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date: 10 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

The Spanish-American War is best understood as a series of linked conflicts. Those conflicts punctuated Madrid’s decline to a third-rank European state and marked the United States’ transition from a regional to an imperial power. The central conflict was a brief conventional war fought in the Caribbean and the Pacific between Madrid and Washington. Those hostilities were preceded and followed by protracted and costly guerrilla wars in Cuba and the Philippines. The Spanish-American War was the consequence of the protracted stalemate in the Spanish-Cuban War. The economic and humanitarian distress which accompanied the fighting made it increasingly difficult for the United States to remain neutral until a series of Spanish missteps and bad fortune in early 1898 hastened the American entry to the war. The US Navy quickly moved to eliminate or blockade the strongest Spanish squadrons in the Philippines and Cuba; Spain’s inability to contest American control of the sea in either theater was decisive and permitted successful American attacks on outnumbered Spanish garrisons in Santiago de Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Manila. The transfer of the Philippines, along with Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam, to the United States in the Treaty of Paris confirmed American imperialist appetites for the Filipino nationalists, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, and contributed to tensions between the Filipino and American armies around and in Manila. Fighting broke out in February 1899, but the Filipino conventional forces were soon driven back from Manila and were utterly defeated by the end of the year. The Filipino forces that evaded capture re-emerged as guerrillas in early 1900, and for the next two and a half years the United States waged an increasingly severe anti-guerrilla war against Filipino irregulars. Despite Aguinaldo’s capture in early 1901, fighting continued in a handful of provinces until the spring of 1902, when the last organized resistance to American governance ended in Samar and Batangas provinces.

Keywords: Emilio Aguinaldo, William McKinley, Philippine-American War, reconcentration, Santiago de Cuba, Spanish-American War, Treaty of Paris

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