An Introduction to American Imperialism

During the mid-1800s, many European nations were gaining territories in all parts of the world. But Americans were not interested in expanding into other parts of the world. Instead, they expanded across the American continent. They built railroads and settled the West. They started new businesses and industries.

After the Civil War, the United States began to expand overseas. It increased trade with other nations. And it began to have problems with some nations.

Video Introduction

While America expanded on its own continent, imperialist nations of Europe were taking over many parts of Africa and Asia. Those areas became their colonies. (An imperialist nation is one that controls other countries.) The Europeans set up colonial governments to rule their colonies. That system of ruling other lands and peoples is called· colonialism.

Colonialism gave European nations a steady source of wealth. The overseas colonies provided gold, silver, iron, copper, and other minerals. They also provided raw materials, such as wool, lumber, and oil, that European industries use to produce goods.

America Expands into the Pacific

Until the end of the Civil War, the United States government followed a policy of isolationism. The government wanted to isolate the United States from the rest of the world - keep it out of the affairs and problems of other nations.

Some Americans, however, wanted the United States to expand and become a world power - a nation strong enough to deal with the powerful nations of the world.

Video Review


1. Fill-in-the-blanks in the vocabulary list you will be given. Put your completed list in your binder.

Imperialism Vocabulary

empire – an area of many lands and people ruled by one government

imperialism – the practice of a strong nation extending its control over weaker nations; the practice of creating an empire

imperialist – a person who believes that his/her nation should extend its power and “take over” weaker nations

economic imperialism – the control of a nation’s economy by another, more powerful nation

political imperialism – the direct rule of one nation by another, more powerful nation

aggression – an attack made by one nation against another

annex – to join or add, especially as concerns new territory

corollary – an addition to an existing document or statement

markets – places where a nation can sell its goods

sphere of influence – a region in which an outside nation exerts economic and political influence

ultimatum – a final demand before action is taken

yellow journalism – a type of news reporting that uses shocking and sensational stories to attract attention


EXTRA CREDIT!  Outside of class, use 3x5 cards to turn your vocabulary list into a set of flashcards. Show your completed flashcards to your teacher to get the extra credit.

2. Begin the Section 1 Required Activity!


Return to the iLAP page!