Causes and Effects of American Imperialism: Economic Drive, Cultural Motives, and Global Power

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America at the turn of the century was booming with new life and new opportunities. With rapid growth of population, big businesses, and consuming added with the pressure of immigration and labor laws the country was at the brink of bursting. It wasn't hard to tell that America was looking to expand its borders. As agriculture and factories improved productivity, they were able to make a greater abundance of products and began to look to expand their markets. But these resourceful reasons were not the only thing that started the expansion. Many people inspired americans to push for an expansion.

One example is Reverend Josiah Strong who preached that it was religious americans duty to spread their gospel to other nations. Other examples are Aggressive Americans such as Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt whose belief in social darwinism led them to believe that since America was the fittest and strongest nation, it deserved the earth. Others in nations across the world believed the same causing Europe in 1880 to explore uncharted Africa and in 1890 many other powerful countries took land from China pressuring the U.S. to keep up (Kennedy & Cohen, 2016).


Imperialism shaped our world today in both positive and negative ways. Some examples of positive impacts are an increase in trade, new technology, educational and medical advancements. America signed Bilateral Economic Treaties which opened doors for trade and involved countries with American business. Some of the countries involved with these treaties were Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, the British West Indies, Mexico, El Salvador, and, Spanish-dominated Puerto Rico.

These countries would export raw goods to the U.S and in return would receive America's Manufactured goods. (Raymer, 2014). Often times America came in to the country bringing with it new technology that changed the society, such as telegraphs and printing presses. Americans set up road and canal systems along with industrial farming methods increasing the amount of product yielded from local workers. Missionaries also entered new american territories, they educated children and set up schooling systems along with giving medical aid and improved local sanitation ( Muscato, 2003). These all, in theory, improved the way of life for the newly annexed.

But in addition to these seemingly positive outcomes there were some extremely negative effects as well. Often times civilizing natives meant forcing a new way of life upon people who had different cultures and beliefs rather than giving them a better life. Natives were often exploited for cheap labor and left to do grueling hard physical labor. They worked long hard hours on fields that were once their own and received little in return. In addition to economic injustices they were also severely discriminated against, as missionaries flocked into the newly annexed land forcing natives into a new religion and to do away with their own cultural beliefs. Congress cared little for the rights of these natives and did little to make sure they were being treated reasonably and fair. Although America was reaping the benefits of their land, the annexed did not get to enjoy the blessings of America.

Impact on America

America reaped multiple benefits from their Imperialistic feats. One main benefit was the economic growth they experienced. As they expanded their markets foreign trade became a key part in economic successes. As of the 1900's America made $1.5 billion in exports and by 1914 10% of all American made products were being shipped overseas (Raymer, 2014).

Countries such as Mexico and Cuba began to rely on America. Mexico during 20th century relied on the U.S. for over half of their oil supply and Cuba relied of U.S. for much of its manufacturing, exporting nearly all of their sugar, a staggering 90% (Raymer, 2014) This gave the U.S. economic power over many countries helping them eventually become a world power. America also with their increase in land was able to establish a more powerful naval and military empire. With newly annexed Hawaii's Pearl Harbor and Cuba's Guantanamo Bay the U.S. had two new ocean access military bases. Americas immense military force not only assisted in our imperial agenda but in our eventual rise becoming a world power as well.


American Imperialism in the 20th century had a broad impact not only on America but on the world. It expanded economies, increased trade, and brought both good and bad results to countries that were annexed but there is no doubt that America left it's footprint on the annexed. The imperialistic views of America and their ability to effect the land around them through trade and military power set the stage for america to become the world power it is today.

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Causes and Effects of American Imperialism: Economic Drive, Cultural Motives, and Global Power. (2019, Apr 15). Retrieved May 18, 2024 , from

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