Imperial Cruise by James Bradley

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wkambic
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Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:58 pm

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, by James Bradley.

I'm about 40% through this book and am wondering if I should finish. I'd be interested in the views of anyone else who has read it.

It's not a book on cavalry, but rather recounts a Pacific voyage of the SS Manchuria in 1905. This was the largest U.S. diplomatic mission to date, comprising over 80 Cabinet officers, Senators, Representatives, Staff, and the President's daughter, Alice Roosevelt (described as the "Jackie Kennedy" of her day). The mission went to Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, and the Phillipines. It's purpose was to cement the U.S. presence in the Pacific as a Great Power.

The author uses the tale as a screed to discredit the reputation of Teddy Roosevelt. In his opening chapters, the author lays at TR's feet the responsibility for the Japanese annexation of Korea (blaming him for the ultimate division of that country and the establishment of the Communist north; the rise of extreme Chinese nationalism (ultimately resulting in Mao Tse Dung's Red China); the extreme Japanese nationalism that would lead to WWII; and the rise of Islamic terrorism in modern times. We all knew TR was influential; I certainly did not realize he was this influential.

In addition to the above, the author claims that TR's Nobel Peace Prize was unearned. He presents some evidence that at the time TR was acting as an "honest broker" trying to settle matters between Russia and Japan he was engaging in secret correspondence with the Japanese promising American backing for a larger role for Japan in the Pacific.

There are also claims that TR's reputation as an outdoorsman and naturalist was the product of a PR campaign and most of the events (including his hunting and ranching trips out West) either never happened or were not of the character presented. He was much more a "dude" or a "dandy" than a robust adventurer.

Frankly, the whole book reminds me of some of the "muckraking" books of the early 20th Century.

I've not really done any "fact checking" on Bradley but I have noted a that he never puts the events of the time in their historical context. It's always as if TR were acting "in a vacuum" and is judged accordingly. For example, in Manila Bay after ADM Dewey's victory there was the USN, but also the RN, the Japanese Navy, the French Navy, and the Imperial German Navy. All of these countries were waiting to see what the U.S. was going to do. In Bradley's analysis he excoriates TR for imposing U.S. rule on the PI and "back stabbing" the PI revolutionaries. He does not consider, or even mention, that if the U.S. had not exercised sovereignty that those other nations, particularly Germany and Japan (both of whom were late comers to the Age of Empire and both of whom were expansionistic), stood ready to impose their own rule. Nobody (not even the British) were going to return the territory to Spain. This is a dreadful failure on Bradley's part and calls into serious question his scholarship.

It's this lack of serious scholarship that seems to permeate the book that leads me to consider just abandoning the project.

A book report based on 40% of the book is generally not fair to an author. Yet when the author allows his own rabid hatred for TR to color virtually every event he considers one has to ask, "is the game worth the candle?" So far the answer is becoming "no."

But, in the interests of fairness, I'd push forward if there is something beside "I Hate Teddy Roosevelt" to push forward to. Has anyone else read this and am I being too critical?
Bill Kambic

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Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:06 pm

wkambic wrote:The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, by James Bradley.

I'm about 40% through this book and am wondering if I should finish. I'd be interested in the views of anyone else who has read it.
I have not read it, but I heard the author interviewed on a Pritzer Military Library podcast, and found his assertions rather suspect. Shortly after that, I heard another Pritzer interview of a different author (I forget who) in which this book was brought up, and in polite terms, the subsequent author dismissed this text.

Frankly, based on what I know of it, I'd give it up. From what I recall of the interview the author made some rather sweeping assumptions and the conclusions are, in my view, far off the mark. I'd dismiss it as unworthy of serous consideration as to its thesis, which is how I suspect it will come to be regarded.
Pat

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wkambic
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Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:18 pm

Thanks for the input. I got the feeling it was "fluff" history. Nice to know others agree. I'ts going back home next Monday, unfinished. 8)
Bill Kambic

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