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An American Empire

Pre-reading questions

Do you think the United States also acquired lands away from the mainland?

How did it do that?

Do you think it is possible for a former colony to become a colonial power?

What colonial empires do you know? Are there any at present?

The Monroe Doctrine

In the early 1820s the Spanish colonies on the American continents won their independence, and a dozen new nations came into existence.

The United States government feared that European powers might help Spain to restore its rule in Latin America.

In his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823, President Monroe declared his foreign policy principles (which were later called the Monroe Doctrine). He stressed that the United States would not interfere in the internal affairs of European powers or in the wars between them. The United States recognized the existing colonies and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere. But the New World was closed to future colonization (America for Americans).

The Monroe Doctrine was ignored in Europe because, firstly, the United States was not a major power and, secondly, nobody had intentions of recolonizing Latin America.

The Monroe Doctrine did not improve relations between the United States and Latin American countries which feared The Colossus of the North far more then they feared any European nation.

A New Spirit

In the 1890s, however, a new spirit started to enter American foreign policy. These were the years when Britain, France and Germany were busy claiming colonies – foreign lands which they could rule and exploit. Colonies overseas meant trade, wealth, power and prestige. Some Americans believed that the United States should do the same. ‘We are the most advanced and powerful nation on earth and our future demands an abandonment of the policy of isolation. It is to the ocean our children must look, as they once looked to the boundless West’, said senator Orville Platt in 1893.

Many Americans agreed with Platt. Politicians, businessmen, newspapers and missionaries joined together to claim that ‘the Anglo-Saxon race’ had a right and a duty to bring western civilization to the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. How? By making them accept ‘Anglo-Saxon’ rule and guidance.

A New Colonial Power

From 1895 onwards feelings of this kind were focused more and more on Cuba, a Spanish colony which lay only ninety miles from the American coast. Many Americans had invested money in sugar and tobacco plantations there.
The United States also ‘looked to’ the Philippines, another big Spanish colony near the coast of Southeast Asia.

In the mid-1890s the Cubans and the Filipinos rebelled against their Spanish rulers. In the spring of 1898, American soldiers landed in the Philippines and in Cuba and, with the help of the rebels, quickly occupied both colonies. The four-month war was over.

When peace was signed, the United States took over most of Spain’s overseas empire – the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, an island in the West Indies, and a small Pacific island called Guam. At the same time the United States annexed Hawaii, a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Before this it had been independent, but Americans owned profitable sugar and pineapple plantations there.

In less than a year the United States became a colonial power, with millions оf non-Americans under its rule. Some Americans were worried by this. After all, they, too, had once been a colonial people. In rebelling against British rule they had claimed that colonial peoples should be free to rule themselves. So what about the Cubans? And what about the Filipinos? Filipinos who had fought for independence from Spain were soon fighting against American occupation troops.

The rising economic and military superpower would be seeking to further expand its guidance and influence in the 20th century.

Appetite would grow with eating.


1. 'doctrine

Monroe Doctrine

James Mon'roe, 5th US president, 1817–1825


доктрина Монро

Джеймс Монро

2. annual message to Congress

ежегодное послание Конгрессу

3. dependency

зависимая страна

4. (a new) spirit

дух, настроение

5. exploit


6. pre'stige

prestigious [pre'stIGqs]



7. advanced

1. передовой; 2. продвинутый

8. a'bandon
abandonment of the policy of isolation

1. оставлять, покидать;

2. отказываться (от чего-л.)

отказ от политики изоляции

9. look to sth

обращать взор на что-л.

10. boundless (plain, sea, West)

бескрайний, безграничный

11. once


12. missionary ['mISqnrI]


13. guide


accept sb’s guidance

руководить, направлять


признать чью-л. руководящую роль

14. focus ones attention on

сосредоточивать внимание на чем-л.

