Imperialism occurs when a strong nation takes over
a weaker nation or region and dominates its economic,
political, or cultural life. This type of foreign policy
was practiced by European nations and Japan throughout the
1800s and early 1900s. In every case, a nation would
industrialization prior to practicing
imperialism on a foreign nation or region. This was due to the
nearly insatiable demand for cheap
raw materials and
the need for markets to buy manufactured goods
Old Imperialism occurs in the 15th through
18th centuries in Africa, India, the
Americas, and parts of Asia The motives were
the same for most areas, the establishment of lucrative
trade routes. Various European
countries dominated these trades routes and one time or
another, and a some countries, such as Great Britain and
Spain, came to dominate entire countries.
Abundant raw materials and vast markets
are needed in order to maintain an industrialized economy. Raw
materials such as iron and cotton can be turned into products
such as steel and textiles. Finally, these products need to be
sold to a market in order to realize a profit.
The forces of industrialization caused nations to begin
looking outside of their borders for cheaper and more abundant
raw materials. Foreign populations were also viewed as vast
markets where goods produced in domestic factories could be
Nationalism, or pride in one’s country, also
contributed to the growth of imperialism. Citizens were proud
of their country’s accomplishments, which sometimes included
taking over foreign areas. As European nations became
competitive with one another, there was an increased pressure
to practice imperialism in order to maintain a balance of
power in Europe.
Causes of European Imperialism
Industrial Revolution created an
insatiable demand for raw materials and new markets.
||European nations wanted to demonstrate
their power and prestige to the world.
Balance of Power
||European nations were forced to acquire
new colonies to achieve a balance with their neighbors
White Man's Burden
||The Europeans’ sense of superiority made
them feel obligated to bring their version of
civilization to areas they considered
In the short-term, imperialism was a very profitable
foreign policy which came at the expense of the
foreign regions where it was being practiced.
Cultural diffusion also occurred, leading to an
exchange of ideas between the West and the East. For example,
European methods of education were adopted, leading
non-Europeans to study ideas of liberty and democracy embraced
Enlightenment and various political
revolutions. This exchange eventually led to the demise of
colonialism throughout the world after
World War Two.