What One Man Saw

What One Man Saw by H. Irving Hancock

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Harrie Irving Hancock was born in Massachusetts in 1868 or thereabouts. He was a chemist, a journalist and a prolific author of children’s books, writing more than fifty adventure stories targetted at adolescent boys, including a four part series depicting a German invasion of the United States published in 1916, a year before his country entered the First World War. He also wrote a number of non-fiction works, including including reports on the American war against Spain in Cuba and the Philippines. He died in 1922 from disease of the liver.

What One Man Saw was published in 1898, shortly after Cuba and the Philippines won their independence from Spain, with considerable assistance from the United States which, during the course of the 19th century, had replaced Spain as Cuba’s principal trading partner. The United States had long had designs on Cuba, even offering to purchase the island from Spain in 1854, for a consideration of up to USD120 million.

Cuba’s third war of independence had begun in February 1895. The US declared war on Spain in April 1898 and in June the first detachment of the notorious “Rough Riders” landed on Cuban shores. Travelling alongside them were a number of “embedded” journalists, including the thirty-year-old Harrie Irving Hancock.

By August the war had been won, signalling the start of a four year occupation of the island by its northern neighbour, following which the US retained a legal right to intervene militarily in the islands to protect its interests, a right that it exercised by sending in the Marines from 1906-1909, in 1912, from 1917-1922 and again, unsuccessfully, in 1961.

What One Man Saw, Being the Personal Impressions of a War Correspondent in Cuba is Hancock’s record of his experiences on the island. Hancock’s text is reproduced here unexpurgated; for avoidance of doubt that does not mean that any of his views or prejudices (prevalent at the time) are shared by the publishers.