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US Imperialism During the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

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An explanation as to what caused the surge of American imperialism at the turn of the 20th century. It also addresses the debate over empire building and the clash of between American idealism and self interest.

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Solution Summary

This solution addresses the reasons behind imperialism and why the US believed it must have an overseas empire. It traces the motives and reasoning.

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Really since the early 1600s when Europeans first established colonies along the North American coast, the newcomers had been an expansionist people. By the 1840s the drive for territorial expansion had acquired a name: "Manifest Destiny." After the Civil War many Americans agreed that the U.S. had a global destiny. By the end of the 19th and into the 20th century expansionism had become imperialism. There are several reasons why the U.S. embraced imperialism.
<br>The first reason for the expansionist spirit was the belief that an empire was a sign of greatness. Americans witnessed several European nations and Japan busy collecting colonies from North Africa to the Pacific Islands. So to achieve greatness, many Americans concluded, the U.S. too must have an empire. By 1899, at the dawning of the 20th century, the U.S. possessed an island empire stretching from the Caribbean to the Pacific.
<br>Another reason for this desire to expand and build an empire was the argument that continued prosperity demanded overseas markets. For instance, in the 1890s, Secretary of State ...

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