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Volume 8

Explorations in Culture and International History

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Empire of Pictures

Global Media and the 1960s Remaking of American Foreign Policy

Sönke Kunkel

276 pages, 15 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-842-5 $95.00/£67.00 Hb Published (December 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-843-2 eBook

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“… fascinating and easy to read, well researched and nicely illustrated. Kunkel has made a very good contribution to the still growing field of visual history.” • H-Soz-Kult

“[This study] provides a cogent history of how US policymakers came to understand the importance of the image to building and consolidating post-Second World War global rule. Offering what he terms ‘a sensory history of American empire’, Kunkel documents how pictures worked to facilitate American empire building – and then, by the late 1960s, how pictures helped to undermine that very process.” • Journal of Contemporary History

“I very much enjoyed reading this book—I found it compelling, original in approach, and steeped in fascinating historical detail. It places the symbolic and emotional power of images at the heart of a study into U.S. public diplomacy, but also internationalizes a visual history which takes the spotlight away from the more familiar American domestic media.” • Katy Parry, University of Leeds


In Cold War historiography, the 1960s are often described as a decade of mounting diplomatic tensions and international social unrest. At the same time, they were a period of global media revolution: communication satellites compressed time and space, television spread around the world, and images circulated through print media in expanding ways. Examining how U.S. policymakers exploited these changes, this book offers groundbreaking international research which shows that U.S. power came to depend more and more not on military superiority or economic strength alone, but also on America’s ability to create appealing pictures that assured recognition of its global leadership.

Sönke Kunkel is an independent researcher and advisor at the German Research Foundation. His publications include two edited volumes and numerous essays on U.S. foreign policy. He was research fellow at the universities of Oxford, Harvard, Ohio State, and Jacobs University Bremen.

Subject: Media Studies 20th Century History
Area: North America


List of Figures
List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Why Empires Need Pictures


Chapter 1. The Picture State and Its Innovators  
Chapter 2. Contact Points with Empire and the Globalizing of Media


Chapter 3. Prosperity: Official Visits to the United States
Chapter 4. Progress: Popular Aspirations, the Global South, and the Politics of Imagination
Chapter 5. Peace: Space Flights as “Pictorial Acts”
Chapter 6. Power: Global Media and the Other History of the Vietnam War

Conclusion: From Nixon to Obama, or: The Legacy of the 1960s


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