King Philip's War

1675 - 1676

• Causes: White settlers increasingly coming into conflict with Indians; King Philip (aka Metacom) forced to cede some territory he had been promised by the Plymouth Colonial Government; colonists warned by traitor Indian that Metacom was going to attack and they executed 3 Indians; Metacom attacked!
• During: Colonists used guerilla tactics to fight Indians, incredibly brutal, but justified because they were fighting a “subhuman” species and thus could sink to that level
• Effects: Proved to whites that they could never live in peace with Indian tribes, ended Indian resistance in the colonies, and helped form the emergence of a national identity distinct from “savages” and British

Seven Years' War/French & Indian War

1756 - 1763

• Causes: Caused by English and French colonial rivalries, especially over the rich land along the Ohio river
• During: French/Indians allied against British, British soldiers treat “Yankee” soldiers with disdain, British win!
• Effects: Indian power significantly weakened; American identity emerged distinct from Britain (“JOIN OR DIE”); Britain imposed harsh taxes afterwards to pay for prosecution of war (Stamp Act, Intolerable Acts that led to revolution)

American Revolution

1776 - 1781

• Causes: It was really an economic rebellion against unfair taxation after the Seven Years’ War and the colonists linked economic freedom with political freedom
• During: press played a huge role in determining the AmRev because coffeehouses and newspapers basically formed the social network; France provides aid to the colonies to antagonize its chief imperial rival Great Britain
• Effects: obviously crafted a national identity, left Indian question unresolved, contained massive contradiction of slavery, inspired/paved way for other revolutions (not that the US always supported them), paved way for economic strength

French Revolution

1789 - 1799

• During: Began days after Washington inaugurated; French were inspired by the same philosophers as the Americans had been;
• American Response: At first it resonated with Americans (Bastille Day!), but soon soured especially during Reign of Terror in 1793; Americans worried that revolution a contagion, saw revolution as a solemn affair and French Revolution was a chaotic, excessive, violent affair
• Effects: showed the mixed legacy of the American revolution in promoting revolution worldwide

Haitian Revolution

1791 - 1804

• During: Successful slave revolt led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Haiti accounted for 1/3 of the slave trade, and slaves way outnumbered whites on the island
• American Response: American southerners terrified by Haitian rebellion since SLAVES had overthrown masters; revolt highlighted American hypocrisy about slavery; America under Madison and Jefferson supportive and sent secret assistance to the slave rebels but they were motivated by the realism of trying to get Louisiana from the French not ideals of liberty
• Effects: Napoleon did decide to sell Louisiana to the US after the Haitian Revolution because he had spent so much money and capital in Haiti; Haiti became the 2nd republic in the New World and 1st black republic in the world.

Mexican-American War

1846 - 1848

• Causes: President Polk reasserts Monroe Doctrine as justification for war to gain CA and TX; wanted CA for agriculture; anti-US regime in 1846 refuses to sell, so Polk sends Zachary Taylor into Mexican territory to provoke war
• During: Polk envisioned a limited war, but Taylor ended up going all the way down to Mexico City and stirring up an all-Mexico movement; rogue diplomat Nicholas Trist ended war.
• Effects: Polk had dramatically expanded presidential powers; crystallized debate over slavery; caused nationalist movement in Mexico and tensions with other Latin American nations (“Yankee Imperialism”)

The Civil War

1861 - 1865

• Causes: Expansionism in the 1850s responsible because Southerners support expansion to tilt power away from free states and get more cotton land
• During: Both North and South believed war had global implications, Lincoln called the fate of the whole family of ma in question. North appealed to American exceptionalism, freedom, democracy; South appealed to self-determination, identified with nationalism in Europe
• Effects: Global cotton trade interrupted, and Britain began to get more cotton from India/Egypt, weakening Southern position; solidarity among already free European states against slavery; Union victory marked ascendancy of industrialism over agriculture and it strengthened the federal government

Wars Against Indians

1880 - 1895

• Dawes Severalty Acts (1887): Forced civilization of Indians, broke up tribes, sent Indian children to white-run schools
• Battle of Wounded Knee (1890): machine guns turned on peaceable-ish Indians massacring men, women, and children

Spanish-American War

1898 - 1899

• Causes: investors in Spanish sugar in Cuba suffering, so US sent USS Maine to Havana harbor, it was sunk (by Spanish they assumed), and that started the war, huge yellow journalism outpouring and “Remember the Maine!” cry.
• During: “A splendid little war” with about 400 killed in combat, forced Spanish out of Cuba
• Effects: America then occupied Cuba and passed the Platt Amendment which granted the US the right to intervene in Cuban affair

