The imperial enterprise: Anglo-American reaction to the Spanish-American and Boer Wars, 1898--1902

Thomas M Sobottke, Marquette University


This is a comparative study of Anglo-American public opinion of the 1898 Spanish-American War, the Philippine insurrection of 1899-1902 provoked by American occupation, and Britain's war with the Boers in South Africa, 1899-1902. The imperial ventures of both Great Britain and the United States as viewed by each other is the focus of this study. This dissertation makes extensive use of newspapers, journals of opinion, and contemporary letters written by key shapers of Anglo-American foreign policy in order to take the measure of public opinion in the two countries. The initial chapters are introductory, examining how both nations became involved in imperial wars and placing the emerging rapprochement between the two countries into context. The third chapter examines the racial Anglo-Saxonism that so characterized the rhetoric and thinking of the period studied. The fourth chapter discusses the emergence of the United States as an imperial power and Britain's reaction to that development. Chapter five analyzes how the crucible of war tested these ideas of Anglo-Saxon racialism and empire. Chapter six lays out the anti-imperialist critique of Britain's war in South Africa. Chapter seven gives voice to the ethnic press in the United States and its rejection of racial Anglo-Saxonism as a construct for empire. As Goldwyn Smith wrote, "the junction of American with British jingoism" was the most salient feature of Anglo-American public opinion in this period. It is precisely this juxtaposition of the two nations' imperial enterprises that is among the most startling revelations of this study. The reaction of British or American public opinion to the imperial enterprise of the other can be reliably shown to have a distinctly Anglo-American character. For Britain, America's stride onto the world stage in the Philippines was most readily comparable to the British experience in Egypt in 1882. For the United States, a nation with no long tradition of imperial involvement, Britain's South African war held too many close comparisons to resist comment. The power and depth of these Anglo-American connections between empires argues for further investigation into the ties between them.

Recommended Citation

Sobottke, Thomas M, "The imperial enterprise: Anglo-American reaction to the Spanish-American and Boer Wars, 1898--1902" (2008). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3357937.