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America's History in the Making

A Growing Global Power

Unit Overview

A Visit from the Old Mistress. 1876. dup of 2161

Between 1900 and 1920, the United States changed from a nation focused on domestic issues, to a global power that sought to influence and control other parts of the world in order to safeguard its national interests. During these years, the United States established an overseas empire, American businesses played a role in expansion, and America emerged as a global power after World War I.

The United States was part of an imperialistic drive that involved European and Asian nations, and sought overseas expansion because of strategic defense, patriotism, profit, politics, and missionary enthusiasm. The drive for expansion initially came from the military; by the end of the period, however, business led the drive for expansion. American businesses sought access to natural resources, cash crops, and markets in Latin America and Asia.

During World War I, a new relationship developed between industry and government to build up the military. The federal government's huge expenditures to finance the war produced soaring profits for American industry, and the government came to rely on private industry's technology and innovation. This relationship extended to large tax breaks that the government gave wealthy businessmen through their foundations. The foundations also served government programs, innovating scientific research that was useful in government military and medical programs.

After the war, the new corporate structures, which were now financially dependent on the continuation of their established close ties to government, focused on efficiency and planning.

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