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The History and the Facts About the New Imperialism of the 19th Century

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New imperialism was characterized by the ability of a nation-state to acquire more colonies, thus adding to the great power of the country.

The New Imperialism was characterized by the ability of a nation-state to acquire more colonies, thus adding to the great power of the country. The perspective was that colonies were a source of prestige, thus if you failed to enter the race for more land, it was a sign of weakness. Great Britain on the other hand, expanded into new regions not just for economic reasons, but to prevent the French, Germans, and Russians from setting up bases.

Newspapers and magazine portrayed imperialism as an adventure, and people must think of that adventure as a heroic duty. Tensions were high and competitions were rampant. The ideology behind the movement towards New Imperialism was that the states believed it was their patriotic duty, thus using the arguments of religion, race, and economics to justify their cause, resulting in a global economy.

Since imperialism was tied to Social Darwinism, nations believed that imperialism was quite simply a struggle of the fit and victorious. Only the strong will survive. Military forces would be used to prove how powerful they were by subduing the inferior races. British professor Karl Pearson even argued that "a high state of civilization has been produced, namely, the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race. If you want to know whether the lower races of man can evolve a higher type, I fear the only course is to leave them to fight it out among themselves, and even then the struggle for existence between individual and individual, between tribe and tribe, may not be supported by that physical selection due to a particular climate on which probably so much of the Aryan's success depended . . ."

Some Europeans, in fact, used religion as a justification, believing it was more of a humanistic approach to force their beliefs on uncivilized and ignorant people. This notion, as racial as it might sound, was "the white man's burden". Catholic and Protestant missionaries went abroad, believing their superiority would prevail with the indigenous peoples. Consequently, they also believed it was their duty to impose modern industry and new medicines on nonwhites.

Economically, there was a great demand for more natural resources not found in the western countries, so states branched out in search to find rubber, oil, and tin. Instead of simply trading, which had been done in the past, Europeans took direct control of the areas where the raw materials were found. This economic expansion, however, cannot be seen as colonial expansion since businesses simply wanted to invest in the colonial empires with the greatest return. Even followers of Karl Marx believed that imperialism was economically motivated since ultimately, it would be the demise of capitalism.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Asia and Africa were under full colonial control. In the case of China and the Ottoman Empire, however, they were in a position of virtual collapse. The only countries to escape colonial rule were Japan, Thailand, Persia, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia.Of course, these good fortunes were by luck and not design. Countries such as Thailand were used as a buffer for France and Great Britain and Ethiopia and Afghanistan were too remote. Japan, with the aid of economic and political reforms, managed to avoid takeover. A global economy was now established, however rivalries among the European states still persisted.

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Posted on Apr 20, 2010
Francois Hagnere
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Posted on Apr 15, 2010

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Lauren Axelrod

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