David J. Silbey
A War of Frontier and Empire
The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902
Hill and Wang 2008
The Spanish-American War was not only the beginning of a new imperial period for the United States, David Silbey observes in his book A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 (Hill and Wang, 2008), it was also the point at which the Filipino people first began to conceive of themselves as a nation. Where Americans sought to conquer, control, and pacify their newly-purchased possessions, a nascent nationalist movement sought to create some sense of unity from the hundreds of different tribes, clans, and ethnic groups living in the archipelago. As David Silbey creates a new narrative of this highly controversial, yet little-understood period in American history, he also unveils a series of new interpretations of the war’s conduct, its haphazard administration across thousands of miles, and the new relationships growing between Filipinos and Americans even amidst war. In the end, the Philippine-American War certainly was a strange moment in the history of the US Army and American foreign policy. It was a counter-insurgency that worked, despite the pressures of racial intolerance and mutual misperceptions on the part of its participants. Silbey’s gifts as a writer combined with his skill as a historian create a short yet vital account of this generally forgotten period that is extremely relevant for readers today.