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Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars.

Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. By Kristin L. Hoganson. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. Pp. xii, 305. $30.00.)

Over the past two decades, historians of American foreign relations have broadened their scholarly field of vision by examining, among a host of other topics, the impact of culture and gender on the formulation and practice of foreign policy. In this clearly written and lucidly argued study of the influence of gender politics on the origins and conduct of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars, Kristin Hoganson establishes herself as one of the more imaginative and skilled practitioners of this new scholarship. Relying upon prodigious research in traditional sources such as newspapers and magazines, political correspondence, speeches, tracts, and Congressional debates, she argues that "gender angst" among America's male leadership ignited and fueled the nation's imperialist outburst at the turn of the century. Although such gender fears may appear irrational to later generations of Americans, Hoganson maintains that "for many late-nineteenth-century policymakers and other political activists, manhood was a national security issue" (204).

Hoganson justifies an analytical emphasis on gender and culture because she believes that interpretations of these two wars, based solely upon national self-interest or the drive for overseas commercial expansion, are inadequate. However, her goal is not to provide a new and comprehensive explanation of the two conflicts, and she readily concedes that "gender angst" alone cannot fully account for these two imperial adventures. Instead, Hoganson pursues an investigation of gender and cultural issues in order to connect existing interpretations of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars. She finds that "a diverse array of American men, labeled jingoes by their contemporaries, clamored for war" in the belief that "it would bolster American manhood" (8). The results of the two wars were mixed, and Hoganson thinks the jingoes were both right and wrong. They were right in that the legacy of the brief, and, for Americans, relatively bloodless Spanish-American War was a revitalized manhood. But with the high casualties, prolonged brutality and savagery of the Philippine-American War, "imperialist claims that empire would build manhood lost credibility" (203).

Although innovative and provocative, Hoganson's main arguments about "gender angst" and preserving American manhood have a familiar ring. Her analysis is strongly reminiscent of Richard Hofstader's "psychic crisis of the 1890s" explanation for American imperialism. Almost 50 years ago, Hofstader speculated that the fears and frustrations generated by depression and political unrest gave rise to jingoism, aggressiveness, and a taste for war. He also suggested that late nineteenth-century jingoes believed overseas imperialist ventures would restore manly vitality to the American republic. In making his "psychic crisis" analysis, Hofstader admitted his findings were only a preliminary effort based upon conjecture. He concluded that further and more extensive inquiry was needed.

Clearly, Kristin Hoganson has met Hofstader's earlier call for a fuller investigation of the "crisis of confidence" interpretation of American imperialism. Fighting for American Manhood is a first-rate scholarly achievement that will be required reading for all who seek to understand the reasons why the United States embarked upon an imperial path at the close of the nineteenth century.

Edward P. Crapol

College of William and Mary
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Crapol, Edward P.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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