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Posted: January 17th, 2023

Why did Americans engage in imperialism (1890-1914)?

Why did Americans engage in imperialism (1890-1914)?

Paper instructions:
Module 2 showcases American imperialism at the turn of the century. American intervention in the developing world attracted both supporters and detractors. Many Americans favored overseas expansion for the purpose of exporting American culture and maximizing business opportunities. Other Americans, especially those in the American Anti-Imperialist League, fought against what they considered were the imperial endeavors of a business and political elite. Historians have since written extensively in an effort to account for the rise in imperial efforts. Finally, the tensions in the debate over America’s role in world affairs were captured by popular cartoonists of the period.

For this essay, students will write a thesis-driven essay that addresses the following questions:

Why did Americans engage in imperialism (1890-1914)?

What pushed Americans to drop traditional isolationism and engage a more interventionist, imperialist foreign policy?

Students will also incorporate a discussion of 1 political cartoon that helps demonstrate/illustrate their answer to the above questions.

So, there are two related tasks that students will complete. It’s important for students to follow the organizational instructions carefully.

First, students will need to become familiar with the module readings. The Kruger and Jacobson articles (found in the module) will help students identify some of the motivations that historians have attributed to turn-of-the-century imperialism. The Kruger article discusses the broader interpretations that historians have assigned to better understand why Western nations engaged in imperialist endeavors—the economic, social, political, cultural, etc. Students will select one of the interpretations—economic, social, political, cultural, etc—to account for American imperialism in places like Cuba, China, Hawaii, the Philippines, etc. The Beveridge reading is a primary source that discusses how contemporaries understood American imperialism. Also, the Aguinaldo article offers a critical contemporary review of American intentions in the Philippines.

The essay must begin with a formal introduction that presents a thesis statement. In this case, the thesis will answer what you consider was the primary factor that motivated American imperialism. The thesis statement can be one or two sentences. It must make absolutely clear what the argument of the essay is. The argument is essentially your answer to the above questions. Then, the introduction will also identify the cartoon and discuss in a sentence or two how the image demonstrates your argument (what was the motivating factor behind American imperialism).

After the introduction, in the first 2-4 body paragraphs, students will pick one of the historical interpretations to explain their response the following questions:

Why did Americans engage in imperialism (1890-1914)?

What pushed Americans to drop traditional isolationism and engage a more interventionist, imperialist foreign policy?

The research on the topic has already been done, so just rely on the historians in the Kruger article to help formulate your argument. But remember, to prove your argument you will need to draw on actual historical information. The argument should be at the very center of the discussion in the body paragraphs, accompanied by relevant examples/evidence to prove your argument. You must have evidence to prove your argument. The essay should not be a series of claims or a general discussion of the history of imperialism. You must convince the reader (me) that the factor identified and illustrated with evidence offers the most accurate explanation for why Americans engaged in imperialism.

So, for instance, “as demonstrated in Hobson’s works, imperialism was motivated by economic factors. We see this in American imperialism in historical example 1, 2, and 3.” Then you need to explain historical example 1, 2 and 3, and how exactly they match with the economic explanation.

Next, students have identified an argument and proved the argument with references to actual, factual historical evidence. The last half of the essay (2-3 paragraphs) will identify a cartoon that comports with your thesis. In other words, once you have discussed the factor that led to American imperialism (the argument in the first part of the essay), then discuss the contents/message of a cartoon that helps illustrate why your interpretation is in fact valid. You must select 1 cartoon from the on-line sources listed below. The cartoon must have an obvious connection to your argument that explains the reasoning/justification/interpretation of why Americans engaged in imperialism. The analysis/discussion of the cartoon, in relation to the earlier thesis, fills the remaining 2-3 paragraphs. So, for instance, if you argued in the first part of the essay that American imperialism was motivated by factor X, then the cartoon you select needs to show factor X, and then you explain the details of the cartoon and how they relate to factor X.

The cartoon must align, in a very obvious way, with the argument presented in the first part of the essay.

The cartoon must come from the period 1890-1914.

You should consider the following topics in the second part of your essay:

-How does the cartoon validate/justify/illustrate why your interpretation of American imperialism is historically accurate?

-place the cartoon in the proper historical context. That is, discuss what events are going on in American foreign policy that prompted the cartoonists to complete their work. Background information should not dominate your essay, but you should show that you are informed with the historical events that led to the cartoon.