The Philippine-American War

1899 - 1902

• Causes: The Americans had gone to support the Filipinos that had been rebelling against the Spanish, but then became occupiers in their own right and the Filipinos began rebelling against them.
• During: 200k troops resulted in about 500k Filipino deaths, brutal tactics used, US military resorted to concentration camps and forced relocation of populations
• Effects: first American land war in Asia, highlighted hypocrisy of American imperialism, rooted in racialist hierarchy, fought by generals who had earned their stripes against the Indians

The Mexican Revolution

1914 - 1915

No actual war, just showing Wilson's willingness to intervene

• Causes: Dictator Porifirio Diaz overthrown and the 43% of Mexican property owned by Americans was thrown into question as the factions warred.
• During: Wilson sends troops to occupy the Port of Veracruz in Spring 1914 because Mexico had been interfering with US sailors, Pancho Villa launches cross border attacks, so GEN Pershing goes 300 miles into Mexico before he pulled back and full war avoided.
• Effects: Created lasting tensions, showed closeness of Mexico/Germany, showed Wilson’s interventionist tendencies

Occupy Haiti

1916 - 1917

Wilson's tendency to intervene

• Causes: Haiti’s leaders super incompetent, violence breaks out
• During: US marines dispatched to collect $500k that Haiti owed the US and then stayed to try to “civilize” Haiti
• Effects: incredibly brutal regime, relied upon forced labor, racial hierarchy ideologies, again showed Wilson’s interventionism

WWI (for America)

1917 - 1919

• Causes: US tried to stay out of European war that was fundamentally about imperialism, but Wilson entered the war in 1917 after the sinking of the Lusitania and the revoking of the Sussex Pledge
• During: US turned the tide of war for the Allies and beat the Central powers, war portrayed as fight for democracy
• Effects: Huge economic boom for US (debtor→creditor), total war institutionalized, massive casualties on all sides, 14 Points arises from it, collapse of many European colonial empires, and harsh reparations for Germany (also alienated Italy/Japan)

Treaties/Foreign Policies

The Model Treaty

1776 - 1777

America's first diplomatic statement and an idealistic but cautious "template" of a treaty to guide foreign relations for the new United States. There were three components: free ports, freedom of neutrals to trade in nonmilitary goods, and a contraband list. Though it was not made with any specific country, it reflected the existing trade arrangement with France while avoided military and economic promises, demonstrating its practical realism. Benjamin Franklin brought the treaty to France and it became the basis for further negotiations and treaties with the French. So despite America's early decision to avoid foreign entanglements, they were already beginning.

The Treaty of Alliance

1778 - 1779

Britain had dealt France a major blow in the Seven Years War, taking almost all of France's North American territory and France was eager to retaliate. France was also worried about the potential for US global power - especially Comte de Vergennes who worried that the US would take all of North America, pushing out all Europeans. The war was going badly for the colonists, they had lost access to sea ports and were losing money and resulting in a loss of diplomatic leverage with France. Congress remodeled the treaty on very different terms now. In exchange for French assistance, the US offered to give back some territory France had lost during the Seven Years War, reciprocal trading rights, promised not to sign a reciprocal agreement with Britain, and remain France's ally forever. After the Continental Army showed their worth in defeating the British at the Battle of Saratoga, France agreed to join, but the treaty showed that US commerce was not yet strong enough to be used as diplomatic pressure. These were definitely not the terms the US originally had wanted, but Jefferson realized the practical reality: French aid was essential to American victory. Proof of this can be seen at the British surrender at the Battle of Yorktown where more French soldiers fought than American. The US went on to break this treaty by making a separate agreement with Britain at the Peace of Paris.

The Peace of Paris

1781 - 1782

This was a set of treaties, following the British surrender at Yorktown (1781), which ended the American Revolutionary War. Two of these treaties were between Great Britain and France or Spain. The third was between Great Britain and peace commissioners from the United States, including Adams, Franklin, and John Jay. It recognized the US as free and sovereign and gave the US more territory than expected. In exchange, the US promised to return properties to loyalists, open the Mississippi, and forgive debts. The treaty made no mention of Native Americans, many of whom had fought in the War but received no compensation or territory. This agreement broke the Treaty of Alliance made with France in 1778 which promised not to make a reciprocal agreement with Great Britain. Already, this treaty demonstrates US realism and unilateralism in emphasizing US interests as primary. Here we see several major reoccurring themes of US foreign policy: a tension between realistic, practical interests and idealistic principles and rhetorics, an emphasis on unilateralism in US foreign policy decisions, and a US tendency to involve itself in European affairs when US interests are involved, despite a desire to stay free of European entanglements

