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Spanish-American War: Interpretation 1

Kristin L. Hoganson

Fighting for American Manhood

Kristin Hoganson notes that calls for the United States to join the conflict in Cuba hailed from many points of view in the years leading up to the conflict. Supporters cited economic reasons, imperialist aspirations, national strategic interests, sympathy for the Cuban independence movement, and a variety of other reasons in their advocacy of U.S. intervention. Hoganson argues that the only way to understand the underlying claims uniting this varied reasoning is to examine the cultural framework within which U.S. actors made their claims. Thus, she argues that dominant cultural understandings of gender, in particular manliness, had a significant impact on the way the politicians approached their decision making on the situation in Cuba. Thus, despite their disparate reasoning U.S. politicians were united in their understanding of the character and obligations of manly authority, both in the private sector and also in the much more public sphere of international relations. The significantly gendered rhetoric that surrounded the conflict betrays the degree to which advocates of war such as Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Beveridge, and Alfred Theyer Mahan used the notion of strong and assertive manhood to bring together supporters with vastly different interests behind the cause of war.

Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).