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Spanish American War Dbq Essay Meaning

Spanish-American War: Paper A

"The explosion of the U.S.S. Maine caused the United States to invade Cuba in 1898." Use the documents provided and your own knowledge to evaluate this statement. Do you agree with this explanation of the causes of the Spanish American War? Why or why not? Use and cite evidence from the documents to support your analysis of this statement.

Student A

. . . Although the explosion of the US Maine ignited it,[1] Spain and America had quarrels with each other that ran far deeper. These issues, centered around Cuba, would have come to a head eventually no matter what. The explosion of the US Maine was a relatively small event which, at any other time, would have had little impact on foreign policy.[2] However, because it occurred at the tense time it did, it sparked the Spanish-American war.[3] This is very different from saying it caused the war. . . . The United States had bigger reasons for the invasion, both humanitarian and self-serving, and seems to have used the explosion of the US Maine as a focus for propaganda to justify it.[4]

Among the United States’ stated reasons for [the] invading of Cuba were humanitarian issues. These are mentioned in "Document B: McKinley’s War Message," and explained in detail in "Document C: Spanish Reconcentration camps."[5] This document describes the horrible conditions in the camps that the Spanish relocated the Cubans to. These camps were filthy, with little food or water. Seventy-seven percent of the Cubans in them died. (Lee, 1897). The United States felt it had a duty to stop these human rights violations, which was a big part of the reason for invading Cuba.[6]

Commentary

The Spanish-American War inquiry asks students to explain the causes of the War by evaluating the statement: "The explosion of the U.S.S. Maine caused the United States to invade Cuba in 1898." The document set presents a variety of long and short-term causes that challenge the notion that the explosion of the Maine singularly caused the war. With careful reading, students will understand that there were multiple causes for the war. Above is one of two examples of student work that address this question, but do so in fundamentally different ways.

Student A, in the essay excerpt above, successfully answers the inquiry question, presenting a clear thesis that captures mixed motives and casts the explosion as less important than other causal factors. This thesis guides the organization of her essay.

For a less successful approach, see Paper B where the student does not answer the prompt and radically departs from the inquiry question and sources available.

Spanish-American War: Paper B

"The explosion of the U.S.S. Maine caused the United States to invade Cuba in 1898." Use the documents provided and your own knowledge to evaluate this statement. Do you agree with this explanation of the causes of the Spanish American War? Why or why not? Use and cite evidence from the documents to support your analysis of this statement.

Student B

The Spanish American War was a good thing, we got Cuba as a territory, we showed everyone that we are not pushovers, and we showed that we are a dominating force in the world.[1] I agree with the causes of the Spanish American War. Many Cubans were being treated badly in camps said to protect the Cubans. The Maine, a proud ship was sunk, sailors with lives were taken by the "treacherous butchers paid by Spain".[2] The sight of four hundred and sixty women and children thrown on the ground, bodies piled along the ground so much that it is impossible to take one step without walking over a body. The Spanish American War was a necessity and was a good thing.[3]

The truth is, that we are a dominating force in the world today, we control and abundance of land and we are loved by many countries.[4] The fact that we went to war with Spain shows that we can do things for good and not just for ourselves.[5] We can do many things not only for the People of the United States of American but for Cuba, a lonely country needing a defender from the Spanish tyrants. If England, and Germany can govern foreign land so can we.[6]

Commentary

The Spanish-American War inquiry asks students to explain the causes of the War by evaluating the statement: "The explosion of the U.S.S. Maine caused the United States to invade Cuba in 1898." The document set presents a variety of long and short-term causes that challenge the notion that the explosion of the Maine singularly caused the war. With careful reading, students will understand that there were multiple causes for the war. Above is one of two examples of student work that address this question, but do so in fundamentally different ways.

Student B, in the essay above, does not answer the inquiry question. Rather she argues that, "The Spanish American War was a good thing." She uses the essay as an opportunity to take a position on what the role of the U.S. should be in the world, a radical departure from the inquiry question and sources available. This is not unusual: other students did the same (even if taking an opposing view), leaping at the chance to take a position on America’s role in world affairs.

See Paper A for a contrasting example where the student successfully answers the inquiry question.