Chronology: America and the World 1776 – 1939

By Marcel Stoessel



1754 – 1763

French and Indian War.

Last of four North American wars waged from 1689 to 1763 between the British and the French, with their respective Native American and colonial allies, for domination in the New World. Britain's eventual victory stripped France of its North American empire, thus concluding the series of conflicts, which were known collectively as the French and Indian Wars. Colonial rivalry had gradually developed between France and Great Britain over lucrative fur-trading posts and land west of the Appalachian Mountains and over fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland. By resisting British expansion westward, France was in hopes of uniting, through a chain of forts, its Canadian empire with possessions as far south as New Orleans.

à Treaty of Paris

1756 – 1763

Seven Years’ War in Europe.


Treaty of Paris.

Elimination of French power from North America. France cedes Canada, the Ohio valley and all territories east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. In compensation for the territories west of the Mississippi given by France to Spain a year earlier in a secret treaty, Spain had to give Florida to the British. Spain received Louisiana as compensation from the French. The British were weakened during the war, sent a standing army to America and started to impose additional taxes on Americans, e.g. Stamp Act.


“Boston Tea Party”.


First Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

American inter-colonial assemblage of delegates, which evolved into the de facto revolutionary government that directed the war for independence. Petition to King George III.

1775/04 – 1783

American War of Independence.

Insurrection by which 13 of Great Britain's North American colonies won political independence and went on to form the United States of America. The conflict began as a civil war within the British Empire over colonial affairs, but, with America being joined by France in 1778 (navy and ammunition, alliance); Spain in 1779 (more lukewarm), and the Netherlands in 1780, it became an international war. On land the Americans assembled both state militias and the Continental Army of George Washington. The Americans and their allies won this “war of attrition” that is sometimes compared to the Vietnam War.

à Treaty of Paris 1783


Second Continental Congress.

When the Second Continental Congress convened, the first clashes between Massachusetts militia and British troops had already taken place, and militiamen were besieging the British occupying force within Boston. The delegates, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, were elected in part by colonial assemblies and in part by the provincial congresses that had sprung up to replace those rebellious legislatures dissolved by royal governors. Congress assumed some executive duties that had previously been exercised by the king. BF proposed the “Articles of Confederation” that would give Congress full power to make war and peace. The Congress commissioned Washington to organize a continental army and assume responsibility for the siege of Boston. In August the British monarch had issued a proclamation "for suppressing rebellion and sedition" in the colonies and in September had hired 20,000 Hessian mercenaries to be sent to America.


Paine. Common Sense.

Puts independence on the agenda. Opposing further petitions to the king, urging construction of a navy and the immediate formation of a confederation, emphasizing the need for foreign assistance, and calling for the opening of American ports to the rest of the world.


American Declaration of Independence.

Continental Congress. July 4th, 1776, announced the separation of 13 North American British colonies from Great Britain. Largely written by Thomas Jefferson. Nothing new in terms of political philosophy, which was derived from John Locke, Algernon Sidney, and other English theorists.

The Declaration of Independence has also been a source of inspiration outside the United States. It encouraged Antonio de Nariño and Francisco de Miranda to strive toward overthrowing the Spanish empire in South America, and it was quoted with enthusiasm by the Marquis de Mirabeau during the French Revolution.

1777 – 1787

Articles of Confederation.

First US constitution. Extremely loose state union: no standing army or navy, no executive, no power to control commerce. “Executive” power lied with the Continental Congress until 1789. A lot of power to individual states. Chaotic situation appreciated by F, GB, Sp. Ratified by all 13 states by 1781.


French Alliance.

During a mission of Benjamin Franklin to Paris in 1775, he successfully played on British-French colonial rivalries and gained France’s support in the American War of Independence (navy, ammunition). America would not aid the British in a Franco-British conflict. Prohibition of any peace without French consent.

1780 – 1781

Spain captures West Florida.


British surrender at Yorktown.

Last major action of the American revolution. Precipitated serious peace negotiations.

1781 – 1824

Federalist Party.

Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, George Washington. Platform: stronger national government.


Treaty of Paris.

End of US war of independence. British recognition of US independence; boundaries until the Mississippi river, gives Florida back to Spain, but retains Canada. Access to some Newfoundland fisheries was guaranteed to Americans, and navigation of the Mississippi was to be open to both Great Britain and the United States.


John Adams negotiates trade deal in London.


Department of Foreign Affairs created.

John Jay first Secretary of State.


Shay’s Rebellion.

Uprising in Massachusetts caused by excessive land taxation, high legal cost, and economic depression. Made clear that the existing Articles of Confederation were not an effective means of governing.


Northwest Ordinances.

Once a territory has more than 60’000 settlers, it can apply for statehood within the US According to Jefferson, this was the beginning of an “Empire of Liberty”.


Continental Congress.

Agreement on Federal Constitution. Compromise between strong states (governors, own legislation) and a strong federal government (President à foreign policy, Congress with two chambers). Standing army and navy. Supreme Court. Checks and Balances.


American Constitution into force.

George Washington (F) takes oath of office as 1st President of the United States.

1793 – 1815

France at War with Europe.

Both sides violate maritime rights of neutral powers. Total of 1’500 American ships seized.


Declaration of US neutrality regarding war in Europe.


Jay’s Treaty USA – GB.

