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The role of geography in counterinsurgency warfare: The Philippine American War, 1899–1902

  • William N. HoldenEmail author


Using the Philippine–American War of 1899–1902, this article demonstrates how insurgency is a spatial process. The conflict broke out when the United States acquired the Philippines during the Spanish–American War and Filipino nationalists resisted American efforts to retain the Philippines. Consisting of forest covered islands, with rough terrain, the Philippines appeared to be an ideal location to wage an insurgency but the Americans, with their control of the sea, exploited the fragmented territorial morphology of the Philippines, denying the insurgents inter-island mobility, foreign assistance, and foreign sanctuaries. American forces exploited the fragmented human geography of the Philippines by using ethnic divisions in the Philippines against the insurgents. The Americans implemented a territorial occupation system where soldiers were kept in one area, thus providing them with knowledge of local conditions. American forces also separated the insurgents from the population by concentrating the population and denying the insurgents recruits, supplies, and intelligence. The costs of the conflict were, however, significant and, in the long-run, the conflict contributed to the entrenchment of the elite in Filipino society.


Insurgency Counterinsurgency Philippines Philippine–American War Territorial morphology 


Compliance with ethical standards

Human and animal rights

This manuscript was based solely on secondary sources and no human subjects were involved in its research.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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