The author, Paul Kennedy, is the J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History at Yale University and is Director of Yale’s International Security Program. He is British and a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). He describes his book as "about national and international power in the 'modern' – that is, post-Renaissance – period." The book has 540 pages of text, 82 pages of notes, 12 maps, 49 tables and 3 charts.

Wikipedia writes:

His most famous book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, has been translated into 23 languages and assesses the interaction between economics and strategy over the past five centuries. The book was incredibly well received by fellow historians, with A.J.P. Taylor labelling it "An encyclopaedia in itself" and Sir Michael Howard crediting it as "a deeply humane book in the very best sense of the word"

The book was written in the late 1980s. Its last chapter, "To the Twenty-first Century," is 97 pages. A comment on quotes Kennedy as writing in this last chapter that "many a final chapter in works dealing with contemporary affairs has to be changed, only a few years later, in the wisdom of hindsight; it will be surprising if this present chapter survives unscathed". The reader suggests that Kennedy was on spot and that it is not surprising when you "think about all the events that have happened since the book was originally published in 1987."

Another reader, in 2003, writes: "I recommend this book to those who want to understand what is happening today. Even if it is somehow dated, many of its premises are still valid, and the historical perspective is almost flawless.

Jim Lobe has described the book as arguing "that the U.S. was falling into a familiar historical pattern where the combination of huge military budgets and ever-larger deficits led inevitably to the kind of 'imperial overstretch' that transformed once-mighty empires into shadows of their former selves."

So called neo-conservatives have rejected Kennedy's theory of "super-power" overreach.