Unit 11: A New Role in the World

Essential Questions

  • What specific social, economic, and political problems needed reform in the late-19th century?
  • How can an individual help to bring about change in society
  • What is the amendment process?
  • How did the federal government help the reform movement through amendments and legislation? Do these problems exist today? To what extent?
  • What were the causes and effects of United States involvement in foreign affairs at the turn of the 20th century?
  • What were the domestic and foreign issues of this time period?


A. Social ills

  1. The Muckrakers—exposing corruption and abuses in industry government, and urban living conditions
  2. Fighting racial discrimination, e.g., the formation of the NAACP
  3. Temperance and prohibition
  4. Settlement houses

B. Efforts to reform government and politics

  1. Need for responsive government, e.g., primary elections, the initiative, the referendum, the recall election
  2. Progressive leaders, e.g., LaFollette, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Debs
  3. The Socialist Party challenges the political establishment
  4. Direct election of Senators—the 17th Amendment
  5. Women’s suffrage—the 19th Amendment

C. Economic reform efforts

  1. Labor- related legislation, e.g., minimum wage laws, workmen’s compensation insurance, safety regulations, child labor laws
  2. Prosecuting trusts
  3. Government regulation of the railroads
  4. The Federal Reserve Act
  5. Graduated income tax—the 16th Amendment

D. Growth of imperialist sentiment was caused by several factors

  1. A belief that the nation had a right to the land, i.e., Manifest Destiny—“people’s differing perceptions of places, people, and resources”
  2. Perceived moral obligations to extend America’s way of life to others, i.e., ethnocentrism and racism
  3. American citizens were already migrating into new lands in North America—the effects of human migration on the characteristics of different places
  4. Increased foreign trade led to a growing interest in gaining control over some foreign markets
  5. Fear that other foreign nations would gain control of strategic locations at the expense of the United States
  6. Developing technology in transportation and communication contributed to American expansion potential—the importance of location and certain physical features

E. The Spanish-American War signaled the emergence of the United States as a world power

  1. The war’s origins lay in Cuban attempts to gain freedom from Spain
  2. Concerns of the United States, i.e., pro-expansionist sentiment, Cuba’s location, Spanish tactics
  3. Newspapers shaped public opinion over the Maine incident—“ yellow journalism”
  4. Conduct of the war created domestic and international problems
  5. Opposition to American imperialist movement

F. Victory in the Spanish-American War created a need for a new foreign policy

  1. Acquisition of land far from America’s shores—importance of resources and markets
  2. Emphasis on doing what the government felt was necessary and possible to protect American interests, i.e., maintaining a strong navy, gaining control of other strategic locations, advocating equal trading
    rights in Asia, e.g., the Open Door Policy
  3. Actions created conflict with Filipinos and Japanese

G. United States policies in Latin America

  1. The United States attempted to control a number of locations in Latin America for economic and political reasons
  2. The quest for Latin American stability through the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine: Panama Canal
  3. Armed intervention in Latin America

H. United States policy on noninvolvement in European political affairswas based on a number of factors

  1. Tradition dating back to the earliest days of the country
  2. Focus on the international problems of the new nation
  3. Recognition of United States military unpreparedness
  4. Impacts of geography (e.g., location, resources) on United States foreign policy

I. Pre-World War I involvements

  1. Application of the Monroe Doctrine to the Western Hemisphere
  2. Threats to American foreign trade
  3. Roosevelt’s Treaty of Portsmouth

J. World War I occurred as a result of international problems

  1. Intense nationalism
  2. Power struggles among European nations
  3. A failure of leadership
  4. European alliances

K. Events led to United States involvement in World War I

  1. The American people were divided in ways that made involvement difficult
  2. Fear that United States involvement would increase intolerance at home
  3. Initial attempts to follow traditional policy of neutrality failed
  4. Unwillingness of warring nations to accept President Wilson as a mediator
  5. England was a major United States trade partner
  6. Despite varied ethnic backgrounds in the United States, leaders felt closer to the English than to the Germans
  7. While both sides attempted to restrict United States trade with their opponent, Germany did so by sinking American ships
  8. Recognition that the United States would have no say at any peace conference if it remained neutral

L. The United States entered the war

  1. 1. Combining new technology with old strategies e.g., chemical warfare led to the death of millions
  2. 2. The war was supported by the majority of Americans
  3. 3. The war effort created changes on the home front, e.g., economic controls, the role of women in the workforce, black migrations to the North, and attempts to organize labor to improve conditions
  4. 4. War promoted intolerance, e.g., the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918; “hyphenated Americans” have their loyalty questioned

M. The United States and the peace negotiations

  1. Wilson’s failed attempts to establish leadership with his Fourteen Points
  2. Senate opposition to the League of Nations
  3. The Versailles Treaty

N. The Bolshevik Revolution

  1. Effect of World War I
  2. Civil war in Russia
  3. Western intervention
  4. Threat of international communism