Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day of Empire by Amy Chua

In a little over two centuries, America has grown from a regional power to a superpower, and to what is today called a hyperpower. But can America retain its position as the world’s dominant power, or has it already begun to decline?

Historians have debated the rise and fall of empires for centuries. To date, however, no one has studied the far rarer phenomenon of hyperpowers—those few societies that amassed such extraordinary military and economic might that they essentially dominated the world.

Now, in this sweeping history of globally dominant empires, bestselling author Amy Chua explains how hyperpowers rise and why they fall. In a series of brilliantly focused chapters, Chua examines history’s hyperpowers—Persia, Rome, Tang China, the Mongols, the Dutch, the British, and the United States—and reveals the reasons behind their success, as well as the roots of their ultimate demise.

Chua first qualifies what she means by a "world-dominant power". "Its power clearly surpasses that of all it's known contemporaneous rivals; it is not clearly inferior in economic or military strength to any other power on the planet, known to it or not; and it projects its
power over so immense an area of the globe and over so immense a population that it breaks the bounds of mere local or even regional preeminence." The book emphasizes tolerance, that is, allowing different peoples to "live, work and prosper in your society - even if only for
instrumental or strategic reasons." she argues that tolerance is "a necessary condition for world dominance".

Day of Empire was the perfect book for me. Having only a scanty knowledge of world history (in school we focused on the histories of Singapore and Thailand), I was looking for something that would give me a concise rundown (well to the extent of the limits of her thesis) of the empires of the world - Rome, China, Britain etc. Chua's argument is coherent and is easy to understand, as is her writing. Simply put, I learnt quite a bit from this book, and would highly recommend it!

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