1950s. The author is an historian of American foreign relations who has previously written well-received books on U.S. relations with Central America and a superb survey of American in Vietnam.

    "From Colony to Superpower" is a sweeping single volume assessment of American foreign policy over the years since 1776, and he enlivens many of the important issues in this history better than almost any other text on the subject. Designed to be read by both generalists and specialists, his account will help the public better appreciate how the nation's past informs our current foreign policy objectives. In doing so, Herring gives attention to some of the factors--including American exceptionalism and military impulsiveness--which have sometimes landed this country in military and diplomatic quagmires.

    Especially interesting to me was Herring's attention to the non-state actors who greatly influenced American foreign relations. An endless parade of seafarers, business magnates, missionaries, explorers, ideologues, and others with an interest in promulgating some policy or another emerge to shape national policy to their own ends. Sometimes these prove wise changes, but more often than not they send international relations into a tailspin. On that score, the last chapter traces the recent course of international relations and the place of the neoconservatives in shaping policy in the George W. Bush presidency. This is an outstanding work. Enjoy....more info
  • Trends in US Foreign Policy and Their Role in Shaping National Identity.
    "From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776" is the seventh and only thematic volume in The Oxford History of the United States series. The scope of the book is enormous, as is its ambition. Author George C. Herring strives to present a "comprehensive interpretation of the entirety of American's foreign relations ", "not simply a history of American diplomacy, but a history of diplomacy's role in shaping America's unique history and its singular identity." Though it omits many of the finer points by necessity, this volume largely succeeds in its goal. It is an excellent resource for understanding the trends in U.S. foreign relations over the past two centuries and the circumstances and personalities that shaped the United States' ever-changing policies and role in the world.

    Each of the book's 20 chapters discusses an era from 1775 to 2007. The author introduces each chapter by placing the era in context and providing a broad idea of what is to come, and each chapter concludes with a recap of major points. These two features, especially the recap, are helpful in orienting the reader in this massive volume and in making it easier to remember the salient issues that set up the next era. About two-thirds of the book is dedicated to the 20th century and one-third to the Cold War. It is particularly interesting to view domestic events from the perspective of foreign policy, such as the Revolutionary War, Federalist-Republican conflict, and the Civil War, including the effects of that war on Europe. Relations with American Indian tribes are included up until they became domestic policy in 1814, as is expansionism in North America until borders were fixed.

    As much diligence is applied to the United States' less aggressive, more economically oriented eras that are sometimes neglected in examinations of foreign policy: The Gilded Age, the 1920s, the 1990s. On the other side of the coin, the policies of the "imperial presidencies" of the 20th and 21st centuries are examined, as are America's involvement in two world wars, the Cold War, and the United States' unipower status since 1992. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars and policies of the Bush administration are discussed, but it's awkward to try to interpret an era while in the middle of it. I'm not sure when this book was edited, but the all-important negotiations with Iran that began in spring 2007 are not mentioned. Discussion of Bush's second term is not complete enough to be worth much, but the first term is more conducive to analysis.

    "From Colony to Superpower" offers interpretation of the actions and policies that have made U.S. foreign relations, not just the facts. A simple recitation of two centuries of policies and events would be unbearably tedious and not especially helpful. But interpretation, by its nature, proceeds from a certain point of view. George C. Herring's bias might be called "liberal-to-centrist", but that should be taken in a vague sense. He tends toward a harsh assessment of colonialism and an advocacy of interventionism to advance humanitarian goals. As a result, he doesn't mention the often poor results of well-intentioned interventionism that he does point out for more self-serving or frivolous policies. He is not nearly as hard on the Nixon-Kissinger duo as he could be, praising their pursuit of detente and ignoring the insecurity over China that dictated their actions in Asia. So the author has opinions, but they are not always predictable.

    A work that covers this much ground has to leave a lot out, and there will always be disagreements about what is essential and what isn't. It isn't possible to touch upon every reason for every decision, but I was frustrated by the author's failure to acknowledge economic motivations, especially since the end of World War II, as some policies were almost entirely motivated by fiscal concerns. That seemed to me a persistent fault. The author does explain when the conventional thinking about a topic has changed or is hotly disputed. The best thing about "From Colony to Superpower" is that it admirably accomplishes its aim to illuminate foreign policy's role in shaping American history and identity. Herring's analysis of the trends, more than single policies, their basic reasons and long-term outcomes, make this a valuable reference work. As there is scant scholarly literature on the foreign policies of recent presidential administrations, it's a good jumping-off point for that analysis as well....more info
  • Massive Undertaking, Admirably Done - but not without some bias
    Herring's praises have been justifiably sung; there is much to be learned from From Colony to Superpower, and he has labored to remain neutral and objective. He does so much more effectively when covering events prior to his own emotional experiences. The more current the subject matter the move bias is introduced. That doesn't detract from the foundation of factual information; it does however encroach through slipped in opinions, adding Herring judgment.
    Being unbiased is extremely difficult, particularly when one has personal involvement. And considering the increasingly liberal bias of American universities today, Herring has done a credible job, but his opinions are difficult to miss and detract somewhat from the scholarship of the project....more info
  • Excellent
    Quite a read, a real tour d'horizon, and a view of the history of the United States from a new perspective similar to the Oxford History of the American West.

