Let the Sea Make a Noise: A History of the North Pacific from Magellan to MacArthur

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Let the Sea Make a Noise: A History of the North Pacific from Magellan to MacArthur

By Walter A. Mcdougall
Basic Books, 1993
793 pp. $30.00

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian combines much historical research and great literary skill with an understanding of geopolitics and national power rivalries to weave a fascinating tale of the history of the great powers in the north Pacific during the past 400 years. He divides the narrative into three technological eras-the Age of Sail, the Age of Steam and Rails, and the Age of the Internal Combustion Engine. The literary device is a tale told by a dreaming professor to an audience of historical personalities who were themselves at the center of events-the American secretary of state who purchased Alaska, the Russian builder of the Trans-Siberian railway, a Spanish missionary who helped establish the first European settlements in California, the Japanese ambassador to the United States before Pearl Harbor and a Hawaiian queen. The result is both informative and a delight to read. This is that rare historian who knows how to tell a good story and how to generalize about the most fundamental issues-such as which factors impel and limit national expansion. The weakness of the volume is its failure to examine the rising importance of trade, investment and the information revolution in determining national power. Perhaps the author will give us a sequel with the missing last chapter-the Age of the Computer and the Transnational Corporation.

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