About the Document The quest for empire dominated latter nineteenth-century Western affairs. Virtually every major European nation and the United States engaged in some type of territorial acquisition. The reasons behind the imperialistic movement are numerous and include quests for raw materials and markets to fuel the growing industrialization of Western nations, nationalism, and militarism. Even racism played a role in the movement as many nations, including Great Britain, argued that their civilization was the fittest and should be spread to "backward" peoples. These motivations led to European entry into the African interior after 1885 and the carving up of China into spheres of influence by 1900. By this time, the United States had emerged as an industrial power and needed markets; safe harbors for its military and coaling stations for its navy; and protection for American investments in foreign nations. The Spanish-American War demonstrated America's commitment as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were added as U.S. possessions.
Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden" was published in McClure's Magazine in February 1899, at a pivotal point in the American debate over imperialism. Debate raged in American political circles over imperialism, highlighted by the terms of the Treaty of Paris that would give the U.S. control of Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Kipling's poem urged the United States to take up the burden of "civilizing" the former Spanish colonies; a thankless task but a noble undertaking. Kipling's poem also contains several warnings, and these seemed to come true. Beginning in 1899 and lasting into 1902, native Filipinos revolted against American dominance of their homeland just as they had against the Spanish in 1896. A bitter three-year war followed as America fought to maintain control of its new possession.
Source: Rudyard Kipling, "The White Man's Burden," McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb. 1899).
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