Cover: Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendancy, from Harvard University PressCover: Empire of the Air in HARDCOVER

Empire of the Air

Aviation and the American Ascendancy

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Product Details


$50.50 • £40.95 • €45.50

ISBN 9780674050945

Publication Date: 11/01/2013


400 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

35 halftones


[A] superb account of the role of civil aviation in the forging of the ‘American Century’ …As much a meditation on the nature of power as a narrow story of aviation, the book anatomizes a potent brand of American ideology.—Duncan Bell, The Times Literary Supplement

This is required reading on U.S. aviation.—R. Higham, Choice

Deeply researched and artfully written, Empire of the Air sweeps through the twentieth-century history of U.S. aviation, showing how America’s growing dominance over the technologies of flight defied territoriality and joined national ambition and global betterment, state power and commercial profit, consumerist travel and popular enlightenment. Van Vleck’s analysis of the rise of America’s airborne ‘empire’ should appeal to a broad audience of readers.—Emily S. Rosenberg, editor of A World Connecting, 1870–1945

Van Vleck makes a convincing argument that the history of air travel should be understood as a synecdoche for U.S. economic, ideological, and cultural expansion and then decline over the course of the American Century. This engrossing study is a model of foreign relations history viewed from a transnational and global perspective.—Frank Costigliola, author of Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances

Coupling penetrating research with a writer’s flair, Van Vleck’s Empire of the Air stands out among the long list of books on America’s love affair with aviation. It is a history of planes and of flying, but also a history of why flight mattered to American policymakers eager to put their mark on the modern world.—Jeffrey A. Engel, author of Cold War at 30,000 Feet

Centered on the remarkable career of Juan Trippe, visionary and entrepreneur, Van Vleck’s engaging account of the rise and rapid demise of Pan Am Airlines illuminates corporate influence on American foreign policy, the emergence of civilian aviation and its military ramifications, and the underlying dynamics of globalization in the latter half of the twentieth century.—Michael Adas, author of Dominance by Design

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