Why Was 1898 a Turning Point in American History?

The year 1898 was a turning point in American history for various reasons. It was a year that marked the emergence of America as a world power and changed the course of its foreign policy forever. Let’s dive deeper into the events that made 1898 so significant.

The Spanish-American War

One of the most significant events that took place in 1898 was the Spanish-American War, which lasted from April to August of that year. The war was fought between Spain and the United States over Cuba’s independence, which was then a Spanish colony.

The conflict began after the US battleship Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, killing over 260 American sailors. While it is still unclear what caused the explosion, it led to widespread outrage in the US and calls for war against Spain.

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898. Under this treaty, Spain relinquished its control over Cuba and ceded Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The US emerged as a colonial power with territories outside North America for the first time in its history.

The Birth of American Imperialism

The Spanish-American War marked a shift in American foreign policy from isolationism to imperialism. Prior to this conflict, America had adopted an isolationist policy of avoiding international entanglements and focusing on domestic issues. However, with victory in the Spanish-American War came new responsibilities and opportunities for America on an international stage.

The acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam, and especially the Philippines raised questions about how these territories would be governed by their new colonial power. Some Americans argued for annexation while others opposed it; however, it paved the way for future expansionist policies.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

Another significant event that took place in 1898 was Theodore Roosevelt’s rise to national prominence during his service in the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt was a former New York City police commissioner and assistant secretary of the navy who resigned his position to join the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry unit, during the war.

Roosevelt’s leadership and bravery during the war earned him national attention and helped him secure the Republican nomination for governor of New York in 1898. He went on to become vice president in 1901 and then president later that year after President William McKinley’s assassination.

The Impact on American Society

The events of 1898 had a significant impact on American society. The acquisition of new territories raised questions about America’s role as a colonial power and its obligations to its new subjects. It also sparked debates about race, identity, and citizenship as many Americans questioned whether non-white peoples could be assimilated into American society.

The Spanish-American War also had economic implications as it opened up new markets for American goods in Asia and Latin America. However, it also led to increased military spending and expanded government powers that would have long-term consequences for American society.


In conclusion, 1898 was a turning point in American history because of the Spanish-American War, which marked America’s emergence as a world power and birthed its imperialist ambitions. It also saw Theodore Roosevelt rise to national prominence and raised important questions about America’s role in the world and its obligations to its new territories. The events of 1898 had far-reaching consequences that continue to shape American society today.