Ten years ago I developed two claims about the utility of applying the idea of empire to the Unitd States. First, I proposed that the conventional concept of empire is misapplied to the United States – that is, an imperial centre controlling territorial colonies, engaging in territorial expansion and formally limiting subordinate states’ sovereignty and subaltern peoples’ rights. Second, and related to the first proposition, I argue that contrary to this misapplication the nature of nation-building within the USA during the twentieth century places significant constraints on the willingness of Americans to permit the USA to be an imperial nation. I review and critique these propositions.
Desmond King holds the Andrew W Mellon Chair of American Government at the University of Oxford, where is a Fellow of Nuffield College. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a past president of APSA’s Politics & History Section. He has published over a hundred papers, nine books and eight edited collections. Recent examples of his publications include, The Liberty of Strangers: Making the American Nation (2005), Sterilized by the State: Eugenics in North America (co-authored with Randall Hanson, 2013), The Unsustainable American State (coedited with Larry Jacobs, 2009), and Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the US Federal Government (2007).