The Jay Treaty

1794 - 1795

This was one of the most important and controversial treaties of US history, its consequences partly allowed for western expansion and the development of 2 political parties. During the 1790s, tensions with the British were escalating over their continued occupation of forts American Northwest, British confiscation of US merchant ships and impressment of US sailors. In the treaty, Britain agreed to abandon its Northwestern posts within 2 years and compensate American ship owners for confiscated vessels. The US agreed to guarantee payment of private debts owed by the US to British merchants and bankers, limits its trade with the British West Indies, and grant most favored nation trading status to Britain - but without guaranteeing US conception of neutral rights. Negotiated by John Jay (though the policy was primarily written by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and supported by President Washington), it was met by huge backlash in the US. Jay was accused of selling out to the British and sacrificing US commercial interests. The Treaty and controversy were critical to the formation of US global power in two ways: first, it was a critical catalyst to US western expansion (British abandonment of forts removed a major obstacle to US expansion and it further eroded indian sovereignty) and second, the uproar in the wake of the treaty led to the emergence of two political parties. The Federalists, led by Hamilton, largely supported the Treaty while the Republicans, led by Jefferson, opposed it, fearing closer economic ties to the aristocratic and monarchial Britain would strengthen the Federalist Party and undercut republicanism. In reality, the treaty was not as disastrous as some thought, America was a fledgling economic and military power and its recent defeat of Britain was due to French aid and British withdrawal, not American power. The treaty successfully averting war with Great Britain and led to ten years of peaceful trading between the US and Britain. This international treaty also helped to reshape domestic, internal politics, demonstrating the strong cross over of foreign relations and domestic policy in early America. The French responded to this treaty by seizing US ships in what became the Quasi War.

The Louisiana Purchase

1803 - 1804

In 1762, at the end of the Seven Years War, France gave up the massive territory of Louisiana to Spain. In 1789, Spain gave the US rights to the use of the Mississippi River, leading to a massive increase in US population and the importance of commerce in the region. But in a secret treaty, Spain resold Louisiana to the French in 1800. Despite Jefferson's pro-French views, he feared having such a powerful nation to close to US territory. So Jefferson and Madison began a pattern of policies to take back the territory, sending secret forces to help the Haitian Revolution against the French, ordering the removal of all Indian tribes west of the Mississippi, and sending 2 agents to Paris to negotiate the purchase of Louisiana. Napoleon agreed to sell it (he had lost thousands of men in Haiti, had given up the idea of a foreign empire, and war with Britain was approaching) and the incredibly low price negotiated (less than 42 cents per acre) one of the best deals of US history and one of the best moments of Jefferson's presidency. The territory instantly doubled US land possession and guaranteed US trade access to the port of New Orleans and free passage on the Mississippi River, but it also violated many US policies. First, the US Constitution did not give the President the right to purchase territory. Second, the use of the military in this way (clearing Indians from land, etc) was highly questionable. Third, it broke US policy of isolationism. However, the purchase shows how elements of realism and idealism can be compatible in US foreign policy: Jefferson used realist, Hamiltonian strategies in order to achieve his idealist aim of liberty and expansion.

Monroe Doctrine

1823 - 1824

John Quincy Adams (pres. 1825-1829) was Secretary of State to President James Monroe (1817-1823), had an extensive background in foreign relations and a gift for diplomacy. Though voiced by Monroe, Adams authored the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. It became a defining moment of US foreign policy and one of its longest-standing tenets, persisting for two centuries. It came in the wake of the newfound independence of nearly all Latin American colonies from Spain and Portugal. Latin America held great strategic importance for the US mainly as a potential market (a large piece of US trade, could be even bigger with Europe out of the picture). Southerners also hoped to gain access to territory in Cuba and other areas to grow cotton. The doctrine put forth a kind of containment policy aimed to prevent further encroachment of European powers in the Western hemisphere, declaring that "the American continents are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers." It outlined three major principles: First, non-colonization (that the American colonies were closed to further colonization). Second, non-intervention (the New & Old Worlds were distinct spheres, Europe should make no effort to interfere in western affairs, and any attempt on their part to extend into the west would be treated as dangerous). Third, there would be no further transfer of existing colonial possessions within the western hemisphere. In exchange, the United States promised to stay out of European affairs. The document was largely ignored by European leaders, except for Britain who supported and enforced it as a route by which to maintain naval supremacy. It did, however, create serious tensions between the US and nations in Latin America and after the Mexican War (1846-1848), Latin America increasingly came to see the Monroe Doctrine as a cover for US imperialism.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

1848 - 1849

In the 1840s, President Polk reasserted the Monroe Doctrine as a pretext for the US annexation of Texas and California and a justification for the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). The US Emissary sent by Polk, Nicholas Trist, feared that expansion of territory (and with it, inevitably, slavery) would destroy the Union and so went rogue, deciding to negotiate an end to the war himself. After the defeat of the Mexican army and the fall of the capital in 1848, some Americans hoped for the complete acquisition of Mexico. However, Trist negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and though he was fired by a furious Polk, the President accepted the treaty, recognizing that it did indeed fulfill his expansionist goals. The United States gained California and the Rio Grande border for Texas (territory now also consisting of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado). Acquisition of this territory, however, seriously compounded the issue of slavery as the Civil War was more over the issue of the expansion of slavery than the institution itself. Both the war and the terms of the treaty earned the US lasting animosity in Latin America, as it seemed to confirm the Monroe Doctrine as US imperialism.

