"It is the custom to look back . . .
. . . on ourselves of the boom days with a disapproval that approaches horror...But it had its virtues, that old boom: Life was a great deal larger and gayer for most people, and the stampede to the Spartan virtues in times of war and famine shouldn't make us too dizzy to remember its hilarious glory."
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Roaring Twenties
— from the series America in the 20th Century
One could argue that many issues of American foreign policy in the twentieth century had their origins in the emergence of the United States as a major world power at the end of the 19th century. The Spanish-American war was the great conflict of the era, Teddy Roosevelt its great warrior. For nationalist Americans, empire building was intoxicating. The Washington Post editorialized:
“A new consciousness seems to have come upon us—the consciousness of strength—and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength. . . . Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an Imperial policy, the Republic, renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”
Of course, not everyone was infected with the blood fever. Sober citizens, Mark Twain among them, vehemently opposed American imperialism in general and the Spanish-American War in particular. With the benefit of more than a century of hindsight, we know the consequences of that "splendid little war" were monumental. Indeed, its lesson endures today: "'Tis much easier to win the war than to secure the peace."
The Roaring Twenties is the fourth program in the award-winning video series America in the 20th Century. It surveys the period of economic prosperity and cultural awakening between World War I and the Great Depression.
Join the Streaming Room™
Get instant access to our entire collection of award-winning video programs—more than fifteen hours of standards-based content—plus creative sound galleries, interactive timelines, primary source media, comprehensive ancillaries, and more.
No bells. No whistles. Just remarkable history and social studies content at the very best price.