Evacuate all British outposts in the North-West not yet evacuated after 1783. American neutrality during French revolution. Compensation for illegal seizure of ships. Various trading concessions to GB: US accepts British naval supremacy in exchange for the protection of American shipping. The treaty didn’t resolve the dispute over American trade with the British West Indies. American ships delivering goods to France were still blocked. Big resistance against treaty from domestic and foreign (France) sources. President signs the treaty in August 1795.


Pinckney’s Treaty USA – Spain.

Guarantee of Southeastern boundary with Florida and Western boundary = Mississippi. Mississippi = freely usable trade route for both parties (important access to the Caribbean). Spanish agree to stop arming Native Americans in the Southwest.

1795 – 1828

Democratic-Republican Party.

Splitter group of Federalist Party, who lost the support of James Madison. Together with Thomas Jefferson, he founded the Democratic-Republican Party, a forerunner to the Democratic Party. Platform: Rights of states, agricultural interests, support of the legitimacy of the French revolution. In opposition to Alexander Hamilton.


Farewell address of George Washington.

Isolationist principle of non-entanglement in European affairs.


John Adams (F) inaugurated as 2nd President of the United States.

Led an “undeclared war” against France.


Thomas Jefferson (R-D) elected 3rd President.

Federalist’s loose power to the Republican-Democratic (later Democratic) party. Jefferson called his election the “Revolution of 1800” because his vision of extensive, decentralized development could now be realized.


Spain cedes Louisiana to France.

Secret treaty forced by French emperor Napoleon I.

1802 – 03

Slavery revolt in French Haiti.


Louisiana Purchase.

Vast region between Mississippi and Rocky Mountains purchased from France for around $15 mio (+ $12 mio interest later). Doubled the size of the United States. Napoleon needed money for his European war.

1804 – 1805

Lewis and Clark Expedition to find a route to the Pacific.


Battle of Trafalgar

British naval supremacy confirmed.

Battle of Austerlitz

Political and military supremacy of Napoleon in Europe.

1806 – 1807

Pike expedition into Spanish territory


Napoleon enacts “Continental System”.

British Isles in blockade. Prohibition of all trade with GB.


GB reacts to Continental System.

All trade with France and its allies prohibited, also for neutrals. Enforcement of these prohibitions against American ships was one of the reasons for the War of 1812. Very disturbing to the USA was the practise of impressments, where sailors on US ships and ports were captured and used on British ships.


“Chesapeake Affair”.

British fired on the USS Chesapeake in American territorial waters and removed – and later executed – four crewmen.


US Embargo Act.

Law that prohibited United States vessels from trading with European nations during the Napoleonic Wars. Primarily targeted the British.


Napoleon invades Iberian Peninsula.

Revolutions against Spain in Latin America started.


Non-Intercourse Act.

Law that prohibited United States vessels from trading with GB or F. Favoured British more than French.


James Madison (R-D) 4th President of the United States.

Sought to get Canada in war of 1812.


Embargo only applied to GB.

F changed policy towards US


American settlers occupy West Florida.

1812 – 1815

War of 1812 (“Second War of Independence”)

Conflict between the United States and Great Britain fought over the maritime rights of neutrals (Impressments, British depredations against American commerce; British monopoly on commerce and navigation; British encouragement of native Americans). It ended inconclusively. US Declaration of War after GB refused to lift the trade measures. US invasion of Canada (before: a lot of domestic pressure from “War Hawks” to annex Canada). British take over Washington, D.C. Nation not united (Southerners would have preferred annexation of Florida). à Treaty of Ghent


Treaty of Ghent.

Status quo ante bellum: No border changes. US didn’t capture Canada (rise of Canadian nationalism), but Native American resistance in Southwest and Northwest was broken. Failed to secure US maritime rights (no mention of impressments) from GB, but they were not threatened in the century to come. Sort of Anglo-American cooperation for the first time.


“Quadruple Alliance” Au, Pr, R, GB

Goal: Maintainance of status quo.


Congress of Vienna.

European conference called to re-establish the territorial divisions of Europe at the end of the Napoleonic Wars after the downfall of Napoleon. Created a durable peace system based on legitimacy of monarchies.


Holy Alliance Au, Pr, R.

Loose organization of European sovereigns who agreed to advance the principles of the Christian faith. The alliance was proclaimed at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) and eventually all European rulers signed the treaty, except GB and Turkey. Symbol of absolutist policies. Conservative club against revolutions à also against the revolution in Latin America?


American Colonization Society founded in Liberia.

Foundation of Liberia by freed slaves in 1822; 1847 independent Republic with a Constitution according to the American model. US major influence in Liberia (Financial supervision from 1912). Towards the end of the century, France and Great Britain also become interested in Liberia.


James Monroe (R-D) 5th President of the United States.

Acquired Florida; adopted Monroe Doctrine.

1817 – 1819

Seminole War.

General Andrew Jackson sent to fight against Seminoles and the Spanish in Florida. Seminoles allied with some escaped slaves. Jackson successful.


France joins European concert.

1818 – 1846

Joint US-British occupation of Oregon.

“Convention of 1818” also gave Americans liberty to fish in Newfoundland.


Adams – Onis Treaty.

Spain ceded East Florida to the US; US renounced to financial claims. Spanish possession of Texas confirmed. The treaty is the work of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. US took formal possession of Florida in 1821.


