New Imperialism

December 4, 2013 | | Comments Off on New Imperialism

In the late 19th century, Europe made huge advances in Industry, transportation, public health, and education.  Because of these advances, European countries believed that they deserved to dominate less advanced continents.  Their sense of superiority was justified by Charles Darwin’s Theory of Biological Evolution.  Darwin’s Theory, based on the principle of natural selection, that “some species are more successful than others at adapting to changes in the environment.” (The West pg.632)  The species that were strong and faster survived to pass on their genes to the next generation.  European countries used this theory in social, moral, cultural, intellectual, and political context.  They imposed their rule on less developed countries and imposed their values on non-western people.  Imperialism, the dominance and extension of authority and control of one country over another, was practiced by the colonial empires of Britain, France, Belgium, and Portugal.

What made the late nineteenth century new Imperialism different from the previous Imperialism was the role of economics.  Europe believed that to secure international markets they needed to control raw materials such as rubber and petroleum in foreign countries.  These inexpensive raw materials were taken by the European colonies.  However, few colonies proved profitable.  Most turned out to be more costly than had been expected.

European countries quest for overseas empires was also based on their desire for trading ports and raising armies.  Newly acquired land would provide the European countries with the resources to reach both goals.  As European countries raced to take over foreign lands, there was a fear of the rising nationalism in other European countries.  There was also a fear that one nation would become more powerful than the other European nations.  For example, Italy’s military activities in Libya and Somalia provided evidence of that nation’s power.

Finally, the issue of racism drove imperialism in the 19th century.  Europeans believed that their cultures were superior to others.  European countries used Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as a rational for one race being better than another race which provided an excuse to expand empires.  The European countries believed that they should implement their own customs and beliefs on other races in foreign nations.  A main reason for territorial expansion was to bring the superior civilization to influence the less developed countries.

Cecil Rhodes











Image: A cartoon depicting Cecil Rhodes standing over Africa.  He stated “I contend that we are the finest race in the world…the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.”


Written by: Malin Serfis


Frankforter, A. Daniel, and William M. Spellman. The West: A Narrative History. Third edition. Pearson Education, Inc., 620-622. Print.



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