Digital History>Teachers>Modules> Topic

Learn About the United States Becomes a World Power

At the turn of the 20th century, the United States emerged as a world power. The Spanish American War and the acquisition of the Philippines represented both an extension of earlier expansionist impulses and a sharp departure from assumptions that had guided American foreign policy in the past. For the first time, the United States made a major strategic commitment in the Far East, acquired territory never intended for statehood, and committed itself to police actions and intervention in the Caribbean and Central America.

Not since the Mexican War had the United States expanded so rapidly.  In 1898 and 1899, the United States annexed Hawaii and acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, parts of the Samoan islands, and other Pacific islands.  Expansion raised the fateful question of whether the newly annexed peoples would receive the rights of American citizens.

William McKinley, "The Alternatives in Cuba," 1897
To learn more

Handouts and fact sheets:

Imperialism and the Spanish American War

Recommended lesson plan:

The Birth of the American Empire as Seen Through Political Cartoons (1896-1905) (In PDF format)


Test your knowledge by taking our Spanish-American War quiz

Recommended books:

Thomas G. Paterson, ed., Major Problems in American and Foreign Policy
Documents and essays chronicle the history and analyze the major controversies in American foreign affairs.

Recommended film:

The Spanish American War in Motion Pictures
This Library of Congress website contains 68 motion pictures produced between 1898 and 1901 of the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine Revolution. The films show troops, ships, notable figures, and parades, as well as reenactments of battles and other war-time events. Brief essays provide historical context.
learn more film

Recommended Website:

The World of 1898: The Spanish American War
This Library of Congress site includes valuable information on the history of Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

A War in Perspective: 1898-1998
This Website examines the place of the Spanish American war in public memory.


Copyright Digital History 2018