Missouri Compromise.

In 1819, Missouri applied for statehood as a slave state. Missouri = slave state, but all other territories north 36th parallel = free soil. Create new state of Maine = free state.


Panama Congress.

Bolivar wants to create a Pan-American Confederation against Spain.


Mexican independence.


Brazil becomes an independent monarchy under a Portuguese prince.


US starts recognizing Latin American states as independent.

Key justification: Monroe Doctrine.


Monroe Doctrine formulated.

Statement of United States policy by President James Monroe on the activities and rights of European powers in the western hemisphere. It eventually became one of the foundations of US policy in Latin America. Its increasing use and popularity elevated the declaration to a principle, specifically termed the Monroe Doctrine after the mid-1840s.

1) Non-colonization: European powers could no longer colonize the American continents and that they should not interfere with the newly independent Spanish American republics (& warning to Russia). 2) The United States would not interfere in existing European colonies or in Europe itself. However, colonies in the Western hemisphere could not be transferred from one European power to another; only to the United States. 3) Rejection of the European political system of Monarchy. Republics are recognized by the US

Monroe provided no means to ensure the enforcement of his ideas. The United States alone would not have been able to uphold this policy, but Monroe knew that Great Britain, with its powerful navy, also opposed European intervention in Spain's struggle to restore its colonies (and also opposed, after 1821, Russia’s ambitions to extend their influence beyond Alaska).

1824 – 1845

“Trail of Tears”.

100’000 Indians deported from Old Northwest and Southwest to reservations in Oklahoma and Missouri. About 1/3 died en route.


Except Cuba and Puerto Rico, all former Spanish colonies in Latin America independent.


John Quincy Adams (D-R) 6th President of the United States.


National Republican Party founded.

Split of Jeffersonian Republicans (D-R) into:
- Followers of Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams àNational Republicans (1834: “Whig Party”)
- Followers of Andrew Jackson à Democratic Republicans (1828: “Democrats”)


Democratic Party founded.

Former Democratic Republicans. Partisans of President Andrew Jackson. Platform: More rights for states, interests of the agrarian South.


Mexico abolishes slavery.


Andrew Jackson (D) 7th President of the United States.

First Westerner to be elected. Jeffersonian Republican.


Indian Removal Act.

Authorized the president to grant Indian tribes unsettled western prairie land in exchange for their desirable territories within state borders (especially in the Southeast), from which the tribes would be removed. Although the bill provided only for the negotiation with tribes east of the Mississippi on the basis of payment for their lands, trouble arose when the United States resorted to force to gain the Indians’ compliance with its demand that they accept the land exchange and move west.

A number of northern tribes were peacefully resettled in western lands. The problem lay in the Southeast, where members of what were known as the Five Civilized Tribes (Chickasaw [1832], Choctaw [1830], Seminole [1832-1842], Cherokee [1835], and Creek [1832]) refused to trade in their cultivated farms. Many of these Indians had homes, representative government, children in missionary schools, and trades other than farming. Some 100,000 tribesmen were forced to march westward under US military coercion in the 1830s; up to 25 percent of the Indians, many in manacles, perished en route. By 1835, most of the Native Americans were moved to reservations west of the Mississippi.

1831 – 1832

Black Hawk’s War.

The effort of the Sac (or Sauk) and Fox to return to their homeland in early 1832 resulted in the Black Hawk War in the North, which ended with the Bad Axe Massacre, in which most of the remaining Native Americans were killed as they tried to cross the Mississippi River into Iowa.


Anti-Slavery Society founded.

Small followship.

1834 – 1854

“Whig Party” founded.

Absorbed National Republican party. Adversaries of the Democrats. Joined the Republican Party in 1854.

1835 – 1836

Texas Revolution.

Rebellion residents of Texas under Samuel Houston, then a part of northern Mexico, against the Mexican government and military. Led to the establishment of the Republic of Texas.

1836 – 1845

Texas (Texas, California, New Mexico) nominally independent.

Texans defeated Mexicans. 9 years of negotiations over accession into US because of the contentious issue of slavery.


Caroline affair.

British troops crossed into US territory fighting Canadian rebels.

1839 – 1842

Opium War.


Treaty of Nanjing.

Britain forced China to open five ports. MFN for Americans.


President Tyler warns GB & F against annexation of Hawaii.


Webster-Ashburton Treaty moves Maine boundary north.


Senate votes against annexation of Texas.


Annexation of Texas approved.

Slave state.


James Polk (D) 11th President of the United States.

Settled the Oregon question with GB; unfolded the Mexican-American War through the acceptance of Texas into the Union, but refrained from subjecting the whole of Mexico.


Florida gains statehood.

Slave state.


O’Sullivan: “Manifest Destiny”.

United States Magazine and Democratic Review: "the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence“ … “Our country is to be the great nation of the future” – the supposed inevitability and even divine destiny of the continued territorial expansion of US boundaries westward to the Pacific, and even beyond. The idea of MD was often used by American expansionists to justify annexation of Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, and California and later US involvement in Alaska, Hawaii, and the Philippines.


President Polk claims all of Oregon

In the name of Manifest Destiny.

1846 – 1848

Mexican War.

