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The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

14 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

COMPELLING GRIPPING FASCINATING FACTUAL IMPORTANT ASTOUNDING SHOCKING

I hate to admit that it has been several years since I have read through a book, cover to cover - non-stop, but I not only did that with Imperial Cruise, but I read it a second time. I have brought it around with me on a Thanksgiving trip and am sharing it with people, ...
I hate to admit that it has been several years since I have read through a book, cover to cover - non-stop, but I not only did that with Imperial Cruise, but I read it a second time. I have brought it around with me on a Thanksgiving trip and am sharing it with people, I am buying several for Christmas presents and got my local bookseller interested in it and they're going to carry it. Imperial Cruise is a riveting narrative non-fiction, it is recovered history, and it is as relevant to understanding contemporary American-Asian foreign policy as would be any State Department background briefing. It is also, I think, a "new" type of history that does not rely on some magic cache of a previously undiscovered trunk of letters. Instead, it gathers together for the first time bits and stray strands of material which is already available in archives and libraries - that has been studiously ignored or misperceived to be merely errant oddities. Like a wise attorney, Bradley assembles all the pieces in place, to not only make sense if a complicated puzzle but to also provide an unblinkingly factual context.

Imperial Cruise also proves just how consciously and vividly Theodore Roosevelt crafted and manipulated his public image. Some of Roosevelt's own words on white supremacy in Imperial Cruise are shocking as I've read them here for the first time, without the excisions made by earlier biographers and historians whose intention was to only glorify the legendary Rough Rider. I think people will be mistaken, however, if they take it as a wholesale degradation of T.R. It presents a darker human side of him, that will counterbalance, for example, his intentions to ensure safe food and drug standards and preserve natural environments for the masses, regardless of their race, as well as his advocacy for a more equitable society which he freshly espoused as the Progressive Party leader during the 1912 election. I am surprised to learn the extent to which Taft was compliant in all this, particularly in light of his genuinely enlightened words and deeds against anti-Semites and bigots. I hate to say it, but the book leaves one feeling that politics - in North America, Asia, anywhere, is a business more often driven by greed and ambition than altruism and generosity.

Finally, all of this "information" may never have been read by me had the quality of the writing not been so fluid and compelling. Even if one isn't necessarily interested in U.S. foreign policy, they will find Imperial Cruise to be a solid story, an adventure tale with a cautionary arc as its backbone. Bradley's decision to tell all of this against the ports of call on the historic voyage to Asia of the first American celebrity of the 20th century, presidential daughter Alice "Princess" Roosevelt, gives it a human dimension. And then, when one finishes it, one recognizes an implicit irony. There seems no more chilling evidence of Theodore Roosevelt's belief that some humans were more worthy than others than in the way he treated his own flesh and blood. Poignantly told by Bradley, Roosevelt emotionally strangulated his daughter Alice, who always loved him.

Carl Sferrazza Anthony, author of Nellie Taft: The Unconventional First Lady of the Ragtime Era; America's First Families; The Kennedy White House; Florence Harding: The First Lady...and the Death of America's Most Scandalous President; First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents' Wives; As We Reme

posted by Carl_Anthony on November 27, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

21 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

Extremely biased account

While I am acutely aware of American racial bias during the period this book covers, Bradley's strident account and historical inaccuracies leave much to be desired. His writing is certainly fluid and easy to digest but, undocumented statistics in particular, make me su...
While I am acutely aware of American racial bias during the period this book covers, Bradley's strident account and historical inaccuracies leave much to be desired. His writing is certainly fluid and easy to digest but, undocumented statistics in particular, make me suspicious that many of his quotes may have been taken out of context. An example might certainly be Stanford's remark concerning the Chinese and completion of the transcontinental railroad.

As to the statistics: several that come to mind include 1) the Philippine exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis Fair made up about 10% of the total fairgrounds, 2) total attendance was about 20 million not 90, 3) Japanese casualties in the Russo-Japanese War were about 106,000 killed not hundreds of thousands (twice as many as Russia incidentally).

Giving short shrift to the Boxer Rebellion was annoying and should have been included in Chapter 7. Also the lack of a formal bibliography was rather astounding. Not making use of Iris Chang's "The Chinese in America"
in discussing American immigration policy and hostility toward this segment of the population may be because it isn't strident enough for his agenda.

The fact that Bradley is not a professional historian is no excuse for these glaring errors.

Overall,however, this was an interesting and worthwhile read but should be taken with a large grain of salt.

posted by 1106189 on December 18, 2009

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  • Posted December 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Save your money !

    I think this is a very disappointing book. I was looking for a story about a cruise. Instead it's short on cruise info and long on America bashing, factual or not. I wish I hadn't bought this book, it's a waste of money in my opinion.

    13 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Which cultural icon after Theodore Roosevelt can I shred next?

    It's probably because I'm tired of writers taking a heretofore unassailable famous person's life and finding ways of disparaging it that I give the book the rating that it has. Theodore Roosevelt, a naturalist who was almost single-handedly responsible for our National Park system, a man who lived the strenuous life to its fullest, and a man who valued the unique status of being an American, is systematically slapped about by James Bradley.

