The Emergence of the United States as a Great Power on the World Stage

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There is no doubt that the United States came onto the world stage as a great power during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. How, and why that happened are important discussions to realize just how powerful the U.S. was during this time. Another big question was if the U.S. was an empire during this time. In order to answer that, the word empire must be defined. According to Meriam-Webster, an empire is “a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority”. The United States certainly did have a great extent of territory and people under their reign, but one crucial factor of the definition says “a major political unit”, and one can argue that the U.S. at this time really did not have much to show as a big political player throughout the world. While the U.S. certanly had authority over many geographic regions and peoples in the late 19th century, it lackes the political prowess to elevate it to a worls empire, and would take more time for it to grow into the power it would become.

Recognition from the rest of the world was a very important factor in becoming a major power, especially from Europe. Technically, the U.S. was a major political power in the eyes of the rest of the world during this time. In 1892, countries of Europe proclaimed all of their ministers in Washington D.C. would be ambassadors, and that officially recognized the U.S. as a major power. That was a big stepping stone for the U.S. in terms of moving up in the world as a great power, and from then on, they continued to become more recognized. It allowed for better foreign policy between the U.S. and the nations of Europe, and provided the U.S. diplomats with a sense of confidence knowing Europe recognized them. The U.S. was still adapting to this new recognition during this time period, and it would take time for them to really assert themselves politically on the world stage.

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Newcomers seemed threatening to homegrown Americans at first, however, these immigrants eventually helped spark a once simple nation to be well on its way to becoming a world power. Americans felt threatened by the newcomers moving into their cities. Italians, Poles, Greeks, Jews, Hungarians, among others filled U.S. cities in the eighteen eighties, and made Americans anxious for the future. Although it did seem threatening for a while, immigration allowed for a spread of ideas and culture, as well as an increase in population. That allowed for the U.S. to grow stronger, and develop into a more diversified nation. This would also lead to stronger international relations in the future with many nations of Europe, and the U.S. was able to become very powerful politically and economically because of this. Although immigration did lead to a stronger nation, it was not during this time period that it made them an empire. It would take years for the U.S. to adapt to immigration, but when it did, it made the U.S. an extremely diversely powerful nation.

Technological advances through the industrial revolution allowed for the U.S. to grow economically, and allowed them to keep up with the European superpowers. These advances allowed for better economic stability because of an increase in jobs, as well as an increase in job efficiency. The use of the railroad allowed for mass production across the country, and provided people with a means to move to new cities to find jobs. Along with developing the nation at home, the U.S. was able to become very powerful militarily, and was able to dominate the War of 1898 because of it. Although a lot of improvements came about from technological advances, it was also during this time that many of the trailblazers from the industrial revolution came under fire for their practices to build their corporations. American people became threatened by the power these corporations had obtained, and believed that the fundamental values of democracy were in jeopardy. The American people began to question democracy, and believed that these corporations threatened the American dream. This called for the American government to step in and regulate corporations like this. Because of this change during this time, it would take the U.S. a few years before it could really become an economic power. Advances in technology also allowed for the U.S. to expand their power across the world. Because of how big their expansion was, it is not hard for one to argue that the U.S. was an expanding empire during this time. Although expansion was so great for the U.S., it was still figuring out what to do with the power they had acquired, and again shows them living in an adaptation period during this time.

Notable writers did not believe the U.S. was fully taking on the title of an empire at this time. Mark Twain wrote that the U.S. tried to do what empires in Europe did and failed miserably. He even calls William McKinley out for trying to be so imperialistic like the countries of Europe, yet failing to do so. Rudyard Kipling, in his poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’, pushed the U.S. to take on the “burden” of an empire. This poem was written in 1899, which was toward the ladder half of this time period, and shows that the U.S. was just not there yet in terms of being an empire. Prominent writers believed the U.S. was on its way and trying, but not completely there yet.

These factors all played a huge role in the U.S. becoming an empire, however, it was not during this time period in the late nineteenth century that the U.S. became that. This period was more of an adapting period, and was extremely important in the U.S. eventually growing into an empire. During this time, the U.S. was still growing politically and economically, it was still learning how to regulate corporations and technological advancements, and it was at the very beginning of finally being recognized on a world stage. All of these factors are crucial in the U.S. becoming an empire, and it was during this time that it was really learning how to put it all together to become a world power.

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The Emergence of the United States as a Great Power on the World Stage. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
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