Inability of Mexican government to control Northern border. Expansionism: American settlers in Texas. Reasons for war: Mexican anger about American annexation of Texas; dispute on where Texas ends and Mexico begins (US claim: Rio Grande). Break of diplomatic relations. US troops under Zachary Tailor crossed the Rio Grande; captured Mexico City. US victory and forces Mexico to relinquish all claims to approximately half its national territory (including Arizona, New Mexico and California à $15 mio.); confirmed the annexation of Texas. President Polk didn’t subject the whole of Mexico, but Mexico’s territorial losses signified the end of any likelihood that Mexico, rather than the United States, would become the predominant power in North America.


Split-up of Oregon along the 49th parallel.

North: to GB. South: to USA: free state. President Polk wanted to avoid a war on two fronts.


Wisconsin admitted as free state; Illinois forbids slavery.

Balance more towards free states.


President Polk contemplates purchasing Cuba.


US transit right across the Isthmus of Panama.

Treaty with New Grenada (later Columbia) in 1846.

1848 – 1854

Free Soil Party.

Minor but influential political party in the pre-Civil War period that opposed the extension of slavery into the western territories.


Compromise of 1850.

Main author: Henry Clay; dealt chiefly with the question of whether slavery was to be sanctioned or prohibited in the regions acquired from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War.
D.C. = abolition of slave trade. California = free state.
Fugitive Slave Law of 1850: return of runaway slaves to their masters. (Only partly enforced later)
The territory east of California ceded to the United States by Mexico was divided into the territories of New Mexico and Utah, and they were opened to settlement by both slaveholders and antislavery settlers (whoever gets there first). This measure superseded the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Texas got 10 mio $.


Small piece of territory purchased from Mexico.


Stowe. Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Abolitionist literature.


Commodore Perry delivers his message to Japan.

Demands: Trade; help for shipwrecked Americans; coaling stations.


Foundation of the Republican Party.

Composed of a coalition of former members of the Whig, Free-Soil, and anti-foreign Know-Nothing parties, along with Northern Democrats who were dissatisfied with their party’s conciliatory attitude on the slavery issue. Ideology of free soil.


Treaty of Kanagawa.

2nd mission of Perry. Two relatively unimportant ports opened. Step towards US Empire in the Pacific.


Kansas-Nebraska Act.

US law authorizing the creation of Kansas and Nebraska, west of the states of Missouri and Iowa and divided by the 40th parallel. It repealed a provision of the Missouri Compromise (1820) that had prohibited slavery in the territories north of 36° 30', and stipulated that the inhabitants of the territories should decide for themselves the legality of slaveholding (popular sovereignty). The passage of the act caused a realignment of the major US political parties and greatly increased tension between North and South. Consequence: Kansas flooded by pro- and anti-slavery inhabitants à fighting, near civil war at the end of 1850’s.


Railroad across Panama.


Ten new treaty ports in China.

1858 – 1861

Civil War in Mexico.

Between conservatives (supported by Spain) and liberals (Juarez). Mexico stops paying foreign debt, which leads to French intervention.


Kansas applies for slave statehood.

Congress sends application back; charges of fraud.


Abraham Lincoln (R) elected 16th President of the United States.

The leader of the free soil ideology wins only with votes from the North and the West.


South Carolina secedes.

Reaction to Lincoln’s election.


Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.


Beginning of the Civil War.

North invades South, destroys cities. Embargo against Southern export ports. Until 1862, the war goes rather badly for the North. But the North has advantages in population, industry, and wealth, the South only in cotton. Cotton turned out not to be king: GB, declaring itself neutral, looking for alternative cotton sources; F avoided entanglement because of its Mexican ambitions.


Trent affair.

British and French diplomat captured on ship. Brought GB and USA near war.


Congress authorizes trans-continental railroad.

Union Pacific & Central Pacific.


Emancipation Proclamation.

All slaves in Confederation declared free. War act of Lincoln destined to cause chaos. Lincoln didn’t become an abolitionist.


Napoleon III. conquers Mexico City.

Proclamation of a Mexican monarchy under Austrian archduke Maximilian. Worked against Confederacy.


Abraham Lincoln re-elected.

No doubt about who wins Civil War.


Abraham Lincoln assassinated.

Murdered by a pro-South actor.


End of the Civil War.

Last Confederate army (Lee) surrendered. 600’000+ dead; 20 bio US $ of expenditures and destroyed property. Continued discrimination against Blacks in the South and the North. Victory of Republican principles. Intensive economic development over the next decades.


Slavery abolished in the 13th Constitutional Amendment.


French occupation of Mexico ends.

Another Civil War. US tell F: Partez, s.v.p. (Navy emphasizes that wish by its presence). Maximilian shot by Juarez’ troops. Application of MD.


Purchase of Alaska from Russia.

Price: 7 mio US $ (& army and navy expenses, etc.). Reasons: too expensive to administer a North-American colony for the Russians; avoiding a conflict with GB. After the House of Representatives first refuses the credit, Secretary of State William H. Seward pursued a vigorous campaign that involved a lot of symbolism (American flags all over Alaska), so that finally, the House approved the purchase. Alaska was to be the only major addition to US territory for the next three decades.


Dominion of Canada created.


Purchase of Midway Islands.

1868 – 1878

Creole-led rebellion on Cuba.

Ended with the abolition of slavery.


Opening of the Pacific Railroad.


