The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography

The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography

The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography

The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography

Synopsis

In this work, Louis A. Perez examines the meaning of the Cuban war for independence of 1898, as represented in 100 years of American historical writing.

Excerpt

The war of 1898 has loomed large in national discourses of the twentieth century. All parties involved have come to understand 1898 as a watershed year, a moment in which outcomes were both defining and decisive, at once an end and a beginning: that special conjuncture of historical circumstances that often serves to delineate one historical epoch from another. It was special, too, in that the passage from one historical condition to another was discernible at the time, even as it was happening.

Most U.S. historiography commemorates 1898 as the moment in which the nation first projected itself as a world power, whereupon the United States established an international presence and global prominence. Spanish historiography has looked back on 1898 as el desastre (the disaster)--an ignominious denouement of a five-hundred-year-old New World empire, after which Spain plunged vertiginously into decades of disarray and disorder. For Cuba and the Philippine Islands, 1898 represents a complex point of transition from colony to nation in which the pursuit of sovereignty and separate nationality assumed new forms. For Puerto Rico, the transition was even more complicated, with central elements of nation and nationality persisting unresolved well into the next century.

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The historical literature on 1898 in the United States has assumed vast proportions. It includes monographs and memoirs, published documents and unpublished dissertations, biographies and bibliographical guides, books, articles, and anthologies of all descriptions. The discussion of 1898 in various forms has loomed large in virtually every U.S. history textbook of the last one hundred years.

For all the importance traditionally accorded to 1898, and indeed the consensus has been one of the more notable characteristics of the historiography, generations of U.S. scholars have treated the war with Spain with ambivalence, uncertain as to where exactly to situate it: sometimes a war of expansion, other times an accidental war; an inevitable war or . . .

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