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American Imperialism: The Spanish-American War

Primary Source Set

The United States has always been active in helping other nations gain independence, although historians argue about the United States’ motives for doing so. Whether in South Vietnam, South Korea, or Cuba, US foreign policy has long been one of providing economic and military assistance to others. But when is the United States defending its democratic ideals and when, despite its status as a former colony, is it extending its control and influence through military force as an imperial power? One of the earliest examples is US intervention in Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain, which led to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Encouraged by sensationalist American journalism about the Cuban conflict and the mysterious sinking of the US Navy battleship Maine in Havana harbor, the United States declared war against Spain in late April. After only months of fighting the under-resourced Spanish military in Cuba and Philippines, the US emerged victorious as a new world power with a stake in international politics. In the December 1898 Treaty of Paris, Spain renounced all claim to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States for $20 million. What motivated America to take on a superpower like Spain? Review the sources in this set to gain insight into the motivations for US engagement in the Spanish-American War.

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