    I had a short exchange with Mr. Bradley via his message forum on his website, asking him, after making it a few chapters into the book, if the entire book was going to consist of telling us what a rotten guy TR was; his response was, in essence, "Hey, I'm just the messenger and this is what my research showed me." I believe that it was very slanted research, to say the least; fairly insignificant chapters in Roosevelt's life are given lots of coverage if they make him look bad; others, such as the journey down a tributary of the Amazon River in his late 50s, or his charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba, which showed his bravery and guts, are mentioned in passing, sort of in the "well, yeah, he did that, but we can't have anyone thinking good things about the guy, so I'm not going to tell you any more because we can't have him looking good" mode. To hear Bradley tell it, Roosevelt pretty much spent a couple of weeks in the Dakota badlands, regardless of what the research of OTHER authors (Morris, McCullough) told THEM, and supposedly inflated this material to make himself look rough and tough.

    I like my heroes human. Roosevelt may not have been God, but he was an American male in the days before metrosexuals became the fashion -- in short, what was once called "a man's man." Research or not, this would seem to me to be revisionist history at its "finest," somewhat akin to the author who claimed that Abraham Lincoln was homosexual because he shared beds with men while riding the circuit in the Illinois backwoods. There are some Americans that would be better not being messed around with; TR, in my opinion, is unmercifully flogged by Bradley, who would be running for the hills if Roosevelt had been alive when this book was written, because Roosevelt would be leading a one-man charge to Bradley's front door.

    Bradley, riding on the success of his excellent book, Flags Of Our Fathers, and a subsequent work, Flyboys, which is ALSO excellent reading, made me assume that this book would be great reading. I love biography and, where it applies, history, plus it had the added advantage of involving the life of a man whose experiences I find exciting and valuable. Because of Bradley's past books, both of which I own, I was sucked in, and bought this one without hearing anything about it. I'm sorry I did, and after slogging through the systematic trashing of Theodore Roosevelt for about three-quarters of the book, pitched it onto the book pile of rejects next to my nightstand. I just couldn't make it through to the end, folks. If you don't know much about Roosevelt, or don't particularly care about his life, go ahead and read this book. To a Rooseveltphile reading this is an exercise in masochism, and one which I abruptly brought to a halt.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2010

    He's done better work in the past

    I found this book a disturbing work of alleged scholarship. While I believe that each author should have their own interpretation of events, that interpretation should not be filtered through a personal agenda. Unfortunately, Mr. Bradley's interpretation of the facts is filtered through the prism of his father's experience in WWII. He seems to want to blame the Roosevelt administration and Theodore Roosevelt for WWII. While there was a great deal of racism evident during that time, it was not the cause of the war.

    The book is a mish-mash of quotes from scholarly works, mostly taken out of context, included for the sole purpose of proving his thesis. It is not particuarly well-written but I would recommend it a primer on how not to write a work on an historical period. I was disappointed in Mr. Bradley's latest work, he's much better than this effort.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2010

    Disappointing

    I like this author, but what we have here is a 10 page college essay puffed up into a book. It is meticulously researched, but Mr. Bradley does not add to the historical analysis of the period he chronicles in the slightest. It is repetitive and then even more repetitive. Staying with it to the end is very difficult.

    The facts regarding 19th and early 20th century American colonialist policies are interesting and absorbing, but the author manages to repeat his point so often that, in the end, he trivializes them. The topic has been covered by others in more imaginative and enlightening ways.

    If you are interested in the topics covered in this book, look elsewhere. The "revelations" in this book regarding the Taft imperial cruise are interesting but could be covered in a newspaper story. They are not weighty enough to warrant a book.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Liberal Revisonist claptrap

    In his latest book, Mr. Bradley takes on one of our most revered Republican Presidents, branding him a warmonger and placing squarely on his shoulders the blame for the 1940's pacific war, the Korean War, and just about any other evil he can dream up. Citing that the 1905 Diplomatic tour of the Far East undertaken by Secretary of War (And Future President) William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelts daughter Alice, and a score of Congressmen and their wives as a carefully concieved covert operation in order to influence foriegn policy, and further the cause of white supremacy by betraying Korea to the Japanese, slaughter the fillipinos, and plant the stars and stripes at every port. When Bradley can't find a historical citation to support his claims, he makes them up, such as his statement that Alice's Roosevelt's more famous activities such as her fully clothed plunge into a shipboard swimming pool were in reality carefully planned "Media Events" meant to divert reporters attention away from the possibly illegal true purpose of the trip. (T.R. supposedly circumventing Congress. In regards to Miss. Roosevelt's plunge, Bradley describes passengers standing about as crewmen fill the pool in preperation, yet fails to cite where he obtain his facts, this little detail never being reported before either by Alice herself in her autobiography, or by the authors of the countless books written about both her and her father.
    Another drawback is the way Bradley presents his narrative. The reader follows along on the day to day events of the trip, then everything slams to a halt as you are given extensive background about where they are at the time.
    This is just another smear job of a conservative icon by Bradley and his liberal ilk who seem to be out to make sure future generations see such people as they want them to be seen, sort of like those who feel thge attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan was all our fault. (Wait, Bradley does blame Teddy for that as well.) My sugesstion is to save your money, and check the book out at your local library.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    WAS TEDDY ROOSEVELT RESPONSIBLE FOR WWII?

