American Imperialism Essays

American Imperialism Essays

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Nationalism was a prevalent ideology worldwide by the late 1800s, and as the industrial revolution allowed the United States to emerge as a world power at this time, there was an urge to compete with Europe in territory as well as technology. In the late 19th to early 20th century, “empire-building” allowed for U.S. capitalistic expansion, thinly veiled by nationalistic rhetoric of “the white man’s burden” and a moral necessity to extend American culture to “inferior” races. The discourse of imperialism necessitated an American national identity, which revolved around the virtues of capitalism and democracy, expressions of masculinity, and the supremacy of the white race.

New technology and the advent of mass production had so radically altered U.S. culture that capitalism and consumer markets came to been seen as synonymous with progress and civilization (Lears 202). The rise of industry resulted in rapid urbanization and an influx of immigrants seeking work opportunities in the burgeoning U.S. economy. Westward expansion on the continent was thus seen as imperative to provide cheap land for a growing population and room for the abundance of workers in the late 19th century (88). When the frontier was officially closed in 1890, American expansionists turned their attention to the establishment of foreign colonies and the creation of new markets to balance-out industrial overproduction (200, 201). Historian Jackson Lears writes that American capitalists sought “free access to foreign markets, raw materials and investment opportunities” (201). Such access gained legal justification through the 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Munroe Doctrine, which claimed U.S. interventionist rights in any nation deemed “unstable,” in est, resis...


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...ng U.S. foreign policy in the late 19th to early 20th century requires that one acknowledge the greed and racism that constructed American national identity. This national identity still permeates public rhetoric today as the U.S. continues its mission to “extend democracy” abroad. While modern history textbooks may still emphasize how imperialism was beneficial to occupied nations, a deeper examination of history reveals that infrastructural improvements and supposedly good intentions do little to alleviate the suffering and cultural destruction faced by nations subject to invasion.

Works Cited
Lears, Jackson. Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern American, 1877-1920. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Renda, Mary A.. Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

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