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The Spanish-American War Terms


This is a formal act in which a state or nation claims control over territory outside its domain, often after some form of military conquest, or by military occupation.

Cuba Libre

In the late 1890s, the American press published stories of war atrocities in Cuba. Spanish colonial forces, the American public learned, were responsible for the starvation and suffering of the Cuban colonists. These stories stirred the sentiments Americans and inspired many to offer support to the Cuban cause. "Cuba Libre" ("A Free Cuba") was the rallying cry behind rallies, food drives, and fund-raisers held throughout the United States.


A period of economic malaise during which business and employment decline.

A depression is a severe economic downturn marked by a sharp rise in unemployment and a steep decline in manufacturing and production. Before the Great Depression of the 1930s, economic crises were referred to as "panics."


Any practice, policy, or person in support of territorial or economic expansion.

Gilded Age

From the title of Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner's 1873 novel, the "Gilded Age" became a term popularly associated with the second half of the nineteenth century, a period from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the twentieth century marked by political corruption and materialism.

The name coined by Mark Twain for the last quarter of the nineteenth century in America. Twain meant to emphasize that behind the fabulous new wealth of the era there was a decadent and thoroughly corrupt core.

The name coined by Mark Twain for the last quarter of the nineteenth century in America. Twain meant to emphasize that behind the fabulous new wealth of the era, there was a decadent and thoroughly corrupt core.

Imperialism, Imperialistic, Imperialist

Imperialism is generally defined as any government policy or action that is aimed at exerting power over another territory or nation of people. In its most obvious form, imperialism involves the use of military force, often to acquire land. But it can also be the result of more subtle extensions of power such—economic, political, or religious.

Independencia O Muerte

This Spanish phrase, meaning "Independence or Death," was the bold slogan used by Cuban revolutionary leaders such as José Martí and Máximo Gómez to rally the Cuban people behind the 1895 movement to expel the Spanish colonizers and achieve national independence.

Insurgent, Insurgency, Insurgents

Any person who resists an established government regime, usually with force, may be considered an "insurgent," particularly by the state. Often insurgents consider themselves to be "rebels" or "revolutionaries" fighting against an authority they consider corrupt.

Manifest Destiny

The concept, popular in the nineteenth century, that the United States was ordained by God to conquer the entire North American continent.

This phrase was first coined in 1845 by those who advocated the annexation of Texas. Thereafter it became the calling card for western expansion and, ultimately, a rallying cry for those who sought to justify American imperialism.

First used by those who supported the annexation of Texas in 1845, the term later justified American settlement of the Great Plains and the West (and then the broadening of the American empire).

The idea, popular in the mid-nineteenth century, that the United States was ordained by God to spread across the entire North American continent.

Panic Of 1893

Referred to by historians as both a "depression" and a "panic" (since the two terms are interchangeable), this economic downtown lasted approximately four years, from 1893 until 1897. It was the worst financial crisis of the nineteenth century, triggered by overproduction of manufactured goods, low agricultural prices, and railroad failures.

Platt Amendment

Approved by U.S. and Cuban officials in 1903, the Platt Amendment to the Cuban constitution allowed the U.S. to intervene in Cuban affairs in order to protect Cuba's independence from foreign meddling. Ultimately, however, the treaty increased the nation's dependence on the United States and hindered its realization of full sovereignty.


From the native term "taga ilog," which means "native of the river," this term refers to the second largest Filipino ethnic group. Most leaders of the Philippine Revolution, including president Emilio Aguinaldo, were of Tagalog ancestry.

U.S.S. Maine, The Maine

On 15 February 1898, this United States battleship exploded in Havana Harbor, resulting in 266 deaths. Although little evidence existed to prove why the disaster had happened, the American public assumed that the Spanish navy had destroyed the ship and thus called for war against Spain. Two months later, the Spanish-American War was declared.

Yellow Journalism

In the 1890s, the circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal coincided with the escalating war in Cuba between Spanish colonial forces and Cuban revolutionaries. The sensationalized accounts in these papers contributed to the American declaration of war against Spain.

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