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A War in Perspective, 1898-1998: Public Appeals, Memory and the Spanish-American Conflict


One hundred years ago, Spain and the United States went to war over issues involving the Spanish island colonies in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Map of Cuba
Each of the communities linked to that conflict remembers and has named the war in its own particular way. Through an examination of patriotic appeals in newspapers, pamphlets, popular books, maps, sheet music, poetry, cartoons, lithographs, photographs, lantern slides, and early motion pictures, this exhibition explores the sources of those memories and perceptions.

Comparing the appeals in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Spain, and the United States, the exhibition argues that they contributed significantly to precipitating the war and reinforcing popular sentiments about it. These public opinion campaigns not only recorded, occasionally with flagrant inaccuracies, events as they occurred; they were also partisan interventions in an international conflict of key historical consequence for the societies involved.

The Spanish-American War is an early example of modern ideological warfare, waged through traditional means of communication as well as through the new media of the late nineteenth century. Each contending force used war propaganda from its particular cultural perspective to promote a compelling message: in the United States, the perception of fighting a war for humanity; in Spain, the defense of national honor and territory; and in Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, the struggles for national independence and autonomy. Moreover, war sentiments were embraced by the patriotic imagination of common citizens, including marginalized minorities.

This comparative survey of public appeals, popular participation, and national memories provides a re-examination of the Spanish-American War and its consequences beyond traditional military, political, and diplomatic perspectives.

IntroductionChronology | Part I: Antecedents, 1895-1898 | Part II: Public Appeals, 1898 | Part III: Popular Participation, 1898-1899 | Part IV: Public Memories Part V: Historical PerspectivesAudiovisual Components | Exhibition Checklist | AcknowledgmentsSuggested Reading /About the Library Shop | Related Exhibits/Spanish American War Websites of Interest | Exhibition home page | NYPL Exhibitions

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EPO, 1998