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American History 2--HIST 2112 (OER): Chapter 19: American Empire

American Yawp Chapter Summary

The word “Empire” might conjure images of ancient Rome, the Persian Empire, or the British Empire—powers that depended variously upon military conquest, colonization, occupation, or direct resource exploitation—but empires can take many forms and imperial processes can occur in many contexts. 100 years after the United States won its independence from the British Empire, had it become an empire of its own?

In the decades after the American Civil War, the United States exerted itself in the service of American interests around the world. In the Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East, and most explicitly in the Spanish-American War and under the foreign policy of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, the United States expanded upon a long history of exploration, trade, and cultural exchange to practice something that looked remarkably like empire. The question of American imperialism, then, seeks to understand not only direct American interventions in such places as Cuba, the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico, but also the deeper history of American engagement with the wider world and the subsequent ways in which American economic, political, and cultural power has shaped the actions, choices, and possibilities of other groups and nations.

Meanwhile, as the United States asserted itself abroad, it received ever more numbers of foreign peoples at home. European and Asian immigrants poured into the United States. In a sense, imperialism and immigration raised similar questions about American identity: who was an “American,” and who wasn’t? What were the nation’s obligations to foreign powers and foreign peoples? And how accessible—and how fluid—should American identity be for newcomers? All such questions confronted late-nineteenth-century Americans with unprecedented urgency. Read more from Chapter 19 of the American Yawp.

Things to Consider

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What were the primary reasons for American intervention in foreign affairs in the late-19th and early-20th century?
  2. How did yellow journalism contribute to outbreak of the Spanish-American War?
  3. Why was the Spanish-American War referred to as a “splendid little war?”  Is that description fitting?
  4. How did the United States gain control of the Philippines?
  5. Be sure that you can discuss and analyze the debates over American imperialism within the United States.  What were some of the justifications for expansion?  What were the arguments against?
  6. What was the Roosevelt Corollary and how did it change American foreign policy?
  7. What is meant by the phrase “dollar diplomacy,” and how did it pertain to US interventions in Latin America?
  8. How was imperialism a “gendered” concept?
  9. What issues existed concerning immigration in the US in the late-19th and early-20th centuries?  Be sure to consider the factors behind immigration, questions of assimilation, and political responses in your answer.
  10. What kinds of immigrants were most likely to be “excluded” from entry into the United States?  Why?

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize a range of viewpoints in historical narratives
  • Distinguish between historical facts and historical interpretations
  • Seek a variety of sources that provide evidence to support an argument about the past

Course Objectives

  • The student will be able to explain the social, economic, and political impact of the second Industrial Revolution and global migration of labor at the regional and national level of the late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Centuries.
  • The student will understand the development and impact of main ideologies, reform movements, and growth of international influence in late Nineteenth Century- early Twentieth Century World War I years.
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