What Caused America's Imperialistic Past?

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For many American students, their understanding of the past is formed by their high school history class. While not the case for all, for some students, the content in their history textbooks is the only exposure to history they will ever have. Because of this, textbooks must properly depict the past, as they shape how students understand the world. But how past events are understood is constantly being critiqued and revised. This can be seen through how textbooks have changed to reflect our understanding of what caused the Spanish American War. Through examination of current and past textbooks, and comparing how they describe what caused America’s involvement in Cuba, one can be seen how America has slowly come to terms with its imperialistic past. Shortly following the Spanish American War, Americans chose to overlook the mistakes their country had made during the war. They insistently held on to their belief that America was the heroic force of the war, freeing defenseless Cubans from the oppressive rule of Spain.…show more content…
While the 1942 textbook addresses the economic causes of imperialism, it fails to identify the social aspects that also responsible for it. Authors of the 2013 published textbook, America: A Narrative History, Volume 2, claimed the reasoning behind America’s imperialism “[was] a mixture of moral and religious idealism, …popular assumptions of racial superiority, and naked greed” . This discriminatory cause of both the war and imperialism itself was not addressed by either of the other textbooks. It has taken time for Americans to fully acknowledge all the social biases that lead to America’s involvement in Cuba. The authors of America: A Narrative History, Volume 2 also point out how supporters of American imperialism “used the arguments of social Darwinism to justify economic exploitation and territorial conquest”
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