Protectorates and Spheres of Influence

Raymond A. Esthus

The word "protectorate" usually describes the relation between a protecting state and a protected state, though it sometimes may describe the country under protection. In a protectorate relationship, the protecting state normally assumes control of the foreign relations of the protected state in addition to providing for its defense. Often the protecting state has some control over the internal affairs of the protected state. As to the status of a protecting state in international law, the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1923 rendered an advisory opinion stating that the extent of the powers of a protecting state depended upon the treaties between it and the protected state that established the protectorate, and upon the conditions under which the protectorate was recognized by third powers whose interests were affected by the protectorate treaty. The court went on to observe that despite common features possessed by protectorates under international law, they had individual legal characteristics resulting from the special conditions under which they were created. United States protectorates, as traditionally defined, have been limited to the Caribbean area, except for a brief protectorate over Hawaii in 1893.

The term "sphere of influence" signifies a claim by a state to some degree of control or preferential status in a foreign territory or in some region of the world. It may refer to a military, political, or economic claim to exclusive control or influence that other nations may or may not recognize. As in the case of protectorates, the legal status of a sphere depends upon the treaties establishing it and the extent to which other affected nations recognize it. American policy regarding spheres of influence has not adhered to a definite pattern. On many of the treaties creating spheres, the United States has not had occasion or necessity to take a stand. In cases where a position has been taken, policy has varied greatly. Generally, advocacy of an Open Door policy for trade and investment has placed the United States in opposition to spheres of influence, but on occasion it has not only acquiesced but actually looked with favor upon spheres.


Beers, Burton Floyd. Vain Endeavor: Robert Lansing's Attempts to End the American-Japanese Rivalry. Durham, N.C., 1962. The best treatment of Lansing's policy regarding the Japanese spheres in China.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Latin American Policy of the United States. New York, 1943. A good general survey.

Buckley, Thomas H. The United States and the Washington Conference, 1921–1922. Knoxville, Tenn., 1970. Contains an excellent chapter on the Nine-Power Treaty relating to spheres of influence in China.

Calder, Bruce J. The Impact of Intervention: The Dominican Republic During the U.S. Occupation of 1916–1924. Austin, Tex., 1984. Asserts that U.S. intervention did not emanate from largely economic motives but from strategic considerations.

Challener, Richard D. Admirals, Generals, and American Foreign Policy, 1898–1914. Princeton, N.J., 1973. Gives extensive coverage of the military aspects of the protectorate policy.

Esthus, Raymond A. Theodore Roosevelt and Japan. Seattle, 1966. Includes an analysis of the Roosevelt administration's policy toward Japan's sphere in southern Manchuria.

Europa Publications. The Europa World Year Book. London, annual publication.

Fifield, Russell H. Woodrow Wilson and the Far East: The Diplomacy of the Shantung Question. New York, 1952. The standard monograph on the topic.

Griswold, Alfred Whitney. The Far Eastern Policy of the United States. New York, 1938. Old but still useful, particularly for McKinley and Wilson administrations.

Healy, David F. The United States in Cuba, 1898–1902: Generals, Politicians, and the Search for Policy. Madison, Wis., 1963. Analyzes the development of policy leading to the Platt Amendment.

β€”β€”. Gunboat Diplomacy in the Wilson Era: The U.S. Navy in Haiti, 1915–1916. Madison, Wis., 1976. A detailed and colorful narrative.

β€”β€”. Drive to Hegemony: The United States in the Caribbean, 1898–1917. Madison, Wis., 1988. An indictment of many aspects of U.S. policy.

Hunt, Michael H. Frontier Defense and the Open Door: Manchuria in Chinese-American Relations, 1895–1911. New Haven, Conn., 1973. Based on both Chinese and Western sources.

Kamman, William. A Search for Stability: United States Diplomacy Toward Nicaragua, 1925–1933. Notre Dame, Ind., 1968. An excellent monograph.

LaFeber, Walter. The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective. New York, 1989. An updated edition of the author's study published in 1978; a comprehensive history.

Langer, William Leonard. The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890–1902. 2d ed. New York, 1951. The most exhaustive treatment of the acquisition of spheres of influence in China.

Langley, Lester D. The United States and the Caribbean, 1900–1970. Athens, Ga., 1980. Contains much information on the Caribbean protectorates of the United States.

β€”β€”. The Banana Wars: An Inner History of American Empire, 1900–1934. Lexington, Ky., 1983. Covers U.S. military and financial interventions in Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Major, John. Prize Possession: The United States and the Panama Canal, 1903–1979. Cambridge and New York, 1993. Critical of U.S. paternalism toward Panama.

Miner, Dwight Carroll. The Fight for the Panama Route: The Story of the Spooner Act and the Hay-HerrΓ‘n Treaty. New York, 1940. An excellent account of the acquisition of the Canal Zone and the Panama protectorate.

Monger, George W. The End of Isolation: British Foreign Policy, 1900–1907. London, 1963. Excellent study from the British records that includes analyses of the treaties of 1904 and 1907 relating to spheres in Egypt, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Persia.

Munro, Dana G. Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean, 1900–1921. Princeton, N.J., 1964. The most detailed study of the diplomatic aspects of U.S. protectorates policy.

Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Haiti and the Great Powers, 1902–1915. Baton Rouge, 1988. Recounts Haiti's relations with the Germans, French, British, and North Americans.

Price, Ernest B. The Russo-Japanese Treaties of 1907–1916 Concerning Manchuria and Mongolia. Baltimore, 1933. The standard work.

Schmidt, Hans. The United States Occupation with Haiti, 1915–1934. New Brunswick, N.J., 1971. Stresses the cultural impact of American influence.

Scholes, Walter V., and Marie V. Scholes. The Foreign Policies of the Taft Administration. Columbia, Mo., 1970. The best account of the beginnings of intervention in Nicaragua.

See also Consortia ; Dollar Diplomacy ; Extraterritoriality ; Imperialism ; Intervention and Nonintervention ; Mandates and Trusteeships ; Open Door Policy .

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