The Spanish-American War and Overseas Empire

The Spanish-American War and Overseas Empire

The Spanish-American War was the first significant international military conflict for the United States since its war against Mexico in 1846; it came to represent a critical milestone in the country’s development as an empire. Ostensibly about the rights of Cuban rebels to fight for freedom from Spain, the war had, for the United States at least, a far greater importance in the country’s desire to expand its global reach.

The Spanish-American War was notable not only because the United States succeeded in seizing territory from another empire, but also because it caused the global community to recognize that the United States was a formidable military power. In what Secretary of State John Hay called “a splendid little war,” the United States significantly altered the balance of world power, just as the twentieth century began to unfold (Figure).

A Spanish cartoon depicts Uncle Sam standing on a map. His feet are in the United States, and he reaches south to grab at Cuba. The caption, written in Catalan, reads “Keep the island so it won’t get lost.”
Whereas Americans thought of the Spanish colonial regime in Cuba as a typical example of European imperialism, this 1896 Spanish cartoon depicts the United States as a land-grabbing empire. The caption, written in Catalan, states “Keep the island so it won’t get lost.”
1 of 6