In Our Image by Stanley Karnow

In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines

In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines is a book that details the Philippine-American War (1899–1902) and the subsequent American occupation of the islands. The book provides a profound account of the pre-acquisition island history, starting with the era of Spanish rule, when priests and brute force were used to control the population.

The book also highlights the tension between isolationism versus imperialism in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, which ultimately led to the acquisition of the Philippines as a “prize” in the Spanish American war.

The book covers the period of American occupation of the Philippines, during which William Taft worked as civilian governor to create a working legal system, standardize currency, and set up a public school system. Over the next twenty years, there were some successes, including a rise in literacy rates and a fall in the death rate.

The book also highlights the emergence of two notable figures, Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena, who led the Filipino independence movement and worked with Americans to draft favorable legislation for their people. Finally, a timetable was agreed on to give the Philippines independence, and Quezon became the first recognized president of the commonwealth.

The book explores the complex and long-lasting connection between the United States and the Philippines, from seeing the island nation as a conquest to be exploited, a guilty secret to be fixed, and a valuable strategic asset to be kept at any cost. The book also explains the love/hate relationship between the two countries in fascinating detail.

What I Liked

I’m an American who grew up in The Philippines, so this book answers a lot of questions. The Philippines is an amazing country. It is also a microcosm of all the issues of colonialism and post-colonialism. I really like how this book gets into the details of American rule with all of its evil, good, and contradictions. It’s a brilliant read.

What I Did Not Like

Not a whole lot – it’s dense, but well-written.

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