The Spanish-American War of 1898 was catalyzed by a myriad of factors, central among them being the quest for Cuba’s independence. The war erupted following Spain’s refusal to peacefully resolve the Cuban independence struggle, igniting American intervention. A combination of expansionist desires within the U.S. government and America’s imperialistic ambitions led to plans to sever Cuba, along with the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, from Spanish rule.

The immediate precursor to the conflict was a revolution in Cuba, prompting the U.S. to deploy the USS Maine to the region, underscoring the U.S.’s significant political interest. American media outlets fervently accused Spain of oppressive colonial governance, fueling public support for intervention.

The war’s genesis is attributed to several key factors: Spain’s treatment of Cubans, sensationalist journalism (yellow journalism), U.S. business interests, and America’s aspirations to assert itself as a global power. The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, dramatically escalated tensions, with the U.S. implicating Spain, though evidence remained inconclusive. Despite being ill-prepared for war, with a notable lack of resources but an abundance of volunteers spurred by yellow journalism, the U.S. was compelled to action.

As the U.S. Congress convened to endorse Cuban independence, Senator Henry M. Teller proposed an amendment to assure that the U.S. sought no permanent control over Cuba post-conflict. The Teller Amendment was adopted, demanding Spain’s immediate withdrawal and authorizing the use of U.S. military force to aid Cuban independence. President McKinley ratified this resolution, and an ultimatum was dispatched to Spain, which subsequently severed diplomatic ties with the U.S. and declared war.

The Spanish-American War marked the U.S.’s ascension as a sovereign entity in global politics and diplomacy, embarking on numerous international agreements and participating in various conflicts thereafter. For Spain, the loss signified the end of its imperial dominance, precipitating a national crisis given the deep-seated connections with Cuba, perceived more as a province than a colony. The war spurred a cultural renaissance within Spain, driven by a new generation invigorated by the conflict’s aftermath. Economically, Spain benefited as capital previously tied to Cuban ventures was repatriated and reinvested into the Spanish economy. Politically, the war significantly diminished the monarchy’s authority under King Alfonso XII, signaling profound national and international ramifications from this pivotal conflict.