Purchase of Dominican Republic disapproved.

Defeat for President Ulysses S. Grant.


Darwin. The Decent of Man.

Critics took this work as justification for imperialism.


Reciprocity Treaty USA – Hawaii


US naval station on Samoa.


Restrictions on Chinese immigration to the United States.

Sinophobia on the West Coast.


Canal treaty with Nicaragua.


Strong. Our Country. Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis.

The Anglo-Saxon is the source of two great ideas: civil liberty and pure spiritual Christianity. Will and must spread all over the world: “final competition of races”. Reference to Darwin. Expression of New Manifest Destiny.


Railroad network links all the West with the rest of the US.


Dawes Act.

Converted communally owned Native American reservation lands into individually owned parcels, destroying notion of tribes. Excess acreage was sold to white settlers. Speculators bought a lot of land. By 1914, 1/3 of land that was part of a reservation in 1890 was owned by Whites. Enactment contributed to the further decline of tribal populations, traditions, and well-being.


Tri-partite protectorate over Samoa.

United States, Great Britain, Germany.

1889 - 90

Pan-American Conference.

US invited all Latin American countries. Western Hemispheric statement: trade. Pan-Americanism actively pursued by US. Critics: Americans determine to dominate Western Hemisphere.


Mahan. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.

American naval officer and historian. GB is so powerful because of its navy. Comprehensive exposition of naval strategy. The US needs at least some sort of naval bases in the rest of the world.


Massacre of “Wounded Knee”.

Military campaigns against the Sioux, Nez Percé, and the Utes in the 1870s and against the Apache in the 1880s, culminating in this massacre.


Turner. The Significance of the Frontier in American History.

The historian claims that American society has been mainly shaped by the Western frontier rather than European influence, and that the frontier had played a large part in the creation of American democracy. Now that the land frontier has been reached (1890), the USA must expand more if it doesn’t want to loose its place and its Manifest Destiny. Turner greatly influenced interpretation of US history.


Kingdom of Hawaii overthrown.

American protectorate.

1894 – 1895

Sino-Japanese War.

China lost control over Korea and Manchuria. US began to see China as a New Africa, where foreign powers will scramble for territory.

1895 – 1898

Cuban revolt.

Under the leadership of Jose Marti. Failure of the Spanish government to institute promised reforms. Spain sent 100’000 – 200’000 troops to quell the rebellion and to protect the loyalists. In order to separate rebel groups from loyalists and neutrals, large numbers of loyalists were moved into concentration camps (reconcentrado). This Spanish “pacification policy” provided additional arguments (diffused through the yellow press) for US intervention.


“Twenty-inch gun” against Venezuela.

Aggressive note demanding that Britain, in conformity with the MD, arbitrate the controversy over the Venezuela-British Guiana border to avoid war and asserting the sovereignty of the United States in the Western Hemisphere. Final boundary set in October 1899.


William McKinley (R) 27th President of the United States.

Imperialist, but was opposed to go to war over Cuba, but took no steps to avoid it due to popular sentiment.


USS Maine sunk in Havana.

266 sailors died. Cause: Probably an internal technical failure. But the yellow press condemned the sinking as a Spanish provocation. “Remember the Maine”. Intense US-Spanish negotiations afterwards, with the Spanish unwilling to grant independence to Cuba.


Ultimatum to Spain to end the repression in Cuba within four weeks.


Spanish-American War.

Actual hostilities lasted less than four months, from April (Declaration of War) to August. In the words of Secretary of State John Hay, it was a “splendid little war”. Most of the fighting occurred in or near the Spanish colonial possessions of Cuba and the Philippines, nearly halfway around the world from each other. In both theatres the decisive military event was the complete destruction of a Spanish naval squadron by a vastly superior US fleet. These victories left the Spanish land forces isolated from their homeland and, after brief resistance, brought about their surrender to US military forces. In Cuba, a number of volunteers (e.g. the “Rough Riders” under Theodore Roosevelt à battle of San Juan Hill) completed the numerically inferior land force. Reasons for the war: the Cuban struggle for independence (liberate Cubans from imperial domination; support for independence fighter Jose Marti from US non-governmental sources), American imperialism (MD, yellow press), cheap access to sugar, and the sinking of the US warship Maine. The defeat marked the end of Spain’s colonial empire and the rise of the United States as a global military power.


Hawaii annexed.


Anti-Imperialist League organized.

Denouncing the thesis that greatness lay in colonies. Debate especially about the future of the Philippines. Followers: Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, labour leader Samuel Gompers, writer Mark Twain.


Treaty of Paris.

Spanish withdrawal from Cuba, leaving the island under temporary US occupation (de facto protectorate). Spain was to retain liability for the Cuban debt. The United States did not push for the annexation of Cuba because the Teller Amendment, passed when the US Congress declared war, prevented the United States from taking over Cuba. Puerto Rico (no citizens, no representation in Congress, unincorporated territory, “floating reservation”), Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain to the United States, which in turn paid Spain $20 million. In December 1898 the United States announced the establishment of US military rule in the Philippines.

1899/02 – 1901

Filipino insurrection.

