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Do Now!. Define Imperialism Brainstorm some possible motivations for Imperialism. Why do countries try to acquire new territory? What are some territories the United States has acquired over the years that were not part of the original territory?. American Imperialism. Objectives.

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do now
Do Now!
  • Define Imperialism
  • Brainstorm some possible motivations for Imperialism. Why do countries try to acquire new territory?
  • What are some territories the United States has acquired over the years that were not part of the original territory?


  • Identify the key factors that prodded America to expand.
  • Explain how the United States took its first steps toward increased global power.
  • Summarize the chain of events leading up to the U.S. annexation of Hawaii.

How and why did the United States take a more active role in world affairs?

For most of its early history, the United States played a small role in world affairs. But in the late 1800s, some began calling for the United States to join the ranks of the world’s major powers.

Eventually, the United States abandoned isolationism and began to acquire influence and territories outside its continental borders.


Powerful European nations extended their political, economic, and military influence by adding colonies in Africa and Asia.

  • Meanwhile, the United States and Japan considered the benefits and implemented similar imperialist policies.

The mid-1800s through the early 1900s was an “Age of Imperialism.”


Imperialist nations looked for

economic benefits.

Colonial extractive economies were based on removing raw materials from colonies and taking them back to the home country. European nations and Japan used this strategy.

The United States had raw materials, but not enough of a market to consume all the goods the they produced. American industrialists sought new overseas markets for their manufactured and agricultural products.


In The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, historian Alfred T. Mahan argued that many great nations owed their greatness to naval power.

He urged construction of a fleet of steel ships, acquisition of overseas bases, and construction of a canal across Central America.

The United States eventually followed all of his recommendations.


Imperialists justified their actions based on beliefs about their own racial, national, and cultural superiority.

Social Darwinism was the belief that life consists of competitive struggles in which only the fittest survive. Social Darwinists felt that certain nations and races were superior to others and were therefore destined to rule over the inferior people.

Americans embraced Social Darwinism because they had long believed that God had granted them the right to settle the frontier. They spoke of their “Manifest Destiny.”


Historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the frontier served as a “safety valve,”siphoning off potential discontent in the United States.

Turner’s followers urged overseas expansion as America’s next frontierto avert future discontent in the United States.


In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.

  • Critics mocked “Seward’s Icebox” and “Seward’s Folly” as a far off and useless frozen tundra.
  • But valuable resources, including timber, and oil, were found.
  • Alaska also doubled America’s territory.

In the 1790s, Americans planters established sugar cane plantationsin Hawaii.

    • In 1887, these planters gained control of the governmentfrom King Kalakaua.
    • In 1891 the king died and his sister became Queen Liliuokalani. She resented the power of the white minority and abolished the constitution that had given them political power.
    • In 1893, with the help of U.S. Marines, the Queen was dethroned.
    • In 1897, President McKinley backed annexation when he took office.

In 1898, Congress voted toannex Hawaii.

us takes over hawaii
US Takes overHawaii
  • US minister to Hawaii (John L. Stevens) takes it upon himself to overthrow Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani (li-lee-uh-woh-kuh-LAHN-ee)
    • No permission from congress
    • Hawaii surrenders when marines show up with Gatling guns/cannons (1893)
  • Imperialists and anti-imperialists debate in congress over this
    • What do you think should have been done? Was this fair?
  • 1898—United States Annexes Hawaii (becomes a state in 1959)

The United States expanded overseas after 1850.

Commodore Matthew Perry’s fleet entered Tokyo Bay, persuading Japan to trade with the United States.

Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia.

The United States obtained Midway Islands in the Pacific.

Congress approved the annexation of Hawaii.

The Spanish-American War gave the U.S. control of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.