Empire and the emergence of world powers, 1870-1919

What does imperialism mean?

It was largely carried out by the Europeans from the 15th century to the 18th century, beginning with the Americas.

European countries also colonised small trading posts on the coasts of Africa, India and some islands in southeast Asia during this period.

Imperialism involves expanding a country’s power and influence through colonization, often carried out through the use of military force or economic means.

Who was the greatest of the the Great Powers of Europe in 1871?

  • Britain

  • France

  • Italy

  • Russia

  • Austria-Hungary

  • Ottoman Empire

In what way was 'New Imperialism' different from before?

During the late 19th century, the Great Powers begun rapidly expanding their through colonisation of more territories in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

Firstly, the speed of territorial acquisitions significantly quickened. Although Asia and Africa were largely the focus of this ‘New Imperialism’, by 1914 almost the entire globe had been colonized by the Great Powers (which had changed by 1914).

Secondly, the Great Powers often used diplomatic means to avoid conflict which may occur during rivalries of the 'scramble' for acquisition of new territories. Therefore, the rivalry between the Great Powers was largely peaceful.

Thirdly, as mentioned in my first point, the number (or empire) of Great Powers had changed / increased. This is because the US and Germany were emerging as significant economic and military powers, while Japan also caused greater competition for colonies and created more rivalries.

Why did the Great Powers want to expand their empire?

Firstly, due to economic reasons. This is because countries wanted access to resources to improve their economies. They also needed colonies for trading.

Secondly, a reason was purely exploratory. Explorers wanted to explore and map previously unknown places.

Thirdly, another reason was political motives. This was due to the fact that countries wanted to use colonisation to increase their power and position over other countries, and also boost their national pride.

A fourth reason was cultural and Ideological. This is because the great powers wished to spread their customs and lifestyles to areas of the world they considered to be 'uncivilised' and increase development.

A fifth factor is strategic reasons. A book titled ‘Does Germany need colonies?’ by a German author, Friedrich Fabri, which was published in 1879 suggested Germany wanted to colonise more areas so that they could weaken the British and French power and economies.

My sixth and final reason is religious. Evidence for this is suggested in an essay titled ‘La Colonisation chez les peuples modernes’, by French author, Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, published in 1891, which said some French people wanted to colonise areas and send missionaries to spread Christianity.