Skip to Main Content

HIS 211 - U.S. History: Reconstruction to the Present - Textbook

Assignment: White Man’s Burden

After the United States acquired the Philippines in the wake of the Spanish-American War, the famous British poet Rudyard Kipling (the same man who wrote the Jungle Book), wrote The White Man’s Burden to the American people. After reading The White Man’s Burden write a paragraph or two that answers the following:

  1. What exactly is the burden?
  2. Why is it a burden (why does Kipling call it a burden instead of “duty,” “privilege,” or “right”)?
  3. What is the tone of the poem? Is it cheerful (“Hey America, welcome to the club, now let’s go exploit some non-whites!”)? Is it a somber warning (“America, do you have any idea what you’ve just got yourself into”)? Is it disappointment (“Oh, great, another country trying to copy Britain and get in on the empire game”)? Or is it something else?
  4. Who seems to suffer more, the empire or the colony?

Remember to use specific passages and quotes from the poem in support of your answers.  It’s a short poem so be thorough in your reading, thinking, and writing.


CC Licensed content, original

  • White Man's Burden Assignment. Authored by: Chris Thomas. Provided by: Reynolds Community College. LicenseCC BY: Attribution