Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Bean, Jonathan

Second Advisor

Carr, Kay


Most existing scholarship regarding the Perry expedition has been focused on the Japanese perspective, and what effects the expedition had on Japanese politics and society. Very little attention has been given to the American side of the event; particularly scholars have rarely gone beyond analyzing the specifics of the expedition itself. This paper seeks to analyze the expedition within the context of the events occurring both in the United States, and around the world, at the time. When viewed more holistically within such a context, the Perry expedition can be viewed an American attempt to bypass British-controlled ports on their way to the markets of China and East Asia. American distrust of British activities in the Western Hemisphere, and around the world, drove them to seek the creation of a sphere of influence in the Pacific that would be free from harassment by the British Royal Navy, as well as a railroad system to link the eastern states to the pacific coast. Social and political upheaval in the United States, fueled by slavery, also helped to fuel support for these efforts. However, that same upheaval would cause the republic to retreat into semi-isolation just in time for the start of the Civil War. The United States would not emerge grandly onto the world stage again until the start of the Spanish-American War in 1898.




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