The United States and the World 1890-1920


American imperialism

  • Before 1890 America's foreign policy stance was defensive and seeked to keep the New World free of wars and diplomatic entanglements. Most American's were hostile to the idea of imperialism.
  • Several of the factors behind this shift were opnely expansionist. The growth of the American economy seemed to prove that the US needed new markets overseas. There was also a belief that the end of the frontier meant that there needed to be new horizons. Many American's were also swayed by the notions of racial and cultural superiority and a 'civilising mission'. Ideas liked this added to the influence of men such as Theodore Roosevelt and Alfred Thayer Mahan. 
  • But there were also many isolationists who upholded the Monroe Doctrine. Prominent figures were William Jennings Bryan who was the Democratic candidate in the 1896, 1900 and 1908 presidential elections. The American Anti-Imperialism League was formed in 1898 which included figures such as Grover Cleveland and Andrew Carnegie. 

Spain, Cuba and the Phillippines

  • The Spanish-American War of 1898 was a revolt against Spanish rule by Cuban nationalists led by Jose Marti. The rebels received support from American sympathisers which grew stronger after the Spanish army used brutal methods. Cuba's economy was dependent on exporting tobacco and sugar to US markets and Cuba, only 90 miles away from the United States. 
  • Another reason for war was to gain access to islands under Spanish colonial rule. These would open the way for American bases in the Pacific, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam and in the Phillippines. The fast modernisation of Japan was seen as threat to American interests, fuelled by concerns of the 'Yellow Peril' and fears of Chinese and Japanese immigration. 
  • In February 1898, an American warship the USS Maine blew up in the harbour in Havana. The event was portrayed as a Spanish provocation and was an excuse for war. The 'Yellow Press' pushed the case for war with hysterical newspaper campaigns.
  • American forces quickly occupied




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