15. pineapple plantation

ананасная плантация

16. be free to rule oneself

иметь право на самоуправление

17. occupation troops

оккупационные войска

18. rising superpower

восходящая сверхдержава

19. Appetite comes with eating.

Аппетит приходит во время еды.

Exercises on the Text

1. Read the text. Look up new words in the vocabulary.

2. Read these phrases aloud. Find the sentences with these phrases in the text. Translate them into Russian.

A new spirit entered foreign policy; to rule and exploit; trade, wealth, power and prestige; the most advanced nation; an abandonment of the policy of isolation; to look to the ocean; to look to the boundless west; the Anglo-Saxon race; to have a right and a duty; to bring western civilization to other peoples; to accept Anglo-Saxon rule and guidance.

Feelings of this kind; focused on Cuba; to lie ninety miles from Florida; near the coast of Southeast Asia; the four-month war; most of its overseas empire; to own a pineapple plantation; to become a colonial power; millions of non-Americans under its rule; to be free to rule themselves; to fight against occupation troops; the rising superpower; appetite comes with eating.

3. Comprehension check: Answer these questions. Check your answers with the text.

What principle (doctrine) did the United States follow in its foreign policy in the 19th century?

What kind of ‘new spirit’ entered its foreign policy in the 1890s?

What did ‘colony’ mean in the 17th century? And in the 19th?

Why did Platt think Americans ‘must look to the ocean’?

What ambitious idea was used to justify their ‘look to the ocean’?

Why do you think the United States chose to attack Spain’s overseas colonies?

Did the Spanish-American war last long?

Which Spanish colonies did the United States take over?

Why did it annex Hawaii?

Did all Americans approve of the country’s new status?
6. Put a preposition in each gap. Underline the prepositions in your notebooks.

_____ the 19th century the United States followed a doctrine stated ___ President Monroe which meant “America ____ Americans”, ___ the one hand, and non-interference ___ the United States ___ European affairs, ___ the other.

___the 1890s American politicians demanded an abandonment ___ the policy ___ isolation. ___ the most advanced nation ___ the planet, they claimed, the United States had a duty to bring western civilization ___ various peoples ___ the world.

Americans must look ___ the ocean as they once looked ___ the west.

_____ 1895 ______ their attention was focused ___ the remains (остатки) ___ Spain’s overseas empire, first ___ all ___ Cuba which lay ninety miles _____ Florida. Americans had invested a lot ___ money ___ profitable plantations there. When the Cubans rebelled ______ Spanish rule, American soldiers landed ___ the island ‘to help’ them ___ their struggle _____ independence. ___ less then two weeks ___ fighting the Spanish were beaten and Cuba turned _____ a Spanish colony _____ an American dependency.

___ the Philippines the United States acted ___ the same way. ______ long, _______ ___ the old rulers the Filipinos got new ones and had to fight ______ them ____ many decades to came. ___ the same time the United States annexed a group ___ islands ___ the middle ___ the Pacific Ocean. ___ less _____ half a year a new colonial power appeared ___ the globe.
7. Put the verb in brackets in the correct tense and voice. Underline the verb forms in your notebooks.

For several decades the United States (follow) the Monroe doctrine. By the 1890s it (reach) a high industrial and technological level and a new spirit (begin) to enter American foreign policy. Some Americans (believe) that it (be) time to abandon the policy of isolation. They (claim) that the United States (be) the most advanced nation which (have) a right and a duty to bring western civilization and Anglo-Saxon guidance to other peoples. The United States leadership (choose) Spain as the weakest of the colonial powers which, they (believe), (not be) able to resist the American military power. In 1898 American troops (land) in the Philippines and Cuba “to help” the rebels who (fight) against Spanish rule. Spain (defeat) and (lose) most of its colonies to the United States. American colonists who (fight) for independence over a hundred years earlier hardly (expect) that their freedom-loving country (become) a colonial power.
8. Change the following sentences to passive. Underline the verb forms in your notebooks.