Open Door Notes

1899 - 1900

By the 1890s, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, and the United States, using the model of European imperialism, had begun carving up China, establishing "concession areas" where they exerted control over local ongoings. Recognizing this pattern and fearing it would lead to international conflict, US Secretary of State John Hay composed these two notes to the major powers involved, stating an Open Door Policy that all European Nations and the US could trade equally and impartially with China as an alternative to traditional imperialism. He asked each power to formally declare that they would uphold current Chinese territorial possessions and would not interfere with the free use of treaty ports within their spheres of influence. Each nation attempted to evade his request, but within a year, Hay announced that each had "granted consent in principle". Though historians disagree over whether it was truly an alternative to traditional imperialism, it is widely accepted that the Open Door Policy contributed to America's rise as a dominant power in Asia. It was a tremendously important model for US foreign policy in the 20th century, focusing US interest on gaining foreign markets and commerce, not acquiring foreign territory.

The Platt Amendment

1901 - 1902

Replacing the earlier Teller Amendment, this document defined the conditions of US-Cuban relations and US troop withdrawal from Cuba (in 1902) who had remained following the end of the Spanish-American War (1898). The Platt Amendment dictated terms of independence for Cuba that ensured American domination of the island. The most significant and enduring provisions included: an American right of intervention, enforced sanitation to protect health and commerce, and American possession of military bases - notably, the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The Amendment also restricted Cuba from entering into any treaty or compact with a foreign power which would impair the independence of Cuba and limited the Cuban government from assuming or contracting public debt. Most of the provisions were repealed in 1934 when the Treaty of Good Relations realigned US-Cuban relations along with FDR's Good Neighbor Policy.

Roosevelt Corollary

1904 - 1905

The Roosevelt Corollary, from Theodore Roosevelt's 1904 State of the Union Address, in many ways functioned as the muscle behind the Monroe Doctrine, transforming it from a mere warning against further European imperialism to a far more aggressive position. It asserted America's right of intervention in Latin America in order to exclude other foreign powers, assure US interests, and promote good government. While the Monroe Doctrine primarily warned European powers to stay out of Latin America, the Corollary provided justification for the US claim to "policing powers" in Latin America in the exercise of military force to keep European powers out. This conflation of US interests with "world interests", and the positioning of the US as the determiner of right and wrong, is a common theme in 20th century US foreign policy. Despite its altruistic rhetoric, it has enabled the US to take unilateral, military action in Latin America to protect and promote US interests. It has been used as justification for 20 different military interventions, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, however this policy of interventionism was since renounced in the Clark Memorandum and the Good Neighbor Policy.

Declaration of Neutrality

1914 - 1915

As Europe erupted into war, President Woodrow Wilson was adamant that the US would continue its long tradition of staying out of European wars (a position dating back to Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Washington's Farewell Address). Wilson tried to keep America out of WWI from 1914 until the beginning of 1917, even running for reelection on the campaign slogan "he kept us out of war" in 1916. In 1914, the US made a declaration of neutrality and in an address to Congress, Wilson warned citizens not to take sides for fear of endangering wider US policy. In reality, however, very few Americans, including Wilson himself, were neutral at heart. The US maintained neutrality despite increasing pressure from the public over Germany's program of unrestricted submarine warfare. The sinking of the Lusitania, the Sussex Pledge, and the Zimmerman Telegram, compounded with pre-exisitng American proclivities for the Allied powers and harsh anti-German propaganda, pushed Wilson into declaring war (the "war to end all wars") in April of 1917.

Sussex Pledge

1916 - 1917

A promise made by Germany to the US following the torpedoing of the French passenger ferry, the Sussex, which killed 50 people. Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, in which armed merchant ships where torpedoed without warning, had long been an issue of contention with the US, as passenger ships were supposed to be excluded. Though no US citizens were killed on the Sussex, 128 had been in the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania. The Sussex attack prompted Wilson to declare that if Germany continued this practice, the US would break diplomatic relations. Germany responded with the Sussex Pledge, promising to amend their naval warfare policy, in an effort to avoid US entry into the war. However, Germany demanded that the US hold Britain to the same standards. Wilson refused, and, in 1917, Germany resume its unrestricted submarine warfare, hoping to defeat the Allies before the US could mobilize for war. The breaking of this pledge, along with the Zimmerman Telegram, gave the final push for US entry into WWI

