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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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