In the 1890s many American politicians insisted that the country should abandon the policy of isolation. They believed that they could make the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America accept ‘Anglo-Saxon’ rule or guidance.

Many Americans had invested a lot of money in sugar plantations in Cuba. When the people of Cuba rose in a rebellion against Spanish rule in 1895 the American government sent its troops to ‘help the fighters for freedom’. They defeated the Spanish and the United States took over the island from Spain. In a similar way the Americans occupied another Spanish colony, the Philippines. As the result of the Spanish-American War Spain lost most of its overseas colonial empire. At the same time the United States annexed Hawaii. Americans owned sugar and pineapple plantations there.
9. Write questions to these answers.

1. President Monroe in 1823. 2. A country or land ruled and exploited by a foreign power. 3. They felt that the United States was powerful enough to claim overseas lands. 4. By making them accept Anglo-Saxon guidance. 5. It was near the North American coast. 6. To set up military and naval bases in Southeast Asia. 7. Because Americans wanted to own the islands where they owned pineapple plantations. 8. No, another reason was that, like Guam, Hawaii were strategically important.
10. Find the English equivalents to these phrases.

Сформулировать доктрину и следовать ей; взаимное невмешательство; новые настроения; проникать во внешнюю политику; эксплуатировать заморские земли; богатство, могущество и престиж; самая передовая нация на планете; политика изоляции; отказ от этой политики; обратить взор на океан; утверждать; англо-саксонская раса; право и обязанность; западная цивилизация.

Сосредоточить внимание на чем-л.; вложить деньги в плантации; восстать против своих правителей; высадиться на острове; владеть прибыльными плантациями; стать колониальной державой; сражаться против оккупационных войск; восходящая сверхдержава; расширять свое влияние; аппетит приходит во время еды.
11. True or false? Give an adequate response to each statement. Do not content yourselves with saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

1. The Monroe Doctrine meant a complete isolation of the United States.

2. It was considered good and followed until the 1890s.

3. New American politicians began ‘to look to the ocean’, or to plan new geographical discoveries.

4. The Americans believed they had a right and a duty to bring their civilization to other countries and peoples.

5. The Americans landed in Cuba to drive away the Spanish and control the island for their benefit.

6. They arrived in the Philippines to help the rebels to win independence from Spain.

7. Some Americans were worried by the fact that the United States had become a colonial power.
12. Points for discussion. (Summarize the text according to the following suggestions).

1. The meaning of “colony” in the 17th and the 19th centuries.

2. The essence of the Monroe Doctrine.

3. The United States claims a right and a duty to guide other peoples.

4. The United States takes over Spain’s overseas colonies and annexes Hawaii, becomes a new colonial power.

5. Some Americans are unhappy about it.
13. Translate into English.

В начале XIX века большей частью Центральной и Южной Америки, или Латинской Америки, правила Испания. В конце 1810-х годов эти испанские колонии восстали.

Испанское правительство попросило европейские державы помочь ему разгромить повстанцев. Узнав об этом, американцы встревожились. Они не хотели, чтобы армии и флоты европейских стран появились в Западном полушарии. Восставшие испанские колонии были ближайшими соседями США. Американцы чувствовали, что любое внешнее влияние в странах Латинской Америки будет опасно для безопасности их страны.

В 1823 г. президент Монро предупредил европейские государства, чтобы они не вмешивались в латино-американские дела. Отныне американский континент нельзя рассматривать как субъект для колонизации европейскими державами, заявил он. Монро также обещал не вмешиваться в европейские дела. Это обещание соблюдалось, пока США чувствовали себя недостаточно сильными. Их внешняя политика коренным образом изменилась в конце XIX в.

Доктрина Монро не обрадовала латино-американские страны. Мексиканско-Американская война показала им, кого им следует боятьсяСеверного колосса или дальних европейских стран. Этот обширный регион стал сферой американских интересов и влияния.
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