Colonial, Colonist(s), Colony, Colonization, Imperial, Imperialism

Working Definition:

In the nineteenth century, as the Spanish Empire lost dominions in North and South America, the former global power saw itself reduced to holdings in the Caribbean and Pacific World. Inspired by uprisings in Latin America and Enlightenment ideals, Filipino ilustrados (educated, upper- and middle-class mestizos) launched a nationalist movement striving for greater representation of the archipelago. As the Filipino nationalist movement took root, Spain clashed with the United States in the Caribbean. Despite their alliance, relations between Filipino nationalists and American officials quickly soured. After Spain surrendered Manila to the United States, President William McKinley ordered in August 1898: “…there must be no joint occupation with the insurgents. The insurgents and all others must recognize the military occupation and authority of the United States and the cessation of hostilities proclaimed by the President.” Four months later, Spain sold the entire archipelago of over 7,000 islands and over 7 million people to the United States for $20 million. Refusing to capitulate to the U.S.’s demands, Emilio Aguinaldo established a republic in the Philippines, after which combat between U.S. and Filipino soldiers escalated across the islands. The United States implemented a colonial government in the Philippines beginning in 1899, retaining control of the islands until 1946 (with an interlude between 1941 and 1945, when Japan seized control of the region). It is important to note that each of the terms listed in this glossary are associated with the colonial enterprise, which sought to transform the environment, economy, culture, governmental structure, education, and legal systems of the archipelago, along with the bodies of Filipino/as.

Importantly, while colonization and imperialism are often used interchangeably in popular parlance, scholars have designated distinctions between the terms. Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton note that empires can exercise control through settler colonialism, territorial annexation, and indirect rule, though these methods of control are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Nancy Shoemaker defines colonialism as “foreign intrusion or domination,” and identifies a typology of colonialism rooted in examples of U.S. entanglements in the Pacific World.

When using these terms in finding aids and collections guides, one should note the context in which the term is used. For instance, “colony” and “empire” were terms used by Americans during the U.S. colonization of the Philippines, but these terms held different meanings for historical actors at the time and do not necessarily conform to the ways historians implement these terms as analytical frameworks presently.

Related Terms:

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Kristin L. Hoganson and Jax Sexton, eds., Crossing Empires: Taking U.S. History into Transimperial Terrain (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020); “The Philippines and the University of Michigan, 1870-1935”; William McKinley, “Executive Order 116, August 17, 1898,” Executive Order Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project; Nancy Shoemaker, “A Typology of Colonialism,” Perspectives on American History, October 2015,; Paul Kramer, “How Not to Write a History of U.S. Empire,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 42, No. 5 (2018).