The 20th Century Project Wiki

An artistic depiction of the Battle of Las Guasimas, the opening battle of the Cuban campaign in the Spanish-American War.

Beginnings of the Spanish-American War

The reason that the U.S. declared war on Spain and their territories was to keep the expansionist idea of “Manifest Destiny” alive from the 1840s. The idea of the U.S. trying to spread its superior civilization was what drove the reasons for going to war. The United States declared war on Spain in the late 1890s and invaded the nations of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. (1898) America helped Cuban rebels fight off and defeat the Spanish troops occupying the island and returned the rebels’ lands to their rightful owners. The United States had promised Filipinos, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans independence when they defeated their Spanish oppressors, but this is not what happened. Cuba became independent eventually, but the Philippines and Puerto Rico became new colonies of the United States. These colonies “laid the foundations for a revised model of U.S. expansionism. The Americans preferred to turn these regimes into dependent client states, rather than making them part of the United States, itself” (p. 656).

Cultural Implications[]

A new art that emerged during the time period, called Orientalism, “portrayed non-western peoples as exotic, sensuous, and economically backward with respect to Europeans. Imperialism gave new legitimacy to ideas of European and American racial superiority, and such ideas made imperialism seem natural and just” (p. 657). New Age Imperialism and European cultural responses to it gave what was taking place in the world a new justification to what Europeans were doing to smaller nations. Europeans also did their best to learn and explore indigenous people’s cultures and languages because they didn’t think the indigenous people could properly know and communicate their own culture.


  1. Tignor, Robert. Global Expansionism and an Age of Imperialism. Vol. 2, in Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World From 1000 CE to the Present, by Robert Tignor & Others, 656-58. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.
  2. Unknown Artist. The Battle of Las Guasimas. Library of Congress, Washington.