The Rise of American Imperialism (1890–1913) for AP U.S. History

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Updated on Mar 4, 2011

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The Rise of American Imperialism (1890–1913) Review Questions for AP U.S. History

Summary: Beginning in the 1890s, the United States began to practice some of the same imperialistic policies that it had previously criticized major European powers for. Spurred on by sugar planters, America expanded its influence in Hawaii and in 1896 annexed the islands. Americans also pushed for an "Open Door" trading policy in China. Efforts to expand American influence abroad were motivated by economic, political, religious, and social factors; the "white man's burden" argument was influential in both Europe and the United States. There were also opponents to imperialism who often based their opposition on moral grounds. American imperialistic impulses flourished during the Spanish-American War; newly created American naval power was one important factor in the defeat of Spain. After contentious debate within the United States, America finally decided to annex the Philippines; it took three years for American forces to defeat Filipino rebels, who instead of fighting the Spanish now resisted their new occupiers, the Americans. Americans finished building the Panama Canal in 1914; the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine further increased American influence in Latin America.


Open Door policy: policy supported by the United States beginning in 1899 that stated that all major powers, including the United States, should have an equal right to trade in China.

Social Darwinism: philosophy that emerged from the writings of Charles Darwin on the "survival of the fittest"; this was used to justify the vast differences between the rich and the poor in the late nineteenth century as well as American and European imperialistic ventures.

Spanish-American War: war that began in 1898 against the Spanish over treatment of Cubans by Spanish troops that controlled the island. As a result of this war, the United States annexed the Philippines, making America a major power in the Pacific.

Yellow journalism: a method of journalism that utilizes sensationalized accounts of the news to sell newspapers; this approach helped to whip up nationalistic impulses that led to the Spanish-American War.

USS Maine: U.S. naval ship that sank in Havana harbor in February 1898 following an explosion; the incident was used to increase calls for war against Spain. It was never definitively determined why or how the ship was sunk.

Panama Canal: canal across the Panama isthmus that was begun in 1904 and completed in 1914; its opening enabled America to expand its economic and military influence.

Roosevelt Corollary (1904): policy that warned Europeans against intervening in the affairs of Latin America and that claimed the right of the United States to intervene in the affairs of Latin American nations if "chronic wrongdoing" was taking place.

Dollar Diplomacy: foreign policy supported by President William Howard Taft and others that favored increased American investment in the world as a way of increasing American influence.

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