Conference: “The End of a Dream”: Harvard, Imperialism, and the Spanish American War 12/1

“We are now engaged in cursing out the sacredest  thing in this great human world — the attempt of a people long enslaved to attain freedom and work out its own destiny.”  William James

“America has lost her unique position as a leader in the progress of civilization, and has taken up her place simply as one of the grasping and selfish nations of the present day.”  Charles Eliot Norton

We are false to all we have believed in. This great free land which for more than a century has offered a refuge to the oppressed of every land, has now turned to oppression.” Moorfield Storey

It has been a splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave.”  Secretary of State John Hay to Theodore Roosevelt

The Spanish American War, Harvard, & the Rise of American Empire

The Spanish American War of 1898 lasted barely ten weeks and is largely forgotten today, but the conflict was one of those rare nexus points in history that shaped the destiny of four continents. In Spain, the sudden loss of almost all colonial territories generated a national crisis of confidence that set the stage for the Spanish Civil War. In the Caribbean, Cuba began the long journey to Castro and beyond. Puerto Rico half-lurched into the American confederacy — its future still not resolved today. In the Pacific, the US became an uncomfortable colonial power in the Philippines, ostensibly under the banner of high altruism, but in reality motivated by poorly disguised commercial and strategic interests — a fact not lost on Harvard academics like Charles Eliot Norton and William James, who mourned the war as the end of the American dream. TR and his Great White Fleet, the naval race between Great Britain and Germany, the Panama Canal, FDR’s views on naval power and US involvement in WWI and WII, the rise of modern journalism, even the role of Harvard as a center of global policy — all these and many other seemingly unrelated events can trace their origins directly back to a fateful day in April of 1898.

Join us on the 120th anniversary of the Spanish American War as the Foundation takes a multi-disciplinary look back at ten weeks that forever changed the modern world.


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