Investigative Visual Media Analysis

Bobby Shi - Period 5

The Spanish-American War: The Birth of a Superpower

Synopsis: The US goes to war against Spain to free Cuba from Spanish rule.
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Historical Inquiry

Does not have to be paragraph form.

1. What is the central issue of what is portrayed?

The central issue of what is portrayed is that the United States of America became a global and imperial force due to the growth of its power and influence from the Spanish-American War. Due to the fledgling American imperialist tendencies regarding the Philippines and Cuba, controlling places as far away as the Pacific area just to keep them away from European hands, America became similar to the European imperialist countries in their colonizing and dominating foreign lands.


2. What historical concepts does this presentation include?

The video obviously includes concepts about the Spanish-American War and Caribbean and New World tensions in the late nineteenth century, but it also does more. It illustrates how the United States was actually a new imperial and global power in the same time frame, and how, with its new found power, America wanted to flex its muscles and enter into the same political imperialism that Europe was getting into.


3. What is the historical function of the Spanish-American War?
The Spanish-American War reduced Spanish influence in the Caribbean and much of the Pacific region by taking away Cuba and the Philippines from Spain. It saw the rise of the United States as a global and imperial power, transferring the power away from Spain and into the hands of America as the dominant force in the Western Hemisphere.


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CCS Questions

Elaborate response not required.

4. What economic issues, political concerns, and military factors helped cause the Spanish-American War?

  • Cuban rebellion and insurrection

    • Cuba rose up against their Spanish overlords in 1895

    • Partly for economic reasons

      • Sugar production decreased with the a new United States tariff that reduced imports for the good

    • Insurgents adopted a scorched-earth policy

      • Thought that if they did enough damage, Spanish would move out or United States would move in

      • Torched canefields and sugar mills

      • Dynamited passenger trains

    • Americans supported the Cubans

      • Big investment stake in Cuba

      • Spanish misrule threatened trade in the area

    • In 1896, General "Butcher" Weyler arrived in Cuba

      • Herded many civilians into barbed wire fences called "reconcentration" camps

      • Civilians could not help the insurgents

      • People died like dogs

      • Outraged American public demanded action

      • Congress in 1896 called on President Cleveland to recognize the Cuban rebels

      • Cleveland refused

        • Said that if Congress declared war, president would not be the one to mobilize the army

  • Explosion of the Maine

    • Few details to the explosion

    • War fever gripped the nation

    • Congress passed through 50 million dollars to funding of the military

    • Public was convinced that the Maine was blown up by a mine

      • In actuality, it was an internal error in the combustion engine

    • Eventually, America recognized Cuba as a sovereign country and Congress declared war on Spain

  • European's threatening American interests in the Caribbean

    • America was afraid Spanish would allow Germany into Cuban ports, thus increasing European influence so near American coasts


5. How was Imperialism a characteristic of the Spanish-American War?
Because both Spain and the United States were fighting over foreign land, the Spanish-American War exemplified imperialism as both were trying to dominate foreign land. The definition of imperialism is the policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force. In this situation, both Spain and United States were trying to extend their power and influence through the Caribbean, and from this, the United States took the opportunity to “imperialize” the Philippines as well.


6. What was the significance of the Spanish-American War internationally?
The international significance of the Spanish-American War, particularly with regards to the United States, was monumental. First of all, this war announced United States imperialism to the world, ironic due to the fact that America was born from thirteen colonies. America became embroiled in the internal affairs of foreign nations, like Cuba and the Philippines, mirrored in current events today. American interference in the Philippines sparked the Filipino war against America, much more bloody than the Spanish-American war. The first time America became tangled in Asian affairs, the Filipino-American War was the precursor, the progenitor, of the later Korean and Vietnam Wars. Additionally, as the power of industrialization was manifested in the war, with the steel ships of the United States destroying the old and battered ships of the Spanish, Americans looked to expand its industrialization to world markets, another characteristic of imperialism.

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Dare to Respond

7. Is American an empire? Explain how or how it is not.

America is certainly an empire. Precisely, an empire is defined to be an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly especially an emperor or empress. Although this definition may not exactly bring to mind America, deeper thinking would recognize America to be an empire with imperialist tendencies. Starting from the Spanish-American War, America sought to align foreign interests with its own. For example, three types of "diplomacies" emerged during the late 1800s and early 1900s: "Big Stick Diplomacy," "Dollar Diplomacy," and "Moral Diplomacy." All three, although coming in different forms ('Big Stick Diplomacy" was political, "Dollar Diplomacy" was economic, and "Moral Diplomacy" was social), were policies trying to coerce foreign nations to cooperate with the United States of America.

Understanding the term "imperialism" thus illustrates America's imperialist nature. Imperialism means a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force. Later, regarding the Cold War, America became an even greater imperialist force. In order to combat Communism, America fought proxy wars in other countries in order to save them from the Domino Effect of Communism. Today, America continues to be an empire. America continues to embroil itself in the affairs of European and Asian countries, exhibiting the definition of imperialism. It can be debated whether the interference of America in foreign countries is a good or and thing, but it can not be debated that America is truly an empire of the modern world.

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Reflective Response Statements

Respond with a single statement to each of the 3 questions below.

8. What does this presentation convey?

This presentation conveys the rise of the United States as an imperial power through the Spanish-American War.

9. What is the historical relevance of this subject?

From the Spanish-American War on, America has become essentially an empire on the world stage, becoming possible the most powerful "empire" in history.


10. Explain the ‘message’ of the episode.

The message of the episode is that although big things may seem to begin the most obscure of times and places, like the United States becoming an empire through the Spanish-American War, they actually are products of a series of happenings and occurrences, like the United States becoming an empire actually through rampant industrialization, and to an extent, industrialization.

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