"A most enjoyable and intelligent book.
Brian Landers constructs a tightly argued
analysis, and never loses a beguiling narrative
Tim Waterstone (founder of Waterstone's
"Brian Landers has written a piercing
account of American history from its colonial
beginnings to its present role as an unacknowledged
empire that bestrides the world.
Concerned as he is to expose the myths that
nations create about themselves, he bases
his analysis upon a revealing comparison
of American and Russian expansion through
the centuries. This technique forces the
observer to recognise similarities, identity
differences and question why both similarities
and differences exist. In a sense,
then, the reader gets two books for the price
of one, Russian history as well as American.
The parallels are striking. In
the very same decade, the 1860s, Russia emancipated
its serfs and the US freed its slaves.
The ideology of corporate capitalism emerged
at the same time as Marxism.
Both nations marched towards the Pacific
from their ancestral lands, from the Thirteen
Colonies in the one case and from Muscovy
in the other. Both reached the
ocean by conquest of nomadic tribes - or
as Americans like to say, by ‘settlement’
or ‘colonisation’ or, occasionally,
And finally, to take a question, was there
really any difference between the Monroe
Doctrine that America used to justify its
interventions in Latin America and in the
Caribbean and the concept of ‘Pan-Slavism”
that Russia prayed in aid when exercising
its designs on the Balkans?
This approach leads to a major theme of Mr
Landers’ work, that the US is and always
has been an imperialist power. Americans
act like imperialists, he writes, but don’t
talk like imperialists. It isn’t
even an established ‘fact’ that
there is or ever has been an American Empire.
What is a fact, however, is that since the
US marines invaded Libya in 1805, American
troops on average have intervened somewhere
abroad more than once a year.
Mr Landers is not a conventional historian.
His skills are derived from a business career
as well as from the academy.
This unusual combination produces rare insight.
He also has a way with aphorisms.
‘Russia is an inferiority complex trying
to find itself. America is a
superiority complex trying to sell itself.’
That is what ‘Empires Apart’
seeks to demonstrate."
Andreas Whittam Smith (founder of The Independent)
"I hugely enjoyed Empires Apart.
It's a phenomenal piece of research apart
from the many insights, which I wish were
more widely understood."
Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman
in the House of Lords
“The tales of torture, reckless bombing
and murder of unarmed civilians in Iraq contained
in the latest WikiLeaks documents led not
to soul-searching in America, but to complaints
about the comfort they may give to present
and future enemies. Americans have never
been good at self-criticism, a point illustrated
by US censorship of a fascinating book I
am currently reading, Empires Apart. The
author, Brian Landers - hardly a loony lefty,
but a former senior Home Office civil servant
who has also worked for several multinationals,
including Penguin Books - argues that America's
development has remarkably close parallels
with Russia's. Both built an internal
empire, partly based on ethnic cleansing,
before they created an external one, Russia's
being presented as an extension of socialism,
America's as an extension of freedom
and democracy. Both opted to create client
states rather than to rule directly in the
conventional imperial manner.
“Landers notes that Americans have
a habit of wiping inconvenient events out
of history. Bloody Sunday, 1905, when the
Russian tsar's troops fired on demonstrators
in St Petersburg, killing about a hundred,
is quite widely known. An equivalent event
16 years later in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the
National Guard sprayed black protesters with
machine-guns, killing (according to modern
research) about 300, is almost forgotten.
All this is succinctly explained in Landers's
introduction, which provides the framework
for the book. Distributors of the recent
US edition, published by Pegasus, initially
refused to handle it because of its "anti-American
sentiments". They reluctantly agreed
only when the introduction was deleted.”
Peter Wilby, New Statesman 28-10-10
Empire is a concept that never truly goes
away. "Empires Apart: A History of American
and Russian Imperialism" looks at the
concept of empire through the perspective
of America and Russia. Through its birth,
America has been part of an empire or building
an empire of its own, so much so that one
could say the country is built on empire.
Russia, one of the most massive land-wise
countries in the world, has also made its
identity out of manifest destiny. Looking
at these two countries, their history, and
their futures as super powers, "Empires
Apart" proves to be a remarkable, scholarly,
and educational read for world history collections.
Midwest Book Review October 2010
'The American and Russian Empires deserve
a Rough Guide – and Brian Landers’
book is that, and more.'
Mark Ellingham (Founder, Rough Guides)
"Simply staggering in vision, depth,
development of ideas and detailed research.
And it's also very readable and approachable.
The analysis along the way is very revealing
and a challenge to accepted thinking."
Sir Roger Martin (Founder Index Books and
Quality Books Direct)
This is a great book. Topical, thoroughly
enjoyable, and packed with information and
interpretative controversy. Like most historical
studies it combines description, analysis,
and narrative. In this case the analysis
is largely sewn into and revealed through
the narrative. The two nations are deemed
by many as not comparable, even ‘poles
apart’. This book challenges such conventional
historical wisdom by taking the existing
historical record and rewriting it. No new
bombshell discoveries are presented. Instead,
the book aims at freeing history from the
‘distorting prism that refracts the
present’. The real strength of this
book lies in its quality as an extremely
subtle, critical and bold interpretative
thesis, not as a conventional textbook that
covers dates and events. Full of startling
historical content as it is, it’s the
ideology critique that appeals most.
John McFall in Lobster issue 57 (full review)