Manifest Destiny

Amerikansk ekspansion i det 19. århundrede

English Summary below

USA firedoblede sit areal fra år 1800 til 1900. Selvom denne ekspansion kunne måle sig med andre imperier, har imperialismeforskningen ofte forbigået USA som forskningsgenstand. Man anerkendte tidligt USA som værende et imperium, men det havde opnået denne status uden det stigma der knyttede sig til især den britiske, franske og japanske imperieopbygning. Hvor imperialisme-begrebet, og alle de negative konnotationer det medfører, i moderne tid oftest er blevet knyttet til de vesteuropæiske magter, så er den amerikanske udvidelse blevet betegnet som en ”ekspansion” eller ”mission” der som sådan ikke var imperialistisk. Denne artikel søger derfor at belyse karakteren af denne ekspansion: Hvad har kendetegnet USA’s udvidelse i 1800-tallet og hvordan passer den tidlige udvidelse ind i etablerede teorier for imperialisme? Med USA’s ekspansion in mente er det endvidere interessant at undersøge hvorfor erhvervelsen af tre øer med et ganske sparsomt areal på 354 km2, åbenlyst indenfor USA’s interessesfære, ikke endte som en del af imperiet i løbet af det 19. århundrede.

Bemærk: Dette er blot en del af introduktionen til en opgave, som jeg skrev om emnet på historiestudiets 4. semester. Uanset om man vil have opridset USA’s udvidelse i løbet af 1800-tallet eller vil have et hurtigt overblik over forskellige imperialismeteorier er der noget at komme efter. Omvendt er der en del metodiske fejl i opgaven.

Hele opgaven kan læses her.

 

English summary: American expansion in the 19th century

This paper examines the character of American expansion in the 19th century, and how the expansion fit within general theories of imperialism. Furthermore it is investigated why three small islands and a number of inlets, the Danish West Indies, did not come under American rule, despite several well-orchestrated attempts. The main thesis of the paper is, that the American behavior in foreign relations can be considered imperialistic, but expansion into the Caribbean was denied due to the nature of the American imperialism in this period.

After listing a number of general theories of imperialism the paper singles out two theories, which have repeatedly been utilized in ex- plaining the American behavior: The classic Marxist theory of capital accumulation and under-consumption as well at the objectivist theory. In addition to these theories, the peripheral theory of imperialism by D. K. Fieldhouse is included. After a broad historiographical overview and methodological considerations, the paper continues with the unraveling of the successful antebellum American expansion from a both quantitative and qualitative perspective. The problems of expansion after the Civil War is explained afterwards, followed by an analysis combining the empirical knowledge with the ideological justification (Manifest Destiny) and the theory of imperialism expressed by Fieldhouse.

The paper concludes, that both Marxist and objectivist theories of imperialism fail to explain the American expansion in the 19th century. On the other hand, the peripheral theory of imperialism matches the empirical evidence remarkably well, and this in turn explains why forays into the Caribbean did not succeed at the time. Finally, the paper concludes that if the European activities in Africa are considered imperialistic, the same label applies to the American activities.

Please note: This is a summary of a university assignment I wrote  during my fourth semester as a student of history.

The entire paper (in Danish!) can be read here.