William Howard Taft and the Philippines

A Blueprint for Empire

  • Author(s): Burns, Adam D.
  • Series: Legacies of War
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2020-07-07
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Hardcover - Printed Case: Price $70.00 | Buy Now
  • Available in PDF: Price $70.00 | Buy Now


“This concise book examines the political career of William Howard Taft based around one issue: his support for continued U.S. rule in the Philippines…. Anyone looking to understand the thinking of a leading figure in the early history of U.S. overseas empire would benefit from reading Burns’s portrait of Taft’s imperial career.”—Journal of Arizona History 

“The book… benefits from exhaustive research and sound conclusions. Moreover, it is a valuable addition to the literature on one of the most under-appreciated presidents of our history”—Presidential Studies Quarterly

“Burns has written a commendable book. It is briskly written, sensibly argued, and well researched in the existing literature as well as in newspapers, public documents, and manuscript collections at the Library of Congress… the book demonstrates that Taft was both a serious actor on Philippine matters and a politician of great determination and modest skill. William Howard Taft and the Philippines provides a valuable perspective on an important chapter of a consequential life.”—Ohio History


Born in Civil War–era Cincinnati in 1857, William Howard Taft rose rapidly through legal, judicial, and political ranks, graduating from Yale and becoming a judge while still in his twenties. In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft to head a commission charged with preparing the Philippines for US-led civil government, setting the stage for Taft’s involvement in US-Philippine relations and the development of his imperial vision across two decades. While biographies of Taft and histories of US-Philippine relations are easy to find, few works focus on Taft’s vision for the Philippines that, despite a twenty-year crusade, would eventually fail. William Howard Taft and the Philippines fills this void in the scholarship, taking up Taft’s vantage point on America’s imperialist venture in the Philippine Islands between 1900 and 1921.

Adam D. Burns traces Taft’s course through six chapters, beginning with his years in the islands and then following it through his tenure as President Roosevelt’s secretary of war, his term as president of the United States, and his life after departing the White House. Across these years Taft continued his efforts to forge a lasting imperial bond and prevent Philippine independence.

Grounded in extensive primary source research, William Howard Taft and the Philippines is an engaging work that will interest scholars of Philippine history, American foreign policy, imperialism, the American presidency, the Progressive Era, and more.


ADAM D. BURNS is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Wolverhampton. He holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and an EdD from the University of Leicester. He is the author of American Imperialism: The Territorial Expansion of the United States, 1783–2013 and recently contributed to the edited collection, The Continuing Imperialism of Free Trade: Developments, Trends, and the Role of Supranational Agents.