-identify and explain the perspective(s) of the cartoonist. Is the cartoonist drawing a cartoon in favor of or against imperialism? What is the message the cartoonist is attempting to convey?

-who was the artist?

-where was the cartoon published?

-why was the cartoon drawn?

Use the following resources to identify your cartoon to an external site. to an external site. to an external site. to an external site. to an external site.

This pinterest site has 100s of images. This may be a good site to begin exploring. to an external site.

Writing Standards

The essay will be 3-4 pages long (approximately 1200 words.

Standard margins.

12 point times new roman font.

In-text parenthetical citations. For example: (Foner, 3), or (Johnson, 25).

The essay needs to reference/cite at least 3 sources from the list of required resources (readings/videos). If the essay does not reference at least 3 sources, the grade will be penalized. The reference to the cartoon does not count toward the 3 source minimum.

All essays need to be submitted to turn-it-in, through canvas. I will not grade the essay if it’s not submitted to turn-it-in.

Proofread the essay. If I can’t understand the writing, the grade will be penalized.

The rubric is posted on the course portal.

Every essay needs a formal works cited page. Remember to cite each individual source. MLA format for works cited page.

There is no need to consult outside sources. All of the information needed to complete this essay is found in the module. Students must reference the Johnson text.

Structure of Essay

-Every essay should have a formal introduction (paragraph 1). The purpose of the introduction for this essay is to identify the thesis about the motivations behind American imperialism and a couple of sentences on the cartoon, as well as to set up a little of the historical context.

-After the introduction, the essay should spend 2-4 paragraphs discussing the argument (the first task). Identify the factor that you think was the leading cause of American imperialism and then explain why. You must reference actual historical evidence to prove your argument. Specific pieces of historical information that validate your argument as to what led Americans to engage in imperialism must be incorporated in your writing. Without evidence you have no argument.

-When addressing the second task, students must clearly identify the cartoon and then discuss why the cartoon helps illustrate your argument about the motivations that contributed to American imperialism. Use the cartoon as a piece of evidence to drive home your point. This task should be completed in the final 2-3 body paragraphs.

-Each essay should contain a short, formal conclusion (final paragraph) that restates the central themes discussed in the body paragraphs, offers broader conclusions about American history, or even tries to connect the paper to contemporary events.

If the essay fails to meet the above requirements the grade will be penalized.

Remember, your essay needs to write about events that took place between 1890-1914.

Do not include information about American foreign policy before or after this period.

Imperialism, the policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, military conquest, or other means, was a significant aspect of American foreign policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The reasons for American imperialism during this period can be grouped into several categories, including economic, political, and ideological factors.

Economic factors were a major driving force behind American imperialism. The rapid industrialization of the late 19th century created a need for new markets to sell goods and new sources of raw materials. American businesses, particularly those in the steel, oil, and railroad industries, sought to expand overseas to find these markets and resources. Additionally, the belief in the concept of Social Darwinism, the idea that the strong should survive and the weak should perish, led many Americans to believe that it was their duty to bring civilization and capitalism to “uncivilized” parts of the world.

Political factors also played a role in American imperialism. The closing of the American frontier in the late 19th century led many Americans to seek new opportunities and frontiers overseas. Additionally, the belief in American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States was a uniquely virtuous nation with a mission to spread its values and institutions around the world, motivated many Americans to seek to expand American influence overseas.

Ideological factors also played a role in American imperialism. The belief in the “white man’s burden,” the idea that it was the duty of white, Western nations to bring civilization and Christianity to “uncivilized” peoples, influenced many Americans to support imperialism. Furthermore, the idea of “manifest destiny,” the belief that it was the United States’ destiny to expand its territory and influence, also played a role in American imperialism.

In conclusion, American imperialism during the period of 1890-1914 was driven by a combination of economic, political, and ideological factors. Economic factors such as the need for new markets and resources, political factors such as the closing of the American frontier and belief in American exceptionalism, and ideological factors such as the belief in the “white man’s burden” and manifest destiny all played a role in motivating Americans to engage in imperialism during this period.

-The Oxford Handbook of the History of American Business. (2012). Oxford University Press.
-The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations. (1995). Cambridge University Press.
-The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations. (2015). Cambridge University Press.

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