Filipinos under Emilio Aguinaldo demanding the promised independence against American forces. The US was against independence due to economic, naval and imperialistic (GB, D, J would replace the US) interests. More costly for American forces than Spanish-American war (7’000-8’000 casualties including disease). One of the ugliest wars in American history (reconcentration camps). In 1902, the US controlled the Philippines and as such became a colonial power. Governor: Arthur Mac Arthur. à Raises questions about the basic principles of US foreign policy, the US Constitution and democracy.


Secretary of State John Hay delivers 1st set of Open Door Notes to the powers with interests in China.

Demand: equal access to China market; “protecting” China from external abuse. Support of GB.


USA has 7th largest navy in the world.

Its economy surpassed that of Great Britain and Germany.

1900 – 1914

Immigration from Europe to the US: 13 mio.


Boxer Rebellion.

Chinese nationalist uprising against foreigners, the representatives of alien powers, and Chinese Christians with the ultimate objective of the expulsion of all foreigners. Christians were shot on sight, and foreign legions in Beijing laid under siege. An expedition consisting of British, French, Japanese, Russian, German, and 2’500 American (Chinese: USA like the others) troops relieved the besieged quarter and occupied Beijing in August. The relief forces retained possession of the city, looking for and punishing anti foreign actions, until a peace treaty was signed on September, 1901 (large indemnity, commercial concessions, and the right to station foreign troops to guard the legations).

Despite efforts by the United States to stop further territorial encroachment, Russia extended its sphere of influence in Manchuria during the revolt, a policy that culminated in the Russo-Japanese war.


Hawaii becomes a US territory.


Secretary of State John Hay delivers 2nd set of Open Door Notes to the powers with interests in China.

No interest in acquiring territory, to the contrary: in favour of Chinese territorial integrity. Most-favoured nation principle should apply to all of China. Open support from GB & D. R & J against ODN.


Theodore Roosevelt (R) 26th President of the United States.

1st President to practise realpolitik. Great imperialist. "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far"  (navy & military). Insert himself as a player in the Russo-Japanese rivalry; good relations with Japan important. Roosevelt Corollary of MD: Right to intervene in Central America if real or perceived threat in order to keep Europeans away. Used to police small debtor nations with unstable governments. Imperialist: Panama.


Platt Amendment.

Amendment to the Army Appropriations Bill. It specified conditions under which the federal government might intervene in the internal affairs of Cuba “to protect Cuban independence”; it was included in the Cuban constitution, adopted in 1901, and in the treaty between Cuba and the United States concluded in 1903 (naval base of Guantanamo Bay leased for 90 years). Also US control of economy. Many Cuban liberal statesmen denounced interventions of 1906, 1912, 19172 as undemocratic and imperialistic. Renegotiations of the treaty led to the abrogation of the Platt Amendment in 1934.

1902 – 1907

Venezuelan crisis.

Great Britain, Germany, and several other powers blockaded Venezuelan ports because of the government’s failure to meet its debts. On two occasions, European warships bombarded the ports. TR threatened the Europeans with the Great White Fleet. Threat successful; US takes over Venezuela economically. By 1907, Venezuela had met the obligations to the three powers.


Formal independence of Cuba.

De facto US protectorate (Platt Amendment).


10-mile Panama canal zone leased to the US in treaty.

Decision against the Nicaragua canal, which was already finished to 40%, because Nicaragua would have to share the canal with GB. Panama: Exclusive use, occupation and control. US first had to support a revolutionary junta who proclaimed Panamanian independence from Colombia, immediately recognized by the US. The latter had rejected a $25 mio treaty (wanted more money) in August. Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty: US will build, fortify and operate a canal.

1904 – 1905

Russo-Japanese War.

Cause of war: Russian expansion in eastern Asia ran counter to Japanese plans for gaining a foothold on the Asian mainland. In 1898 Russia leased Port Arthur from China, with the intention of making it a great Asiatic port and the headquarters of Russian naval power in the Pacific. Russia had poured troops into Manchuria during the Boxer Uprising in 1900, but, faced with the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902, promised to leave Chinese territory. The promise was not kept, however, and in June 1903 Japan proposed an agreement with Russia recognizing Japan's interests in Korea and Russia's in Manchuria, and insuring the integrity of China and Korea. Russia refused. To the surprise of many, Japan won the war à 1st war of non-whites against whites won by non-whites. Signal: Japan = major power in the Pacific. US still perceived Russia as the biggest threat, but is aware that it faces another newcomer.

à Treaty of Portsmouth

1904 – 1914

US build Panama canal.

Tens of thousands of workers. $350 mio. Opened to traffic in August 1914. US fleet protects Panama. à Virtual US hegemony in Latin America.


Roosevelt Corollary of the Monroe Doctrine.

Declaration by TR: In cases of flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American nation, the United States could intervene in the internal affairs of that nation. TR's assertion of hemispheric police power was designed to preclude violation of the MD by European countries seeking redress of grievances against unruly or mismanaged Latin American states. MD = principle. RC = instrument.

1905 – 1941

US financial supervision of Dominican Republic.

Because of Dominican indebtedness to a number of European nations, some of which threatened intervention (France and Italy; US threatened with force against intervention), the Dominican government signed treaty with the United States in 1906, turning over to the United States the administration and control of its customs department. In exchange the United States undertook to adjust the foreign financial obligations of the Dominican government. Uprisings against US influence during the ensuing decade finally culminated in the establishment of a military government by the US Marines, who occupied the country from 1916 to 1924.


