Dissecting the Origins: Causes of the Spanish-American War

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Updated: Nov 24, 2023
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The Spanish-American War, a critical confrontation that occurred at the onset of the 20th century, represented a momentous juncture in the histories of the United States and Spain. From April to August 1898, this brief yet consequential conflict reformed the international political arena, culminating in the dissolution of Spain’s colonial empire and the ascendance of the United States as a major world power. Gaining insight into the origins of the Spanish-American War necessitates an exhaustive examination of the convergence of geopolitical, economic, and socio-cultural elements that occurred during this era.

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This essay explores the fundamental factors that precipitated this momentous conflict.

On February 15, 1898, the detonation of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor served as an immediate impetus for the Spanish-American War. Destroyed by an explosion, the Maine, which had been dispatched to Cuba to defend American interests amid the Cuban uprising against Spanish authority, tragically lost 260 American mariners. Despite the lack of a definitive cause for the detonation, sensationalist journalism in the United States, spearheaded by publishers such as William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, capitalized on the situation to incite public indignation against Spain and promote intervention. The aforementioned strategy, commonly referred to as “yellow journalism,” was instrumental in influencing the Americanism that supported war.

In addition to this immediate catalyst, the origins of the conflict can be linked to the United States’ burgeoning imperialistic aspirations and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which asserted that expansion beyond the North American continent was predetermined for the United States. This expansionist ideology had transformed into a yearning for overseas territories by the late 19th century. The Cuban conflict presented the United States with a strategic opening to consolidate its power in the region and achieve its imperialistic goals.

Furthermore, the waning Spanish empire and its repressive colonial policies in Cuba were substantial contributors. Commencing in 1895, the Cuban independence war was characterized by its harsh nature and inspired considerable American empathy, especially among those who perceived Cuba’s struggle to be comparable to the American independence movement. The American public’s sentiments were further inflamed by yellow journalism’s frequent exaggerations of Spanish atrocities in Cuba, which prompted calls for intervention on humanitarian grounds.

Additionally, economic interests were a major factor in the outbreak of conflict. The Cuban sugar, tobacco, and other sectors in which American corporations had substantial investments were imperiled by the ongoing conflict between Spain and Cuban revolutionaries. The U.S. government and business leaders developed a substantial interest in ensuring the stability and security of these investments, perceiving intervention as a strategy to defend American economic interests.

Aside from these additional considerations, the global context of the period cannot be disregarded. Major European imperial powers, including Britain, France, and Germany, established colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific during the late 19th century. In its pursuit of global prominence, the United States perceived the Spanish-American War as an opportunity to assert its influence and join the ranks of these colonial powers.

In summary, the Spanish-American War emerged from an intricate interplay of various elements, encompassing sensationalist journalism, American ambitions for expansion, humanitarian apprehensions regarding Spanish colonial practices, economic interests in Cuba, and the wider framework of imperialism on a global scale. This conflict not only brought an end to Spanish colonial control in the Americas, but also established the foundation for the geopolitical and commercial dominion of the United States in the 20th century and ushered in its emergence as a global power. Gaining an understanding of these causes yields crucial insights into the early twentieth century American foreign policy and imperialism.

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Dissecting the Origins: Causes of the Spanish-American War. (2023, Nov 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/dissecting-the-origins-causes-of-the-spanish-american-war/