USFSP Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Thesis Director: Larissa Kopytoff, Ph.D. Visiting Professor of History, College of Arts and Sciences


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

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The whirlwind of activity that occurred in American foreign policy at the end of the nineteenth century is largely forgotten about. Situated between the Civil War and the First World War, this era is often overlooked in terms of importance to American history. It was, however, a major formative time in the history of the United States. During these years, the United States committed to actions outside of its borders that would have major ramifications on the future course of the country. These events were the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, both fought in the period from 1898 to about 1902, and they were new types of wars that the United States had never fought in before. The first was a large scale humanitarian effort, while the second was a brutal colonial conflict in a faraway territory. These wars came at a time of change in American political thought, when the ideas of imperialism and empire building overseas began to prominently become a part of the American mindset. Although these feelings of expansion and national glory would become more mainstream during this time, they were met with a fierce backlash by many who opposed the new direction of the United States, raising new political questions and debates throughout the country. The wars and their outcomes would produce battlegrounds abroad and spark political battles at home.

This study explores the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, and the profound impact they had on the United States. It will illustrate how each war came about, and the sharp contrast between how each war was fought, and how each was viewed in the United States. This study will explore the rise of expansionist feelings in the United States and the beginning of imperialist ambitions since the end of the Civil War, and their evolution before the Spanish-American War, and how this set up the war fever that would involve the United States with Spain and the Philippines. I will then look at the war with Spain, how it began and the forces 3 that were driving the “war fever” that swept through the United States, and the counter anti-imperialist movement that arose as a response. Finally, it will explore the war in the Philippines, and show how it was different from the Spanish-American War, although the two were fought only a few months apart, which shows that the Philippine-American War was a pure colonial conflict, just like the ones waged by Europeans. Primary sources such as newspaper headlines and political cartoons will be used to show the opposing sides of these heated debates.

Those involved in the imperialist faction in the United States went by and were called many names, including imperialists, expansionists, and the colorful term “jingoes.” Jingo is a term adopted by Americans who supported expansion from Great Britain, where it was also a term for expansionists. The term was used both by the Americans who supported the movement, and by those who did not. Supporters saw it as a term of endearment, while their detractors used to as a synonym for being a war hawk, which was often the case as well. Both the expansionists and their opponents battled in out during this period in political debates and by using mass media to try to persuade public opinion. They did this because they thought they were battling over the future direction and spirit of the United States of America.

These events were an important part of American history, but they were also part of something bigger as they show how the United States became of part of the larger history of imperialism taking place around the world at this time. These events help show that the United States was more involved in global affairs and in the affairs of other nations before the event that was seen as the first “major” American intervention, the First World War. These events help people today understand expansionist and anti-expansion feeling at home, while also contributing to the worldwide rush for empire and glory that took place at the end of the nineteenth century. 4 This connection helps shed more light and understanding on these important historical moments that cannot be overlooked, and that is what this thesis is attempting to do.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program University of South Florida St. Petersburg

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.