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Imperial overstretch, also known as Imperial overreach, is a hypothesis which suggests that an empire can extend itself beyond its ability to maintain or expand its military and economic commitments. Arguably, this was true of the Roman Empire, which was strong and effective in the first and early second centuries CE, despite a few setbacks (Germany in 9CE; Scotland in the 80s CE) but lost territories (e.g. Dacia and Mesopotamia) after that and could not keep the Saxons, Huns and other 'barbarians' out in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Clearly, this was true of the Napoleonic Empire, which made rapid gains by conquest in the first decade after Napoleon became dictator of France, but became over-extended militarily when it attempted to conquer Russia in 1812. Likewise the German reich in 1942.
|“||Might Washington, like Rome, fall victim to imperial overstretch? Could military force abroad eventually have to be withdrawn because of bankruptcy at home? Might the whole idea of America eventually be challenged and destroyed by some charismatic new faith: some fundamentalist variant on Christianity? Or will nature disrupt America's new world order?||”|
|— Robert Harris, "Does Rome's fate await the US?," The Mail on Sunday, October 12, 2003|
Paul Kennedy's view has been criticised from many directions, including the postmodern historiographer Hayden White, economic historian Niall Ferguson and from Marxist writers such as Perry Anderson and Alex Callinicos.
- Oberman, Heiko Augustinus (1 January 1994). "The Impact of the Reformation: Essays". Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing – via Google Books.
- Luther's Last Battles: Politics And Polemics 1531-46 By Mark U. Edwards, Jr. Fortress Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8006-3735-4
- In Latin, the title reads "Hic oscula pedibus papae figuntur"
- "Nicht Bapst: nicht schreck uns mit deim ban, Und sey nicht so zorniger man. Wir thun sonst ein gegen wehre, Und zeigen dirs Bel vedere"
- Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Luther's Last Battles: Politics And Polemics 1531-46 (2004), p. 199
- Western Journal of Communication, 56 (Fall 1992), 372-393, The Rhetoric of American Decline: Paul Kennedy, Conservatives, and the Solvency Debate, KENNETH S. ZAGACKI 
- Foreign Affairs - Hegemony or Empire? Archived 2008-10-29 at the Wayback Machine
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