Timeline of American Imperialism

The idea of American Imperialism is one that began to grow and spread in the late 1800s, as the United States looked to expand its political, social, and economic influence to other territories and countries. This was accomplished through a period of land acquisition and conflict.

April of 1898 saw the beginning of the Spanish American War. The United States went to war with Spain because the U.S. sided with the Cubans and the Filipinos, who at that time were under the rule of Spain. It was also widely thought that the Spanish had attacked and sunk the USS Maine, a Navy ship which was stationed off the coast of Cuba, back in February of 1898. The war was primarily fought in the Philippines and in Cuba, and after approximately four months of fighting, the United States was victorious. As a result of their win, the U.S. gained possession of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. While the Philippines eventually gained independence, Puerto Rico and Guam are still considered U.S. territories.

American imperialism map

The Boxer Rebellion of 1899 was an anti-imperialist, anti-foreign, and anti-Christian uprising that took place in China, and lasted until 1901. A group of individuals known as the Boxers were unhappy with the amount of foreigners that were in their country, and in order to drive them out, they staged the nearly two-year rebellion. The Boxers were also unhappy that missionaries were trying so hard to convert Chinese people to the religion of Christianity, which was not the religion of China. .

Years after the end of the Spanish American War, the Filipino people wanted to pursue their independence; they had been ruled by the Spanish, and were tired of being under American rule, as well. The revolutionary figure Emilio Aguinaldo led an uprising of Filipino citizens to demand their independence from the United States after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which essentially handed control of the Philippines from Spain to the U.S. When tensions rose between protesters and the United States forces, shots rang out, thus beginning the Philippine American War. Though the war ended in 1902, the Philippines would not be formally recognized as their own Commonwealth until 1935. Full recognition of independence came in 1946 under President Harry S. Truman.

In order to further the scope of its involvement and control, the United States developed the Platt Amendment in 1901. Simply stated, the Platt Amendment was a treaty signed by the U.S. and Cuba, affirming that the United States would offer Cuba protection against foreign invasions and threats to Cuban independence. The United States was given a base in Cuba to oversee this protection. By entering into this agreement, Cuba was limited in its right as a country to sign and form treaties with other countries, and therefore, their freedom and independence were limited.

The Roosevelt Corollary of 1904, named for President Theodore Roosevelt, was an addendum (or an added part) to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. The purpose of the Corollary was to let Europe know that America would protect not only itself, but other countries who might require intervention. Though many Americans supported this move, there were countries around the world who did not. Namely, Latin American countries did not look favorably upon the Corollary, as they thought it gave the US too much of a military presence around the world. Because of the Corollary, the U.S. was successful in establishing itself as a global “police” power.

Theodore Roosevelt was also able to move construction of the Panama Canal under United States control in 1904. In the interest of establishing a passageway for trade, the Canal cut across the country of Panama to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. An exceptionally difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming project, the canal eventually opened 10 years later in August of 1914.