The Fourteen Points

1918 - 1919

President Woodrow Wilson, seeing the end of WWI and the US role in it as an opportunity to remake the world system, announced his 14 points to Congress on January 8th, 1918. Designed to ensure that the "world be made fit and safe to live in", his program included open diplomacy ("open covenants", no secret treaties), freedom of the seas, disarmament, "adjustment of colonial claims", self-determination, democracy, and national independence in eastern and southeastern Europe, and, in his 14th point, international cooperation by laying the foundations for a League of Nations. He worked tirelessly to promote his plan but thought the charter for the League of Nations was included in the Treaty of Versailles, the growing isolationist movement in the US blocked US membership, one of many flaws which led to its failing. The Fourteen Points Speech was also the only explicit declaration of war aims made by any power in WWI and demonstrated Wilson's conviction that US involvement was for a moral cause. It can also be seen as a direct response to the Russian Revolution, calling for thorough reform of the world system on the principles of liberalism and capitalism.

The Treaty of Versailles

1918 - 1919

One of the treaties ending World War I, this treaty concluded six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference between Germany and the Allies following the armistice in 1918. It forced Germany (along with Austria Hungary) to accept responsibility for the war and imposed very harsh conditions on them, forcing them to make large territorial concessions, pay heavy reparations, and make drastic steps of military disarmament. This extreme punishment was warned against by the US, led by economics John Maynard Keynes and President Wilson, but the French, who had suffered most in the war, were eager for revenge. The resulting treaty failed to pacify Germany, but also failed to permanently weaken it, leading to an embittered, vengeful Germany and the groundwork of WWII.


John Winthrop

1630 - 1631

John Winthrop wrote Model of Christian Charity in 1630 and set out the founding narrative for the colonists of North America, that they were to be unique, exception—a “city upon a hill”—and that they should set an example—“the eyes of all people are upon us”.

Thomas Paine

1776 - 1777

Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, a pamphlet supportive of the Revolution in January 1776. It was widely circulated and offered a foreign policy justification for the war: the Colonies did not need colonial protection indeed were threatened by being dragged into European wars! He also recommended using trade as leverage.

Alexander Hamilton

1789 - 1795

Secretary of the Treasury for Washington. He represented the interests of the northern mercantile class and was a foreign policy realist who believed foreign policy should be guided by strategic self-interest, not ideals. He was Hobbesian in his world view and believed in a strong federal government (national bank) and closer relations with Britain because of trade.

Eli Whitney

1793 - 1798

An inventor from Yale, Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793 that caused an enormous boom in the cotton industry (the south), and in 1798 he invented the assembly line process for guns, causing a huge increase in gun manufacturing and revolutionizing manufacturing in general.

Thomas Jefferson

1801 - 1809

Author of the Declaration, first Secretary of State, Vice-President to John Adams and then President. Jefferson represented the interests of Southern plantation owners and envisioned agriculture as dominant engine of economic growth—he idealized “yeoman farmers”. He was a foreign policy idealist, believing that liberty was the highest freedom of all and strict constructionist. He did, however, do the Louisiana Purchase as part of his empire for liberty because he believed that liberty and democracy would work best in a large and expanding nation.

Noah Webster

1803 - 1806

Webster understood that print culture was the fabric of the national culture of America, so he published in 1803 the Blue Backed Speller that told the story of the Revolution and in 1806 an American dictionary that prompted white Americans to see themselves as a people with a distinct identity and destiny in the world.

John Quincy Adams

1823 - 1824

JQA was the author of the Monroe Doctrine and advocated expansion, but not at the expense of extending slavery. He was a foreign policy realist and cautioned against armed interventions and going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.”

Andrew Jackson

1829 - 1837

Jackson was a rugged believer in manifest destiny and the frontier thesis and is known largely for his Indian removal policies and the Trail of Tears.

John O'Sullivan

1839 - 1840

The author of the Great Nation of Futurity, O’Sullivan wrote that it was America’s manifest destiny to expand westward and further cemented the Jeffersonian link between democracy and expansion: the western frontier as place were individualism, democracy, and virtue could flourish.

James Polk

1845 - 1849

President Polk was a Southern democrat and extending the “dominions of peace” was his goal in reasserting the Monroe Doctrine. He thus desired the agriculturally rich lands of California from Mexico and started the Mexican-American war to get them.

Zachary Taylor

1846 - 1847

GEN Taylor was ordered by Polk to move his army into disputed territory with Mexico to provoke an attack and provide justification for the war.

Nicholas Trist

1848 - 1849

Treaty of Guadalupe HidalgoTrist was the rogue diplomat who every much wanted to end the war and negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo against Polk’s orders.

William Walker & the Filibusters

1850 - 1857

Walker was a member of the Filibusters, a group of Americans who formed private armies that tried to seize new territories on their own. They were funded by Cornelius Vanderbilt. He helped to take Mexico, ran a military coup in Nicaragua that made him President (causing President Pierce to recognize Nicaragua) and was killed a year later.

