Erasmus university rotterdam


CASE STUDIES ………………………………………………………………………….. 53



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CASE STUDIES ………………………………………………………………………….. 53

  1. The Panama Canal …………………………………………………………………………… 54

  2. Cuba ………………………………………………………………………………………………... 57

  3. The Philippines ………………………………………………………………………………. 60



  1. INFLUENCE OF THE EUROPEAN AND PACIFIC POWERS ……………. 65

    1. Britain ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 65

    2. Germany ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 66

    3. Japan ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 71




  1. CONCLUSIONS …………………………………………………………………………. 74




  1. BIBLIOGRAPHY ……………………………………………………………………… 80



Chapter 1: Introduction
To suggest that the United States was “expansionist” in the nineteenth century does not spark much controversy. America’s history of expansion, from the push overland to the Mississippi, further sprawls to the Western continental limits and then beyond, to the north and the acquisition of Alaska from Russia in 1867 is clearly representative of an era of expansion. To suggest that the United States has been “imperialist” for much of its history is entirely different however, and is not a tag that the American people have been willing to acknowledge or embrace. Americans have long espoused a belief that their nation is different, an assumption that also infers that the United States is better. Take for example the following offering from The National Review Online, in relation to American exceptionalism:

‘Our country has always been exceptional. It is freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth. These qualities are the bequest of our Founding and of our cultural heritage. They have always marked America as special, with a unique role and mission in the world: as a model of ordered liberty and self-government and as an exemplar of freedom and a vindicator of it, through persuasion when possible and force of arms when absolutely necessary’. 1


It is the intention of this thesis to seek to disprove the prevailing assertion that the United States has enjoyed a history devoid of imperialism, to disprove the consensus that regards the United States as having behaved in an upstanding and conscientious manner towards lesser states while other ‘Great Powers’ plundered and colonized vast tracts of the globe. However it will also seek to demonstrate in what ways, if any, this American brand of imperialism differed from the preceding European models.

While it would not be wholly unreasonable to suggest that the “Continental expansion” into Louisiana, the Floridas, Texas, California, and Oregon and the elimination or incarceration of Native Americans was an imperialist era, I do not subscribe to this train of thought. The period may have demonstrated some imperial characteristics but this cannot be classed as a carefully plotted, conscious phase of imperialism, in my view.

It is a later period, namely events occurring at the dawn of the 20th century, which will be the primary concern and object of focus for this master thesis. While this period was technically not imperialist in the sense of a limited definition- one that encompasses only the formal colonization of areas not part of the American continent- the hypothesis that this project worked with and towards is that the United States did behave in an imperialist manner during the presidencies of William McKinley (1897-1901), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) and William Howard Taft (1901-1913). Therefore, a key element to this debate is definition. There has been an abundance of theories and definitions pertaining to imperialism, spanning generations. One of the central goals of this introduction is to analyze some of the perspectives and theories offered so far, and to precisely determine which definition is most apt and will be utilized in my treatment of the research material. I will first outline the method, sources and structure of the thesis.




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