Imperialism: Domination of one country of the political, economic, or cultural life of another country or region



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Imperialism…In a Nutshell

Imperialism: Domination of one country of the political, economic, or cultural life of another country or region.
Leading up to imperialism…
The Industrial Revolution and the growth of science and technology had transformed the West. The western nations used newly acquired economic and political power to dominate the world.
Causes of Imperialism
Economic Interests: Industrial Revolution created needs and desires that spurred overseas expansion. Manufacturers wanted access to natural resources such as rubber, petroleum, manganese for steel, and palm oil for machinery. Also hoped for new markets where they could sell their factory goods.
Political/Military: Merchant ships needed bases around the world to take on coal and supplies. Industrial powers seized islands and harbors to meet those needs. Nationalism (strong feeling of pride in one’s country) played a role as well. European nations followed the lead of other nations. Western leaders claimed that colonies were needed for national security. Also felt that ruling a global empire increased a nation’s prestige around the world.
Humanitarian Goals: Westerners felt a genuine concern for their “little brothers” beyond the seas. Missionaries, doctors, and colonial officials believed they had a duty to spread what they saw as the blessings of western civilization, including medicine, law, and Christian religion.
Social Darwinism: Growing sense in the west of racial superiority. Many westerners embraced the ideas of Social Darwinism. They applied Darwin’s ideas about natural selection and survival of the fittest to human societies. European races, they argued, were superior to all others, and imperial conquest and destruction of weaker races were simply nature’s way of improving the human species.
Success of Western Imperialism
1870 – 1914: Imperialist nations gained control over much of the world. Leading the way were soldiers, merchants, settlers, missionaries, and explorers. Western imperialism succeeded for a number of reasons.
Weakness of Nonwestern States: Several older civilizations (Ottoman, Mughal India, Qing China) were in decline. In West Africa, wars among African peoples and the draining effect of the slave trade had weakened empires, kingdoms, and city-states.
Western Advantages: Strong economies, well-organized governments, and powerful armies and navies. Superior technology and medical knowledge played a part as well. Advanced weaponry also helped.
Forms of Imperial Rule
Imperialism took several forms. Imperial powers established colonies in some areas; in others, the set up protectorates and spheres of influence.
Colonies: France and Britain developed different kinds of colonial rule. French practiced direct rule (sending officials and soldiers from France to “run the show”). British relied on a system of indirect rule (used sultans, chiefs, or other local rules to govern colonies; encouraged children of local ruling class to get an education in Britain). France and Britain would both resort to military force if control over a colony was threatened.
Protectorates: Country with its own government but under the control of an outside power. Local rules were left in place but were expected to follow the advice of European advisers on issues such as trade or missionary activity. A protectorate cost less to run than a colony did, and usually did not require a large commitment of military forces.
Spheres of Influence: An area in which an outside power claimed exclusive investment or trading privileges. Europeans carved out these spheres in China and elsewhere to prevent conflicts among themselves. United States claimed Latin America as its sphere of influence.
Imperialism in Africa
By the end of the 1800s, the imperialist powers of Europe claimed control over most of Africa.
1500s-1700s: Europeans traded along the African coast. Difficult geography and diseased kept them from reaching the interior. Medical advances and steamships changed this limitation in the 1800s.
Explorers: Early 1800s. European explorers moved into the interior of Africa.
Missionaries: Catholic/Protestant Missionaries followed explorers. Sought to win people to Christianity. Wanted to help Africans. Built schools and medical clinics.
King Leopold II (Belgium)
Hired explorers to explore the Congo River and set up trade with African leaders. Decided that missions work should be encouraged in the area. Leopold secretly wanted wealth and territory.

Leopold’s activities in the area led to a scramble for territory in Africa. Britain, France, and Germany soon pursued colonization in the area.


From 1884 to about 1904, European powers claimed the majority of Africa for colonization.
France took a giant share of Africa; Britain took a smaller and more scattered share of Africa.
Countries such as Italy and Portugal also colonized Africa.
Imperialism in India
Early 1600s: British East India Company won trading rights in India. By the mid-1800s, it controlled three fifths on India.
There were numerous tribes in India. The British turned tribes against each other. Also had superior weaponry, which allowed them to remain in control.
East India Company’s main goal was to make money. Introduced Christianity and western education.
East India Company angered residents of India. Required sepoys (Indian soldiers) to serve anywhere that was needed.
Leads to rebellion. Indians slaughtered British men, women, and children. British stopped the revolt.
Parliament (British government) ended the rule of the British East India Company and put India directly under the British crown. Sent troops to India.
British Colonial Rule
Britain set up system of colonial rule in India.
Felt that they were helping India to modernize.
Was an unequal partnership. Saw India as a market and a source of raw materials.
Built roads and railroad network. Allowed British to sell their factory-made goods across India and carry Indian cotton, jute, and coal to coastal ports for transport to factories in England. Telegraph also gave Britain better control of India.
Opening of Suez Canal (1869), allowed British trade with India to soar. Partnership remained unequal. Favored the British.
Britain transformed India agriculture. Encouraged farming and growing of cash crops (cotton and jute).
British introduced medical improvements and new farming methods. Better health care and increased food production led to rapid population growth. Rising numbers put a strain on the food supply, especially since farmland was being used to grow cotton and jute. Terrible famines swept India.
British rule did have benefits. Railroads helped Indians move around the country. Telegraph and postal system improved communication.


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