Commodore Matthew Perry

1854 - 1855

Commodore Matthew Perry headed a naval expedition to “open” Japan in 1854. He viewed his orders as a civilizing mission, and brought demonstrations of US technology like the telegraph, railroad, and guns to Japan. He succeeded in creating diplomatic and economic ties, and viewed it as an outlet of Manifest Destiny. Soon, imports from Asia dwarfed American exports (Asian products were in vogue amongst Western women).

Abraham Lincoln

1861 - 1865

President Lincoln was President during the civil war. He appealed to American exceptionalism, freedom, and democracy as the ties that should hold the Union together. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, in large part to cement European support. He recognized that America was being closely watched around the world, and believed the fate of the whole family of man was in question: could a constitutional republic survive?

Jefferson Davis

1861 - 1865

Jefferson Davis was president of the confederacy and a giant dbag. He believed that the South should embargo its cotton to try and “starve” Europe into supporting it in the Civil War, but this strategy backfired and promoted colonial cotton growth in India and Egypt. Davis appealed to national self-determination as what should lend the Confederacy legitimacy.

William Seward

1861 - 1869

Seward was Lincoln’s and Johnson’s Secretary of State. He recognized the foolishness of the South’s cotton strategy and also encouraged Chinese immigration to build the railroad (800,000 immigrants during the civil war). He was also responsible for the purchase of Alaska, which he said was a step to dramatically expand US territory and provide easier access to Asian markets. However, many said he was applying “Russian salve” to Johnson’s domestic problems.

John D. Rockefeller

1870 - 1930

Rockefeller was one of the barons of the Gilded Age, an incredibly wealthy self-made man who owned Standard Oil, eventually controlling 70% of the world’s oil market and 90% of American oil. It expanded both vertically and horizontally (controlling every step of the process).

John Gast

1872 - 1873

An American artist born in Prussia but living in NYC, Gast painted in 1872 the famous American Progress depicting Columbia leading the Americans into the West to claim their manifest destiny. She is holding a book and telegram wires, showing the importance of technology and print culture and the white men are engaged in agriculture, referencing Jefferson’s yeoman farmers. The settlers are literally bringing the light with them as the Indians flee their advance.

Alexander Graham Bell

1876 - 1877

AGB developed the telephone in 1876, revolutionizing modern communication. The telephone unified the nation, and along with railroads, helped cement a national unity and identity.

Alfred Thayer Mahan

1890 - 1891

Mahan was an Admiral and historian who believed strongly in the importance of naval power and the legitimacy of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny. He believed that steamships could enable the US to become a major world player, and wrote The Influence of Sea Power upon History as his argument for increased naval spending. As a result, the American navy went from the 12th best in 1884 to the 6th best in 1900.

Frederick Jackson Turner

1893 - 1894

Frederick Jackson Turner gave his famous “Frontier Thesis” address in 1893 after the 1890 census officially declared the frontier closed. It fused themes of American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny and portrayed the Western frontier as the crucible that had formed America’s identity of rugged individualism, ingenuity, technological innovation. He worried that now that the frontier was closed, America would become soft and complacent, and recommended technology as the outlet for our energies.

William McKinley

1897 - 1901

President McKinley was a promoter of armed intervention abroad, as seen by his actions in the Spanish American War and the Philippine-American War

Eugene V. Debs

1900 - 1920

The possibility of revolution in the United States was very real in the early 1900s, as massive strikes gripped the nation and radical unions sprang into existence. Debs was the perennial Socialist candidate for president from 1900-1920, and won around 6% of the vote.

Theodore Roosevelt

1901 - 1909

Teddy Roosevelt was known for his “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” foreign policy as well as his gung-ho nature and propensity for armed intervention. He was a member of the Rough Riders, a regiment in Cuba made up of American cowboys and made his name on the San Juan hill charge. As President, Roosevelt expanded the use of the bully pulpit and added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine which enhanced American power to intervene if a country gets out of hand.

William Howard Taft

1909 - 1913

The only man to serve as both President and Chief Justice. He largely delegated foreign policy to private corporations, and his SecState Knox rearranged the State Department to look morel like a corporation. He maintained the Open Door Policy and promoted Dollar Diplomacy which greatly expanded US influence in Latin America.

Woodrow Wilson

1913 - 1921

Wilson was President before and during WWI. His name has become synonymous with idealism-based foreign policy (largely because of the Fourteen Points), but in reality he was a realist, and ordered armed intervention in Latin America, especially in Mexico during its revolution and in Haiti. Wilson was a Southern democrat who adhered strictly to his racist beliefs and thus valued order above all else. Furthermore, the racial hierarchy he believed allowed him to justify calling for self-determination for Europeans while oppressing “barbaric” peoples.

