How One Forgotten War Created Modern America

The Spanish-American War determined over 100 years of U.S. history, without getting more than one sentence in your history textbook.
How One Forgotten War Created Modern America

If you took an advanced high school history class, you might remember that The Spanish-American War happened. You might even remember a few details: a ship sinking in Cuba, the U.S. taking over Puerto Rico, Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse...and once you answered a couple test questions about that, you moved on forever. To most people, the wars that define America involve George Washington winning, Adolf Hitler losing, and the Russians pointing nukes at us and frowning. But what if a brief American conflict in the year 1898 did just as much to shape the entire world's destiny? And what if people of that time knew their votes in a few key elections would make all the difference?

On this week's episode of The Cracked Podcast, Alex Schmidt is joined by Stephen Kinzer, author of The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire. Alex and Stephen dig into The Spanish-American War, and why it's the most important American war nobody in America ever thinks about. They'll look at how a little-known U.S. Senator, an even lesser-known populist silver freak, and the legacy of the Spanish Inquisition shape all our lives today. And they'll consider how modern voters could finally answer the question of what America is supposed to be in the world, and answer it in a way where everybody benefits.


Polling place by state (

Free Rides and Office Holidays: The Companies Making It Easier to Vote (CityLab)

7 Ways To Entertain Yourself While Waiting To Vote (Bustle)

The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire

Stephen Kinzer -- Watson Institute, Brown University

Spanish-American War (

Teller and Platt Amendments (Library of Congress)

The Treaty Of Paris, 1898 (Library of Congress)

"Was the Presidential Election of 1900 A Mandate on Imperialism?" by Thomas A. Bailey (Mississippi Valley Historical Review, via JSTOR)

Following the Frontier Line, 1790 to 1890 (US Census Bureau)

Henry Cabot Lodge (Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress)

artist @smoucan on Twitter

The Insular Cases (Wikipedia)

How politics screwed Puerto Rico out of billions in disaster aid (Politico)

Plessy v. Ferguson (Cornell Law School)

Wikipedia article on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

Catiline, Roman politician (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

Bimetallism (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

Philippines' Duterte Confesses to 'Drug War' Slaughter (Human Rights Watch)

Duterte with picture of American massacre, as reported by Update Philippines

Carl Schurz (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

The Wars of Carl Schurz (New York Times)

Carl Schurz Park (NYC Parks)

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