Essay on American Foreign Policy 1890 to 1920

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The period between 1890 and 1920 marked a significant transformation in American foreign policy. As the United States emerged as a global power, it adopted a more assertive approach to international affairs. This informative essay will explore the key elements and shifts in American foreign policy during this period, examining the motivations, strategies, and outcomes that shaped the nation's interactions with the world.

Expansionism and Imperialism

The late 19th century witnessed a surge of expansionist ambitions as the United States sought to increase its global influence. This period, known as the era of American imperialism, saw the acquisition of territories such as Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. These territorial gains were driven by a mix of economic, strategic, and ideological motivations. The United States sought to establish itself as a global power and secure access to new markets, resources, and naval bases.

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Open Door Policy and Economic Interests

One key aspect of American foreign policy during this period was the Open Door Policy, which aimed to ensure equal access to trade and investment opportunities in China. The policy, advocated by Secretary of State John Hay, sought to prevent the colonization of China and safeguard American commercial interests in the region. The Open Door Policy reflected the growing importance of economic considerations in shaping foreign policy decisions.

Roosevelt's Big Stick Diplomacy

President Theodore Roosevelt played a pivotal role in shaping American foreign policy during his presidency from 1901 to 1909. Known for his "speak softly and carry a big stick" approach, Roosevelt pursued an assertive and interventionist foreign policy. His focus on building a strong military and using it as a deterrent demonstrated America's willingness to enforce its interests in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt's corollary to the Monroe Doctrine asserted the United States' right to intervene in Latin America to maintain stability and protect its economic interests.

World War I and Wilsonian Idealism

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 posed significant challenges to American foreign policy. Initially adopting a policy of neutrality, the United States faced increasing pressures and eventually entered the war in 1917. President Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy vision was grounded in idealism and the belief in promoting democracy and self-determination. Wilson's Fourteen Points outlined a vision for a new world order based on principles such as national self-determination and collective security through the establishment of the League of Nations.


The period from 1890 to 1920 witnessed a profound evolution in American foreign policy. The United States emerged as a global power, asserting its influence through territorial expansion, economic interests, and military strength. From the era of American imperialism and the acquisition of overseas territories to the pursuit of economic opportunities through the Open Door Policy, American foreign policy reflected the nation's desire to secure its economic and strategic interests. The assertiveness of President Theodore Roosevelt's big stick diplomacy and the idealism of President Woodrow Wilson's vision during World War I further shaped American interactions with the world. By examining the motivations and strategies of American foreign policy during this period, we gain a deeper understanding of the forces that shaped the nation's role on the international stage and laid the foundation for future foreign policy endeavors.

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