Jack Reed and Louise Bryant

1917 - 1920

Reed and Bryant were NY journalists who travelled to Russia to cover the Russian Revolution in 1917. They were very supportive of the Bolsheviks, and their two pieces (10 Days that Shook the World and Six Red Months in Russia) were romanticized, positive takes on the Russian Revolution. Reed died and is buried at the Kremlin and was valued highly by Lenin. They are a good example of how non-governmental sources influenced perception.

Other Things

Era of Good Feelings

1815 - 1825

The Era of Good feelings was a period of time at the beginning of the 1800s that marked a sense of national purpose and unity of building the nation.

Trail of Tears

1838 - 1839

The Trail of Tears was the forced removal of Indians from the Southern states to reservations in the Midwest. 4,000 Indians perished. It was ordered by Andrew Jackson.

Manifest Destiny

1840 - 1900

Manifest destiny was coined by John O’Sullivan and is understood as a form of American exceptionalism and foundational ideology of American power. It is the idea that America has a divinely preordained mission to expand across the world bringing enlightenment, technology to the conquered areas.

Wilmot Proviso

1846 - 1850

The Wilmot Proviso was proposed in 1846 and was one of the exacerbating factors that led to the Civil War. The Wilmot Proviso was passed in the aftermath of the Mexican-American war and banned slavery from any territory acquired in Mexico. It would stalemate Congress for 4 years and prevent the US government for any territorial gains in the 1850s.

Gadsden Purchase

1846 - 1847

The Gadsden Purchase was when President Pierce sent Gadsden to buy a slice of AZ/NM because he wanted to build a railroad route to the Pacific Ocean.

Revolutions of 1848

1848 - 1849

The Spring 1848 saw nationalist popular uprisings throughout Europe, especially in Germany and Italy. France established the Second Republic. This time of internal, nationalist uprising was soon mirrored in the United States during the Civil War.

Second Industrial Revolution

1850 - 1900

The Second Industrial Revolution was driven by technological innovation, especially the transatlantic telegraph cable laid in 1866 and the invention of the telephone in 1876. Furthermore, the explosion of railroads unified the nation and facilitated a growth in trade.

Ostend Manifesto

1854 - 1855

The Ostend Manifesto was a secret document advocating war against Spain if it did not sell Cuba to the US. It was leaked and then condemned and abandoned.

King Cotton Fails

1861 - 1865

Around 20 million people worldwide were involved with the cotton trade during the Civil War, so the Confederacy embargoed its cotton to try to force Europe to join its side. However, Britain and France remained neutral despite 75% of Lancashire textile workers losing their jobs. This was because the embargo allowed other British colonies like India and Egypt to expand their cotton industries and also because of the ideological support Lincoln won with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Midway Islands Annexed

1867 - 1868

The Pacific islands were often used as stepping stones towards Asia. The Midway Islands were annexed in 1867 and were uninhabited islands desired solely for their strategic position and quantities of guano, which is used in gun powder.

Gilded Age

1877 - 1910

The Gilded Age was the period of the 1800s after the Civil War that saw the rise of big business and business barons like Rockefeller and Carnegie. Wealth became concentrated at the top. This was largely due to cheap immigrant labor, especially from Ireland and China. This was also a time of social upheaval and labor unrest.

Great Railroad Strike of 1877

1877 - 1888

The 1877 Railroad Strike arose from unhappiness after wage cuts following the Panic of 1873. The striking workers shut down train traffic for a week, seized and distributed food from the trains. After 45 days, President Hayes finally sent in federal troops to put the strike down.

Chinese Exclusion Act

1882 - 1943

The Chinese Exclusion Act was a response to the massive influx of Chinese workers in the 1870s to build the railroads. Anti-Chinese sentiment amongst whites became increasingly virulent and focused on the new Chinatowns in various cities.

Haymarket Riot

1886 - 1887

There were 24,000 strikes in the US between 1881 and 1900, often put down by police. The Haymarket Riot arose from a mass meeting of workers peacefully protesting for and 8-hour workday. After a bomb exploded, however, the meeting turned into a riot with casualties and fatalities. Eight anarchists were tried and four were hung for setting off the bomb.

Battle of Wounded Knee

1890 - 1891

When federal troops were disarming the Lakota Indians, a rifle discharges and the troops responded by massacring the assembled Indians. 151 men, women, and children were killed immediately. This ended the Indian Wars.

World's Columbian Exposition: Chicago

1893 - 1894

This exposition sought to show off the technologies that allowed conquest of overseas territories. Electricity was a major theme of the exposition showing generators and typewriters. The exposition displayed foreign cultures, but in a segregated section, and conveyed a racial narrative of racial hierarchy.

USS Maine Sunk

1898 - 1899

The USS Maine was an American ship that was attacked in Havana Harbor on 15 FEB 1898. Its sinking prompted President McKinley to enter the Spanish American War to kick Spain out of Cuba. The sinking of the Maine prompted war hysteria to sweep the country—cries of “Remember the Maine!” were common.

