Reasons for Imperialism in Late 1890s and Early 1990s

The American history quotes the period of time from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century as the age of imperialism. Imperialism is the military, cultural, and economic influence of America on other countries. The impacts are followed by the expansion of foreign territories. Imperialism is a rule of encompassing a country’s authority and power through settlement, utilization of military strength, and other means. The study will focus on the reasons that caused imperialism of the USA.

During the period, America wanted to establish colonies so as to gain access to raw materials. It was after discovery of many industries and an economic growth in the US that increased the demand for raw materials for the industries. There were many industries dealing with the same feedstock or even producing the same industrial products. Therefore, towards the end of the 19th century, the need for raw materials was higher than the amount that Americans could produce locally. Since the Americans needed to maintain their industries and provide a sustainable source of raw materials, they had to establish more colonies that would provide more feedstock. In addition, in the neighboring empires such as the Spanish empire, the rate of industrialization was lower compared to America. Therefore, their land was not exhausted and could produce farm products in better volumes and quality. The US took the advantage of having its neighbors less industrialized to target their fertile lands and surplus farm production. It later found it a better idea to expand its territories and earn the benefits without necessarily importing. On the other side, there were minerals and other natural mines that could benefit the US industries. They were found in the neighboring empires and the only possible way to attain the wealth and boast the US economy was through an imperial expansion. When the leaders of that period of time considered the advantages, the political and economic gain that would evolve into the imperial expansion became a goal for America.


Towards the beginning of the 20th century, Americans could produce more manufactured products than they could possibly utilize locally. It was contributed by construction of many industries, internal competition, and importation of raw materials from neighboring states. It raised the need to expand their boundaries as a way of expanding market for finished products. In addition, there were many industries that produced same products hence increasing internal competition and the need for external market. Since industrialization was boosting the economy of America, the government had an obligation of doing everything possible to maintain the industries through assisting them to get more clients. One of the most appropriate method of increasing the volume of sales for industrial product was through expanding the US territory. Therefore, it increased the need for imperial expansion. 

High levels of production required the country to export some of its finished products, as well as import raw materials from the other parts of the world. There was a necessity to control the important shipping lanes in the region. One of the most economical ways of transporting goods in bulk was through shipping. For the reason, America found the need to secure and take full control of the best and most reliable shipping lanes. While in control of the vital shipping lanes, The US wanted to  export industrial products and import raw materials at a cheaper price. Nevertheless, some of the essential shipping lanes were located in the neighboring empires. It made the US increase the need to conquer the empires as a way of earning full control of the shipping lanes. During the period in history, security was also a necessary issue to be focused. Therefore, having power on shipping tracks was a method of permitting the US to protect its boarders via controlling exports and imports that was arriving and parting the country via ship terminals. It required controlling the arms and ammunitions that entered and left the country together with other goods and immigrants. It was only possible if they had full control of the vital shipping lanes. The civil war had raised a feeling of insecurity among the Americans hence taking into consideration any possible threat that could enter the country through the shipping terminals.     

It is evident that there were many reasons that led to imperialism and the Spanish-American war. It was a period that many states wanted to portray their military power and test military weapons that they kept discovering for years. The US was no exception. It also wanted to project its military strength. The easiest method of projecting military strength was through a war with its neighbors. Therefore, besides the economic reasons, the US wanted to test its war ability. There were a number of weapons that Americans had discovered by the time and they felt that they were superior to all the neighboring empires. Therefore, since they wanted to display their military power, they were looking for reasons to attack the neighboring empires as a way of testing and proving their military ability. 

To the US government, among the reason of imperial expansion there was a need to give the citizens of America a reason to rally around. It was the Civil War that had divided the citizens and made them take different sides and compete with each other. Therefore, a foreign war could act as a better way of reuniting all citizens and make them take a single side since a foreign enemy is a common enemy for all Americans. During the period, country leadership was based not only on politics, but strategies. Therefore, the leaders including Theodore, who was the assistant secretary of the navy, were focusing on a foreign war. They conducted this policy since it was the only applicable strategy of reuniting Americans and making them forget the division created by the Civil War. The ideology of uniting Americans was initiated by military and political leaders as a way of making sure Americans could work together and focus on a new issue that would make them forget the Civil War. 

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Another main reason for imperial expansion was cultural ideas. There was a cultural ideology in the US that was known as social Darwinism. The main idea of the social Darwinism claimed the West to be more evolved and civilized than the rest of the human race in the world. The ideology originated from Darwin’s idea of the evolution as applied to cultures and society. The cultural idea made Americans feel that it was their responsibility to assist the societies that were less evolved through conquering them and helping them develop. The idea of assisting less developed cultures and societies was known as “the white man’s burden”. It was believed that the US had a burden while working with other neighboring societies and the only solution was to help them evolve to ensure easy understanding of modern ideologies. In addition, since the western Europeans considered themselves superior, they believed that it was easy to conquer the neighboring empires because they were using strategies that were better. They also believed that their system of governance was the best and they should teach their neighbors through governing them and make them learn by example. Another social idea was the leeway of the old notion of Manifest Destiny. It claimed that America had a duty given by God to regulate the land that lay amid Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Therefore, they felt that conquering the neighboring empires was fulfilling the responsibility given by God.    

The industries were a source of employment for many Americans and a source of revenue to the government. Therefore, it was an important resource that needed to be safeguarded for the welfare of individuals and country at large. However, a number of industries increased the need for employees that the US required as a new source of laborers. It increased the need for imperialism as a way of enlarging the pull for employees. Industrialization also promoted innovation and proper utilization of available resources. Therefore, the US government had to ensure that the industries awere maintained as a way of promoting innovation and creating a good future for the country. To maintain the industries, the boundaries had to be extended to ensure that all the industries were provided with raw materials, employees and market for finished goods. Locally produced farm products were processed in the industries hence boosting agricultural development and creating a market for locally available minerals. High level of industrialization also made the US require increased volume of professionals and non-skilled laborers. 

To sum up, the imperial expansion of the late 1890s and early 1990s was contributed by many reasons. The reasons were based on military power, economic, and political factors. The US government was considering the well-being of its economy especially after the high level of industrialization. The future of the countries development was put into considerations and the unity of the Americans since it was believed the unity would move the country to high levels of social, political and economic development. 

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