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American Imperialism: Negative and Positive Sides


American imperialism may be defined as the tendency by which the people who have powers or are known to be influential on people or the nations that are believed to be strong either politically or economically take advantage of the weaker nations or the people. They will always want to use their influence to control the weaker parties in the pretense that they are there to help them (DeLay, 2007). The United States has been known to use imperialism from the time of the American revolution and wants to control all the other nations as they feel superior to them.

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Reasons for Developments, Rationalization, and Major Events

The Monroe Doctrine Policy document which was formulated in 1823 influenced all the events that happened in the United States in the 19th century and the years later. The document stated that the United States had the intention of controlling the Western Hemisphere. It, therefore, warned the European nations from expressing their interest in the controlling of the developing country in the region. Since United States was young and did not have the authority to forcefully follow the stipulated policies in the doctrine, they used the doctrine to rationalize the American military forces being sent to Mexico in the year 1966 and the year 1967; they bought Alaska. The United States also had the advantage of the rapidly growing economy hence they needed new markets for the excess products that they were producing.

Apart from the growing economy, there was the need to expand their political powers. This was facilitated by the war between the Americans and the Spanish since the Americans condemned how Spanish took advantage of the Cuban and the way they mistreated them. The war started when a ship exploded in Havana killing 266 people and the Americans were convinced that the Spanish were responsible for that. After four months of war, there was an agreement that was signed in Paris that led to Spanish losing Cuba to the United States and that the Americans were also in a position to take control over Guam, Puerto Rico and also the Philippians (DeLay, 2007). After this, the Americans were advantaged since the Spanish were no longer in foreign issues and were interested in internal affairs. The Americans on the other hand gained power and were able to expand their territories. America also became famous and was thought by many as the most powerful nation in the World.

The Americans also knew that they would economically gain if they managed to control the weaker nations as they would make them the markets for their excess products. They also knew that they would be able to acquire cheap or free labor from the nations that would be in their control thus they would maximize their benefits (Creighton, 2002). They also made their way out since they were able to market their products at reduced prices as there were no labor costs. The nations which they controlled also provided law materials which the Americans accessed without restrictions thus they would manufacture many products which they would then sell to the countries as finished products.

The other reason was the nationalism where there was the need to maintain the borders as well as conquer other nations to expand their boundaries. The other reason was for the religious reasons where the American missionaries wanted all the other nations adopt their religious beliefs as they thought them to be better than the rest. They wanted to spread Christianity to the rest of the world thus controlling the whole World in religious matters.

Critiques argue that imperialism was also a major contributor to racism. It encouraged the use of cheap labor which in most cases was offered by the minority groups as well as the poor people. The minority groups especially the African Americans were thought to be adapted to working due to the nature of their color. They were enslaved and were viewed to be inferior to the Native Americans. The other cultural impact is that they wanted the people from all over the world to adapt to their way of living and their traditions as they believed them to be superior practices.

Criticisms on the Americans Imperialisms

Imperialism is not all viewed in the positive view as it led to colonization through Americans’ military agendas of the taking of lands by force and taking control of the inhabitants of the place. This is viewed as dehumanizing of people and it leads to making the colonized lose their dignity as people (Creighton, 2002). The other factor is that they felt that they were the only group that was enlightened in matters of religion and thus they wanted all the other groups to follow their religious views. They failed to respect the views of the other people from other parts of the world.

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American imperialism left an impact in the many years that were to come up to this day. American culture was still viewed to be superior up to this day and thus their products are still considered to be the best and of high quality. The other aspect is that it highly contributed to globalization in the process of the Americans trying to get new markets for their finished products. It is still considered to be one of the great powers in the World and considered to be the most powerful in political and economic terms.


In conclusion, American imperialism had negative and positive sides both to the Americans and to the rest of the world. It led to both political and geographical expansion to this day and made the United States what it is to this day as it was able to take the opportunities to develop politically and economically more than the other great powers.


  1. Creighton, M.S (2002), Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903, Yale: Yale University Press.
  2. DeLay, B., Heyrman, C., Lytle, M & Davidson, Stoff, M. (2007). Nations of Nations. Oxford:McGraw-Hill Humanities Social.

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