Regents Prep: Global History: Imperialism:
Southeast Asia
The Dutch and the Spanish controlled much of Southeast Asia during the early 1800s. The Dutch East Indies was renowned for its rich soil which allowed the harvesting of crops such as: coffee, pepper, cinnamon, sugar, indigo, and tea. Mines were formed to exploit the rich deposits of tin and copper. Forests yielded valuable timber including teak, ebony, and other hardwoods. The Dutch became notorious for the use of forced slave labor, known as the culture system, to gather these raw materials, while purposely discouraging westernization, or the spreading of European culture.

The Spanish used similar methods to reap the rewards from their tobacco and sugar plantations located in the Philippine Islands. However in 1898, the Philippines were given to the United States as part of the settlement for their loss of the Spanish-American War.

The British took control of Burma from their colonial stronghold in India in the early 1800s. Meanwhile, the French imperialized modern-day Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam forming French Indochina in the 1880s. Siam became the embattled buffer zone between these two European powers, but was eventually guaranteed its independence by a treaty negotiated between France and Great Britain.

After the Meiji Restoration led to massive industrialization in Japan, the nation found itself in great need of natural resources. Industrialization makes a nation dependent upon iron, coal, and oil, none of which were found in great quantity on the Japanese archipelago. This need led them to invade mainland Korea in order to exploit the natural resources there

Japan took over much of the coast of China and the rest of Southeast Asia, eventually forming the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere which provided even more natural resources to feed its vast military-industrial complex. East Asian raw materials such as oil from the Dutch East Indies and rubber from French Indochina kept Japanís manufacturing industry and military in China well supplied. The Japanese war machine was eventually aimed at the United States in WWII with their attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The French left French Indochina in the 1950s after years of warfare with nationalist groups. Communism seemed destined to spread into the region from China. The U.S. foreign policy of containment of communism would lead to their involvement in the area in the unpopular Vietnam Conflict. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos all eventually became communist in the 1970s. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge orchestrated mass killing of intellectuals and so-called reactionaries which became known as the Killing Fields.


Created by Thomas Caswell
Copyright © 1999-2003 Oswego City School District Regents Exam Prep Center
RegentsPrep and StudyZone are FREE educational resources.