    Unafraid to identify foreign policy disasters including the second Iraq war and the Presidency of Monkey Boy.

    Fascinating semi-trivia such as the support of the Czar for the Union, how Russian-American friendship resulted in the sale of Alaska, and how Russian pogroms damaged this friendship long before the Bolsheviks came to power.

    Clarifies why the Federalist party disappeared and the realignments of 1812.

    Shows how Presidents, starting with McKinley, had a more difficult job than leaders of more closed societies, and how they had to manage the Beast of a manipulative public opinion. Makes clear, for example, that while the public is told that no ransoms are paid to non-state actors such as terrorists and pirates, paying ransom and bugging out (as in Beirut) are essential tools of the diplomat.

    Shows why Reagan's foreign policy record has been exagerrated. Shows how very close the world was to nuclear war in the Autumn of 1983...shows how his *annus mirabilis* of 1989, when Communism collapsed after he'd left office in a cloud owing to Iran-Contra, was not Reagan's doing, but that of one of greatest men of the 20th century, Mikhail Gorbachev, with Monkey Boy's father and Jim Baker being just intelligent enough to zip up.

    If you're preparing to take the Foreign Service exam, read this book.

    Foreign policy should not be set by the Beast. It should be set by scholarly men and women, or men and women who appreciate scholarship. Men and women who can read this book, for starters....more info
  • great addition to the Oxford History of the United States series
    Oxford University Press has a good thing going with its History of the United States series, from James McPherson's BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM to David Kennedy's FREEDOM FROM FEAR and Daniel Walker Howe's more recent WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT. While it may not quite reach the Pulitzer Prize heights of those three books, George Herring's FROM COLONY TO SUPERPOWER is nevertheless a shining addition to the series. Like those other volumes, this book is daunting in its length -- about a thousand pages -- but unlike them, it is broader in scope, detailing more than two hundred years of history. It covers that ground in an impressively constructed narrative accessible to neophytes and old hands alike. More than "mere" diplomatic history, this is the history of the United States as seen through the lens of its foreign policy and diplomacy....more info
  • A comprehensive and fair look at US Foreign Policy
    Over the last couple of decades, Oxford University Press has been putting together a history of the United States from a variety of authors, slicing up the history of the Republic in numerous, detailed volumes.

    An exception to that pattern, George Herrings FROM COLONY TO SUPERPOWER takes on the entire history of the United States. However, it takes on just one piece of that history, albeit a large one: foreign policy. Herring's volume looks at the U.S.'s relations with other powers from the Revolution straight through to the George W. Bush administration.

    His thesis is that America has great ideals in the abstract which it has not always successfully brought in practice to its application of its foreign policy.

    Herring brings a comprehensive, considered and balanced approach to the material. While he does have opinions, and certain subjects are clearly more favored than others, Herring takes pains to minimize his point of view.

    When Herring does present a strong point of view, however, he infallibly provides in a footnote a source or volume that provides a different point of view. For example, Herring takes issue with the machinations that brought Panama independence from Colombia and gave the US the freedom to create the Panama Canal. And yet, even as he does this, he provides a competing source that exonerates Roosevelt.

    Even those Presidents whom Herring seems to disagree politically with are critically evaluated for their contributions, positive and negative, to the narrative of US Foreign Policy. And those Presidents and figures that Herring admires are called out when they failed to live up to their ideals.

    This careful balancing of viewpoints and pains to remain non partisan means that, given the breadth of the subject, the book is long. And if the reader is inclined to read more on one particular piece of American Foreign Policy history, there is a bibliographic essay (as opposed to a straight,dry, bibliography) where Herring discusses numerous other volumes for further reading.

    The book took me several weeks to savor and digest, however these weeks were worth it. I learned an enormous amount about US Foreign Policy, as if I had taken a college course on the subject. If you have the time and inclination to learn about US Foreign Policy, Herring has created the definitive volume on the subject.
    ...more info
  • A fascinating history of U.S. diplomacy
    The history of the diplomatic efforts of the U.S., from pre-Revolutionary days to the present, is a like a never-ending soap opera, sometimes inspiring, sometimes tragic, and sometimes comic, but never, ever dull.

    Despite the "cowboy" image of the U.S. as a "rugged individual," our active participation in international relations played a key -- perhaps sometimes even a decisive -- role in U.S. history, right from the very beginning; and the author does a terrific job reporting the constantly changing tangle of political, military, territorial, economic, and social issues at stake and analyzing how their complex interactions affected the history of the U.S. over the past 200-plus years.

    There are also many amusing tidbits about the personal quirks of some of the participants in the "great game," which are also very interesting.

    Foreign policy is comparable to a playboy trying to keep 100 girlfriends on a string, an already difficult task, made even more difficult by the existence of 100 other playboys, all of them chasing the very same women. In a situation like that, fortunes can change dramatically and without warning, as illustrated by the author's discussion of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy efforts. In 1987, in the midst of the Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan's foreign policy would probably have been viewed as a failure. But a year later, with the Soviet Union's grip on Eastern Europe weakening, Reagan started looking a lot smarter; and when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, he looked like a veritable genius. (I was living in Berlin at the time. Seeing people dancing on the Wall, when, just two days earlier, they would have been shot if they'd even tried to approach it, was an unforgettable experience.)

    This is a richly detailed book about a fascinating subject. Highly recommended for any serious student of U.S. history....more info