In This Review

The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography
The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography
By Louis A. Perez, Jr.
University of North Carolina Press, 1998, 224 pp.

Perez, author of several distinguished books on Cuban history and J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor at the University of North Carolina, deconstructs American historiography on the Spanish-American War. Perez argues that Cubans' participation in what was after all a struggle for independence has been ignored. Those who portrayed what should be called the War of 1898 as one of idealism and moral purpose eventually provoked a counternarrative. Thus Hans J. Morgenthau saw 1898 as the starting point of a foreign policy driven by an "intoxication with moral abstractions" and which was "one of the great sources of weakness and failure in American foreign policy." But both these interpretations overlook the long history of U.S. preoccupation with Cuba in which the strategic and political importance of the island was well recognized. However, the Philippines and Puerto Rico, the impact on Spain of this traumatic ending of its empire, and the comparative aspects of 1890s imperialism, which saw scrambles for colonial territory throughout the world, hardly figure in Perez' account.