Treaty of Portsmouth.

Peace conference at the invitation of US President Theodore Roosevelt who was pro-Japanese. Under the terms of the treaty, Russia surrendered its lease to Liaoyang and Port Arthur, ceded the southern half of Sakhalin, evacuated Manchuria (becomes Japanese protectorate), and recognized Korea as a Japanese sphere of influence.

1907 – 1908

Tour of the “Great White Fleet” around the world.

May have encouraged naval race.


Root Takahira Declaration.

Accord between the US and J that averted a drift toward possible war by mutually acknowledging certain international policies and spheres of influence in the Pacific (insular possessions). The inflammatory effect of discriminatory legislation against Japanese labourers in California had been ameliorated in 1907. The United States was uneasy about subtle Japanese violations of the Open Door Policy in China following the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) à RT: Pacific open to trade. Maintain status quo and defend the ODP and the integrity and independence of China. The Agreement acknowledged Japan's right to annex Korea and its special position in Manchuria.


William Howard Taft (R) 27th President of the United States.

“Dollar Diplomacy”: Encourage US bankers and industrialists to invest abroad where others already were, e.g. in China and Central America. More measured foreign policy than TR.

1909 – 1924

Military and financial intervention in Nicaragua.

British tried to create an uprising in order to purchase canal rights. Military: 1909-10; 1912-25; Strong Anti-Americanism represented by Augusto Sandino, head of independence movement à 1926-33 US moves in to support Anastosio Somoza. Financial: 1911-24. Although nominally independent, Nicaragua remained a de facto protectorate from 1916 until 1933.


Japan annexes Korea.


Beginning of Mexican Revolution.

Effort to overthrow the 30-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. Diaz was overthrown with American help by liberal reformer Francisco Madero in 1911. (A lot of North American investment is at stake.)


First Republic of China.


Woodrow Wilson (D) 28th President of the United States.

Campaign: Wilson (D): “New Freedom” (effort to destroy monopoly and to open the doors of economic opportunity to small businessmen through drastic tariff reduction, banking reform, and severe tightening of the antitrust laws). Roosevelt (Progressive Party): “New Nationalism” (active federal intervention to promote social justice and the economic welfare of the underprivileged; support big business). Taft (R)

WW 1st Democrat in the 20th century; 1st Southerner since the Civil War. Re-introduced moralist principles in foreign policy (not present with TR and WHT). US ideals were to be extended for the first time around the world. Favoured trade with Bolsheviks.


Madero murdered; Victoriano Huerta dictator of Mexico.

Wilson refused to recognize Huerta. Civil War à US military aid to Vensutiano Carranza (April 1914 marines landed). Reprisals against US; incident. After mediation through Argentina, Brazil and Chile, Carranza assumed power in August of 1914 (Wilson seized a port in April 1914). When Carranza floated ideas about nationalization, the US switched support to Pancho Villa, without success. Finally Wilson recognized the Carranza government in 1915. At the same time, Villa installed himself as a dictator.


USA has 3rd largest navy in the world.


Sinking of US passenger liner Lusitania by a German submarine.

Killing more than 1’000 passengers. Popular feeling against Germany peaked in the US.

1915/07 – 1941

Military and financial intervention in Haiti.

Military: 1915-34. Financial: 1916-41.


Purchase of Virgin Islands.

Inflated price of $25 mio. Goal: To prevent passage from Denmark to Germany.


Raid of Francisco (Pancho) Villa into New Mexico and Arizona.

Pancho angry about US support for Carranza. Wants to provoke war between Mexico and US. Only rebel leader not to give up fight against Carranza, who virtually offered the Germans submarine bases. After Villa’s raid into the US, and with the permission of Carranza, the United States sent into Mexico a military force under General John J. Pershing to find and punish Villa. He eluded pursuit. The expedition was recalled without accomplishing its purpose.


Peace of Tipitapa.


Purchase of Virgin Islands.


Zimmermann telegram.

In an effort to nullify or at least to reduce US intervention in Europe by engaging US arms and energies elsewhere, German foreign minister Zimmermann planned to embroil the United States in war with Mexico and Japan. He sent a secret telegram to the German minister in Mexico, authorizing him to propose an alliance to Mexico's President Carranza. If Mexico attacked the US, it could reconquer her lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Intercepted and decoded by British Admiralty intelligence, the telegram was made available to President Wilson and published in March 1917. In convincing Americans of German hostility toward the United States, the "Zimmermann Note" became one of the principal factors leading to the US declaration of war against Germany five weeks later.


German unrestricted submarine warfare.

German submarines would attack without warning all vessels (including neutral) found near British waters.


US withdrawal from Mexico.

WW has been thinking about entry into WW I since 1916. De jure recognition of Carranza’s new constitutional regime in August.


Puerto Ricans granted citizenship.

Just in time to get drafted for the war.


US declaration of War against Germany.

Despite 1914 – 1916 neutrality, sympathy lay with GB. Submarine warfare against GB and F also concerned American ships at times (Sinking of Lusitania)


Russian Revolution.


Separate peace of Germany with Russia in the treaty of Brest-Litorvsk.

