Imperialism can relate to colonization by comparing the colonies and land-grabs of the empires of the old world to the westward expansion and island acquisitions of America and the new world. Imperialism, according to Humboldt state university, is a form of foreign policy that involves the use of political or economic control over another group of people. Specifically, imperialism would undermine a nation’s or people’s sovereignty and would disallow them to make their own political and economic policy. Many nations throughout history have implemented imperialistic policies. Notable examples are , European countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal, whom all had colonized not only the new world, but much of the old world including Africa, south Asia, and Australia. Figure 1 in the appendix shows a map of colonial possessions in the world in 1800. This map shows how widespread imperialism and colonization was throughout the world during the Colonial Era in world history. This is the pretext for a growing imperialistic America in the post-Revolutionary era because America’s roots were based in expansion and colonialism. In terms of European nations, Spain and the United Kingdom owned most of the land in pre-Revolution North America.
Some people do not consider imperialism, colonization, and westward expansion to be similar or connected ideas and events in history. Specifically for American history, some historians and some textbooks do not consider the early American presidents such as Jefferson, Jackson, Monroe, and Polk as presidents that expanded imperialist policy despite the fact that they expanded American land and control into more Native American land and nations. This is argued because of the fact that westward expansion is viewed, to some, simply as an expansion into land that was connected to their land. Westward expansion and the early presidents connect to the idea of Manifest Destiny and the argument that America was ordained by God to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean, and was therefore not imperialistic. However other historians, particularly revisionist historians, believe otherwise and argue that westward expansion was, in fact, imperialistic. One historian, Howard Zinn, makes the argument in A People’s History of the United States that the United States was always imperialistic. Zinn cites various interventions and conflicts the United States has been involved in in the nineteenth century such as in Argentina, Angola, and Nicaragua. Zinn also cites numerous island acquisitions such as Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands, Midway Island, and the Aleutian Islands. Howard Zinn is generally considered a more liberal historian, but on the other end of the political spectrum there is conservative historian Robert Kagan. Kagan agrees with Zinn in Dangerous Nation that America has indeed always been an imperialist nation, but he differs in his political views that the notion is almost a necessary evil or even a positive, citing his views on American exceptionalism.