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The third unit of American History 2 examines American Imperialism and World War

I through the lenses of trade, imperialism, foreign policy, and war.

Global Trade, Imperialism, and the Spanish American War
By the mid to late 19th Century, industrialized countries turned to imperialism to
satisfy their needs for natural resources and new trade markets. Although the
United States was slow to adopt imperialistic policies, it did acquire Alaska as part of
its Manifest Destiny expansion and had developed a significant presence in
Hawaii. By the end of the 19th Century, American planters in Hawaii and the U.S.
military pushed for the annexation of Hawaii. By 1897, the United States had
annexed Hawaii and was on its way to becoming a global imperial power.
While the annexation of Hawaii was in process, the United States continued to keep
its eye on Cuba. With its close proximity to the United States and excellent sugar
plantations, Cuba was an American entrepreneurs dream. By 1886, there were
several American financed sugar plantations located in Cuba. In 1895, Cuba moved
to gain independence from Spain. The resulting war left Americans split on how to
While the American press used yellow journalism to get the United States to
intervene on behalf of Cuba, Americans with business interests in Cuba wanted the
United States to protect their business interests by supporting Spain. In the end, the
yellow journalism tactics worked and the United States went to war with Spain. By
the end of the war, Cuba would be an independent nation and the United States
would be a new global imperial power.
Foreign Policy
As a result of the Spanish-American War, the United States gained additional
territory in the Pacific and Caribbean. Managing these new territories became the
focus of the Progressive Presidents foreign policies. Each Progressive President,
Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, developed different approaches to rule these territories
and protect the economic interests of the United States.
World War I
Industrialized countries had turned to imperialism to gain resources and expand
their trade markets. In order to protect their foreign interests, they expanded their
militaries and formed alliances. By 1914, tensions throughout the world had
escalated and resulted in war.
While most citizens in the United States sided with the Allied Powers, the overall
push was for the United States to remain neutral. After all, the war was happening
over there. Instead of taking sides in the war, the United States became the go to
country for supplies. Trade with Britain and France increased dramatically, actually
resulting in a labor shortage in the United States. But, trade with Europe would have
problems as both Britain and Germany established blockades and Germany had
begun using U-boats to sink British ships. Eventually, the United States would be
drawn into war.

Once involved in World War I, the United States government used propaganda to
gain support from citizens. Men were encouraged to join the fight and help protect
democracy. Those at home rationed goods and bought war bonds. Patriotism was
heightened and those that disagreed with the war faced increased government
scrutiny. With the help of the United States, the Allied Powers won the war.
Post World War I (1)
When World War I ended, the United States found itself in a peculiar position.
Although the United States was part of the treaty negotiations, there was
disagreement between the U.S. governments executive and legislative branches on
the terms of the treaty. The legislature worried the treatys harsh punishment of
Germany and U.S. involvement in the League of Nations (based on President
Wilsons 14 Points) would end up hurting the United States. In the end, the United
States failed to join the League of Nation and shifted its foreign policy to
In addition to the political disagreements over the Treaty of Versailles, the United
States was facing serious domestic issues. With the war over, foreign demand for
goods waned. This resulted in an economic recession and labor tensions. The
recession and labor tensions, coupled with the rise of communism in Europe, helped
ignite a Red Scare. The U.S. government began searching for communists and
anarchists in an effort to protect the American way of life. This overwhelming fear of
foreign influence resulted in a rise of nativism.