After the Kerensky government fell, the new Bolshevik government resolved to make peace with the Central Powers. Vladimir Lenin, fearing the destruction of the new Bolshevik state, acceded to very drastic terms. Russia ceded Finland, Poland, Estonia, Livonia, Kurland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Bessarabiya. Russia also ceded Ardahan, Kars, and Bat’umi to Turkey. Under the terms of the armistice between Germany and the Allied powers on November 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was annulled.

1918 – 1920

Russian Civil War.

Bolshevik government against its adversaries, most notably the counterrevolutionary forces known as the Whites. Although the Whites were decisively defeated in late 1920, the Bolsheviks faced internal rebellion into 1921 and foreign intervention (unsuccessful American interventions 1918/9). The Bolsheviks’ ultimate victory in the Russian Civil War led to the founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in December 1922.


Threat of successful Bolshevik revolution.

Communist parties sporadically in power in Western Europe à threat to 14 points.


Abortive German socialist revolution.

1919/01 – 06

Versailles Peace Conference.

Lloyd George, GB: Imperialist who wants to retain Empire; demands reparations from Germany, but wants to exercise band-wagoning against the Soviets.
Clemenceau, F: Victim seeking revenge and reparations.
Wilson, USA: Moralist who wants world peace & Germany as a bull work against a possibly aggressive Bolshevik USSR. 14 points (“Peace without Victory”): League of Nations; principle of national self-determination. Some of the points were directed against the (imperialist) allies; and very few of them were fully realized.
Missing in Versailles: Germany, USSR

Agreement: 33 bio $ German reparations.


Overthrow of Carranza in Mexico.

Revolution of 1920 in Spain. Restoration of Spanish constitution of 1812; representative government and individual freedom.


US Senate refuses ratification of Versailles Peace Treaty.

Republican leader Henry Cabot Lodge, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was against US adherence to the League of Nations. à Conservative internationalism: US remains involved, e.g. limiting arms race, international economics.


GB recognizes USSR.

1921 – 1922

Washington Treaty System established.

Belgium, China, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the United States met to talk about a limitation to naval armaments generally and to promote better relations among nations with conflicting interests in the Pacific Ocean and the Far East.

Safeguard US access to China market; proportional disarmament. Harding, Hughes, Coolidge believe that naval race will lead to war.

Treaties signed:

Open Door respected




















End Alliance GB-J










1921 – 1928


Investment of US companies. In 1928, around ¼ of FDI in the USSR is American-owned. à Clash official vs. informal US diplomacy.


Treaty of Rapallo D – USSR.

Resumption of diplomatic and economic relations. No mutual reparations. Possibly military cooperation. The treaty ended the isolation of Germany and the Soviet Union.


Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) founded.


Dawes Plan.

USA-F-GB-D. The plan set more reasonable amounts of reparations and provided for foreign loans, mainly from the United States, to help Germany meet its payment schedule


Locarno Conference.

Seven agreements designed to promote the security of western Europe. The “spirit of Locarno” helped improve relations between France and Germany.


Washington Treaty System starts to fall apart.


Peace of Tipitapa.

US to supervise elections in Nicaragua in 1928.


Kellog-Briand Pact.

Multilateral statement of moral principles between 62 countries, attempting to eliminate war as an instrument of national policy. Started as an effort of France to bring the USA back into a European security system (fear of renewed German aggression).


Young Plan.

Massively reduced the amount of reparations, set up the Bank for International Settlements to handle the transfer of funds, and ended foreign controls on German economic life. However, hardly had the Young Plan started operation when the world depression of the 1930s began.


Black Tuesday: Stock Market Crash.

American economic disaster that precipitated the Great Depression, an approximately 10-year economic slump (unemployment, breakdown of banking system, rise in tariffs, drop in trade) affecting all the Western industrialized countries. Amongst the reasons for the collapse are a period of rampant speculation, the proliferation of holding companies and investment trusts (which, by nature, create debt), and a multitude of large bank loans that could not be liquidated.

à Dawes & Young plan unsuccessful
à Conservative Internationalism, US strength based on economic dominance, unsuccessful

1929/11 – 1933

International trade shrinks from $3 bio. to $1 bio.


Mukden Incident: Japanese Invasion of Manchuria.

Destroys Briand-Kellog Pact of 1928; little credibility for League of Nations and the Washington Treaty System. US doesn’t intervene: Where is conservative internationalism?


USA and USSR resume diplomatic relations.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) 32nd President of the United States.

“Good Neighbour Policy”: Trade without military force. Withdrew all marines from Central America; new relationship based on equality. Other means to impose: right-wing military dictators as guarantee against nationalisation:

Nicaragua: Anastasio Somoza (1937 - 1956). DR: Rafael Trujilo (1930 – 1961). Cuba: Fulgenico Batista (1933 – 1959). Haiti: François Duvalier (1957 – 1971)

1933 – 1939

“New Deal” of FDR.

Domestic program to reduce unemployment and restore prosperity: reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, waterpower, labour, and housing, vastly increasing the scope of the federal government's activities.


Adolf Hitler assumes power in Germany.

Versailles = unjust “Diktat”. Economy needs intervention.


Augusto Sandino assassinated by Somoza’s guard.

End of Nicaraguan problem.


Declaration of Lima.

Internationalises Monroe Doctrine to the whole Western Hemisphere. Germany and Italy had been making inroads into Latin America.


Declaration of Panama.

De facto security pact against Axis powers.