Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Frank Schumacher


This dissertation explores both the admiration and dependency that influential Americans developed towards Spain and its imperial legacy as they attempted to construct the United States’ national and imperial identities throughout the long nineteenth century. The project also challenges beliefs associated with American exceptionalism, isolationism, and the Black Legend narrative. Developed in the metropole during the century prior to the United States’ emergence onto the world stage as an overseas imperial power in 1898, an informal group of elite Americans, made up of politicians, diplomats, Hispanist scholars, magazine editors, and exposition organizers, appropriated Spain’s imperial past as the foundation of the American historical narrative. Based on a conceptualization of Whig history, they celebrated the Spanish Empire for having brought civilization to the New World. These individuals also believed that the United States had become the vanguard of civilization; in turn, they accepted that it was their country’s responsibility to expand westward across the continent of North America.

Following the transfer of imperial power that occurred at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States found itself in possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands. Relatively unfamiliar with the empire’s new overseas colonial possessions, U.S. military officers and colonial administrators pragmatically adopted the narrative that had been created in the metropole. These individuals used Spain’s imperial legacy as the foundation of their own colonial projects, as they borrowed from several centuries of imperial knowledge and expertise throughout the periphery of their new empire.

Available for download on Saturday, October 31, 2020