The following notes will help you prepare for questions about Imperialism on the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • As the 19th century came to a close, an attitude grew in the U.S. that it should build an empire that would allow it to compete with those of European powers. This imperialism was also an outgrowth of the expansionist attitudes of the mid to late 19th century. During this time, the United States purchased Alaska and added Hawaii by overthrowing its government.

  • In 1898, the U.S. declared war on Spain, citing the desire to help liberate Cuba from oppressive Spanish rule. There was also a desire on the part of many Americans to potentially take control of Cuba. This did not occur, despite the U.S. victory, although the U.S. did take control of the Philippines and added Guam and Puerto Rico as territories.

anti-imperialism : opposition to expansion by imperialism; arguments tended to center around fears of bringing more races to the U.S. and increasing immigration

Bayonet Constitution : white planters forced rule on Hawaii, taking over the kingdom's politics and economy

jingoism : patriotism displayed through aggressive or belligerent foreign policy

Panama Canal : canal built by U.S. to create a faster route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

Platt Amendment : gave the U.S. the authority to intervene in Cuban affairs

Roosevelt Corollary : extension of Monroe Doctrine; states the U.S. has the right to use military force to protect its interests in Latin America

Rough Riders : volunteers soldiers led by Teddy Roosevelt in Spanish-American War; known for charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba

Seward's Folly : William Seward's purchase of Alaska; criticized by many as being a waste of money due to Alaska being a "barren wasteland"

USS Maine : American ship that exploded in Havana Harbor; yellow journalism blamed Spain; used a incentive to declare war on Spain

yellow journalism : journalism designed to sell newspapers or magazine through sensationalism rather than neutral reporting


Queen Liliuokalani : the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii; kept prisoner in her castle and forced out of rule when the Hawaiian government was overthrown by the U.S., which saw value in Hawaii for the sugar fields and it's strategic location in the Pacific

Sanford Dole : American plantation owner in Hawaii; led overthrow of Hawaiian government and became first governor of Hawaii

Theodore Roosevelt : assistant secretary of Navy who resigned to form the Rough Riders

William Seward : Secretary of State; firm believer in expansion of the U.S. and responsible for the purchase of Alaska

Related Links:
World War I Era Quiz
AP US History Quizzes
AP US History Notes
Imperialism: c. 1750 - c. 1900
State Development: c. 1750 - c. 1900
Restructuring of States: c. 1900 - Present
Global Conflicts: c. 1900 - Present
Jeffersonian and Jacksonian America
Progressive Era