Hawaii Annexed

1898 - 1899

Hawaii had been under merchant influence since the 1840s and was a resource rich land, especially for the sugar industry. The US was never welcome in Hawaii, but American businessmen overthrew the last monarch and President Harrison then tried (and failed) to annex Hawaii. After the Spanish-American war, though, Congress allowed annexation.

Bananas United Fruit Company

1899 - 1900

Miner Keith built a railway in Costa Rica and bough banana plantations. Soon, United Fruit controlled 90% of the Central American banana market and the US used military force to protect its interests and shut down left wing revolutionary movements.

Standard Oil "Octopus" Cartoon

1904 - 1905

This cartoon of Standard Oil depicted like an octopus shows the pervasive nature of baron companies like Standard Oil, which controlled some 90% of America’s oil by 1890. These companies expanded both vertically and horizontally, which meant they controlled both the means of production and dissemination.

The Great White Fleet

1907 - 1909

An example of power projection, Roosevelt sent the US Navy on a world tour to show off its size and capacity. It was a warning to other nations that the US was a naval and world power that should not be tried. The 16 battleships visited 20 ports over 14 months and were often feted with lavish receptions.

Dollar Diplomacy

1909 - 1913

Dollar Diplomacy was the name given to President Taft’s foreign policy of promoting American investment and loans to Latin American countries. However, as the countries proved unable to pay back their loans, their economies fell under the control of US banks and caused upheavals in those countries. Then, Taft would use military intervention to protect US interests (Nicaragua, Cuba, Honduras).

Ludlow Massacre

1913 - 1914

The Ludlow Massacre occurred as part of the 1913 mine workers strike in Colorado at a Rockefeller owned mine. The National Guardsmen attacked the tents of the strikers, killing many, and provoking an uprising in response when the labor leaders told the strikers to acquire arms and attack back for 10 days. The ordeal ended when Wilson sent in federal troops.


1914 - 1915

Tarzan shows the influence of pop culture and notions of people abroad shaped by encounters of similar people at home. These cultural texts are not peripheral; rather, they influence how we conceive foreign policy—see the missionaries in China and soldiers in Haiti.

Lusitania Sunk

1915 - 1916

The Lusitania was a British passenger ship sunk by the German U-boats and killing 128 Americans. This provoked tremendous outcry in the United States and caused Wilson to send a very harsh note to the Germans. It also caused US banks to make enormous loans to the Allies and caused trade with the Central power to decline. NYC soon replaced London as the creditor capital of the world.

Birth of a Nation

1915 - 1916

Birth of a Nation was a pro-KKK film that depicted reconstruction as a period of chaos and portrayed the KKK as an honorable law-and-order group. President Wilson loved the movie and screened it at the White House, even though it caused a resurgence of the KKK. It is an example of Wilson’s deep racism and belief in the racial hierarchy, as he segregated government agencies and did nothing to prevent Jim Crowe laws.

"He Kept Us Out of War"

1916 - 1917

This was Wilson’s 1916 campaign slogan, emphasizing America’s neutrality during the European War. In his acceptance speech for the nomination of the Democratic Party, Wilson began to discuss the League of Nations and advocated a Peace without Victory—a negotiated settlement that was not punitive.

Russian Revolution

1917 - 1920

The Czar was overthrown in 1917 in response to the enormous human and financial cost of WWI, and a moderate government soon took over. But in October of 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over and founded the USSR, which the United States was initially very skeptical of. Wilson was worried that the success of a socialist revolution in Russia would provoke it elsewhere, so he sent troops to Russia from 1918-1920 to fight for the Whites.

Zimmermann Telegram

1917 - 1918

The Zimmerman Telegram was an intercepted cable between Germany and Mexico, promising that if Mexico helped Germany, Germany would help Mexico reconquer lost land. Wilson released the telegram to the public to general fury—this was seen as a direct threat to America. Soon thereafter, Wilson declared war against Germany saying that “the world must be made safe for democracy.”

The Committee on Public Information

1917 - 1919

In order to mobilize the United States, the government began recruiting under GEN Pershing and deployed a massive propaganda campaign run by the CPI. The CPI employed hundreds of thousands of people who made over 100 million pieces of literature, ads, and films promoting the war effort. Furthermore, 4 Minute Men would give rallying speeches before movies and shows.

Immigration Act of 1921

1921 - 1924

This law restricted immigration into the United States. The Act "proved in the long run the most important turning-point in American immigration policy" because it added two new features to American immigration law: numerical limits on immigration from Europe and the use of a quota system for establishing those limits. This law used racial heritage in establishing quotas, and was in part responsible for keeping Jews out when they were fleeing Germany before WWII.