Books for changing the world

Alfred W. McCoy

Alfred W. McCoy holds the Harrington Chair in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After earning his Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history at Yale in 1977, his writing has focused on Philippine political history, the history of modern empires, and the covert netherworld of illicit drugs, syndicate crime, and state security. 

His first book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), sparked controversy over the CIA’s attempt to block its publication. But it is now regarded as the “classic” study of global drug trafficking, translated into nine languages and remaining in print continuously for nearly 50 years. His book A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror (2006) provided the historical dimension for the Oscar-winning documentary feature, Taxi to the Darkside. 

McCoy's book, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009), was the winner of the Kahin Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, explores the pervasive influence of internal security in these two states. He is also the author of In the Shadows of the American Empire: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (2017). His latest book, To Govern the Globe: World Order and Catastrophic Change  (2021), charts the succession of world empires from the Black Death of 1350 through the coming climate crisis of 2050. 

His books on the Philippines have won that country’s National Book Award (1985, 1995, 2001), as well as the Goodman Prize (2001) from the Association for Asian Studies. His scholarship has been recognized by the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale University and the Hilldale Award for Arts & Humanities from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2012).