21H.102 | Spring 2018 | Undergraduate

American History Since 1865

Lecture Notes

Lecture 8 - Becoming A World Power

Main questions

  • How did the United States become an empire?
  • What are the driving factors of “new imperialism?”

Key concepts and terms

  • World’s Columbian Exposition (1893)
  • Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904): “Philippine Reservation” and Spanish-American War
  • Annexation of Hawaii
  • 19th century imperialism: the “Scramble for Africa” and “Scramble for Asia”
    • Asian colonies: India, French Indochina, Dutch Indonesia, US in Philippines

Driving factors of “New Imperialism”

  • Economic crises as cause of “new imperialism”
    • Panic of 1873 (end of Reconstruction)
    • Panic of 1893 (collapse of railroad overbuilding): China becomes huge market for new industrial goods
  • Competition between nations for natural resources (e.g. oil, gold)
  • Uniquely American features: religious aspects of Manifest Destiny (duty to bring American progress / democracy to the world), the U.S. as a “city on a hill” (John Winthrop)

Spanish-American War and Imperialism

  • Teddy Roosevelt and the “Rough Riders”: idea that new generations of American men need a war to prove their masculine mettle
  • Yellow journalism and sensationalism
  • “Remember the Maine”


  • 1900 U.S. Presidential Election (William Jennings Bryan vs. William McKinley)
  • Lincoln’s political memory and anti-imperialism: “no man is fit to govern without another’s consent”

Key individuals

  • Theodore Roosevelt and imperialism: self-styled “rugged Western man”
    • The Strenuous Life: relationship between manliness and empire
  • William McKinley and jingoism
  • William Jennings Bryan and the “Cross of Gold” speech, which argues for bimetallism
  • Rudyard Kipling and the “White Man’s Burden” (civilizing mission)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2018
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Lecture Notes