    The premise of this book is that US foreign policy at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century was one of the major causes of WWII, and that it was was rooted in racism. The racial superiority theme is thumped home by the author's tendentious repetition of the charge that the American "Aryans" (as he labels them) were bent on pushing "Christian civilization" on Asian cultures (China, Korea, the Philippines). The defacto US alliance with Japan, cemented by Theodore Roosevelt's midwifing of the end of the Russo-Japanese War, does not neatly fit the author's conspiracy among "Aryans" to dominate East Asia, so the author creates the category of "Honorary Aryan" to make Japan fit his rhetorical Procrustean bed.

    Using the provocative and emotionally-charged theme of racial superiority to link the US historically to Nazi Germany, the author sets out to prove that TR's strong tilt toward Japan was a root cause of the rise of Japanese imperialism a quarter century later, and thus was a major contributing factor to WWII. This theory ignores the many intervening events that led to Pearl Harbor, and, in effect, faults TR for lacking the powers of prophecy. Thus, despite the author's efforts, he fails to make a convincing case.

    The author does usefully expose many sordid details of US policy in East Asia in the decade following the Spanish-American War, particularly the brutal suppression of the Philippine Insurrection. Yet he does not break any new ground, and the story is told without balance, perspective or historical context.

    The book includes a number of obvious errors, such as claiming that Panama was severed from Venezuela, rather than Colombia, as any high school student knows (or should know), and as any casual glance at a globe would reveal. There is also opinion masquerading as fact, such as the author's assertion that the Cuban natives could have expelled their Spanish masters in 1898 without a US invasion. That may well be true, but no source is given, so we are left to ponder its provenance.

    In summary, this book is more polemic than history. It will appeal mostly to those who are given to a view of history in which all is explained by blaming America first.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2014

    I give this book 2 stars rather than 1 since it reads as a somew

    I give this book 2 stars rather than 1 since it reads as a somewhat entertaining novel. But life there are so many good books to read (including Bradley's other 2) that I probably won't finish this one. This is more about white American bashing than historical fact. If the author was subtle about furthering his "liberal" agenda, this book might appeal to a broader audience than the historical/apologist choir that he is preaching to. 

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    I liked his first 2 books, but this is a sarcastic look at parts

    I liked his first 2 books, but this is a sarcastic look at parts of American History that would have been better served with straightforward writing. All politicians are flawed, and Theodore Roosevelt was a great leader with imperfections. To blame World War 2 on any single person makes little sense. I think Mr. Bradley has moved away from his strengths, and is on very thin ice. One big plus to the book is the remarkable pictures that are liberally placed throughout the book. Without the pictures, I would have rated it with one star. I would have hoped that his editors would have helped him to tell his tale without all of the petty language directed toward one who cannot defend himself.

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  • Posted October 21, 2010

    Historically acurate, but it never pulls free of the author's agenda.

    Bradley, under the guise of a history of Taft's voyage of diplomatic purpose that led ultimately to the Second World War (which it does), pounds over and over and over his drum that the evil white leadership looked upon other cultures and races as something like monkeys. The narrative and outcome of the voyage are completely overshadowed by diatribes of the shortcomings of the biggoted presidential administration and, by extension, America herself. Yes, it was bad and terribly, terribly wrong, but let the history stand in its environment. Marvel that we have progressed, and we are moving forward.

    I had to put this one down after about two-thirds of the book. There was a horrible injustice inherant in society at that time, and to a far lesser extent now. This history gets lost in that fact.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2010

    Disappointment with Imperial Cruise

    As a fan of President Theodore Roosevelt I was disappointed with the approach and frankly scope that the author takes. The book is a quick read and lays out information for the reader to place the historical in context. America of TR is a rising power with a belief in itself and some harsh realities especially towards those who were different. Racism, ethnic pride and the quest for power were all hallmarks of the era and the leadership. However, the point appears to be over made and the author appears to over reach. While TR and company made an attempt to colonize Mr. Bradley in my opinion makes the classic mistake non-historians often fall into, namely judging the time and subject via a current perspective. Yes, TR was a model for his day--a fierce leader and man of action who today could not thrive in our politically correct world. It is with disappointment that I put the work down and thought what could have been had a different approach been taken. The seeds of WWII and the later 20th Century Pacific rim conflicts were influenced by American idealism and imperialism but discounts the role of so many as does Mr. Bradley. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this work as anything other than fiction.

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  • Posted February 18, 2010

    An original piece of amature history.

    Bradley creates an interesting perspective drawn from new evidence and his opinions, but often takes facts taken out of their historical context. He does a good job of tying these facts together to support his thesis; however, this is not a scholarly research work. He makes no attempt to balance his sources, or to evaluate contravening evidence. His book is a fascinating opinion piece, but cannot replace a disinterested and more professional approach to historical research.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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