Protectorate: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Definition of a Protectorate
  • 1:04 Example of American…
  • 2:50 Other Examples of U.S.…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason McCollom

Jason has a PhD.

A protectorate is a country or territory under the control of another nation. In this lesson, we'll read about America's first protectorate, Cuba, after which, you'll have a chance to test yourself with a quiz.

Definition of a Protectorate

There are many similarities between a protectorate and living as a teenager in your parents' house. Both the country and yourself exist in a state of dependency to a more powerful entity. For example, the ruling nation controls the foreign policy of the protectorate, while your parents control how late you can stay out on a Friday night. Additionally, the ruling nation has significant control over the internal affairs of the protectorate, while your parents set ground rules for your behavior in their house.

In more formal terms, we can define a protectorate as a territory or nation controlled by another, more powerful state. Though technically independent, the protectorate is in a state of dependency, with little to no control over its relations with other nations. Some of its domestic and internal activities may also be regulated. However, each protectorate is also unique and shaped by particular historical circumstances. To understand protectorates more fully, let's look at one specific example of a protectorate in American history.

Example of American Protectorate

The first official protectorate of the United States was Cuba, which fell under our governmental umbrella during the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1898, the U.S. defeated Spain in a conflict called the Spanish-American War. As a result of this victory, the U.S. came to control Spain's former colony, Cuba. This Caribbean island became a U.S. protectorate in 1903 under the Platt Amendment, which as a treaty between the two countries, stated: 'Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the protection of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty.'

In real terms, the Platt Amendment meant that, as a U.S. protectorate, Cuba could not sign treaties with any foreign power. It also gave the U.S. the right to oversee and control Cuban finances, leaving European creditors without any reason to intervene in Cuban business. Additionally, the U.S. was given broad leeway in intervening in Cuba's domestic affairs, which led to the creation of a military base at Guantanamo Bay, an installation that still exists today. As such, Cuba became a true protectorate: an independent nation on paper but dependent on the U.S. in matters of finance and foreign policy.

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