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New Imperialism

686-687 - Causes of New Imperialism

692-694 - Scramble for Africa - N + W

695-697 - Scramble for Africa - Centre, E + S

697-699 - Effects of New Imperialism

702-707 - Britain in India

Imperialism is empire building.  


The central core of modern empire are nation-states, but in ancient times, it was a city state or a tribe.


European civilization experienced a period of unprecedented rapid expansion around the globe during the last third of the nineteenth century. European nation-states had become very powerful because of industrialization and because of the organizational efficiency of these nation-states.  European global expansion had actually begun in the fifteenth century with the development of overseas trade routes.  However, this process greatly accelerated in the nineteenth century in a process called New Imperialism with European industrialised states using their technology to conquer land overseas and exploit their natural & human resources, and open up new markets for their goods.


Latin America and the seaports of Asia and Africa had been the first to be colonized by Europeans. Native Americans in South America were liquidated or thoroughly subjugated by Spanish rule. Most Latin American descendants (Latinos) of the Spanish conquerors  gained independence from Spain by the early 19th century, while many indigenous peoples remained subject.


The African climate, disease and geography delayed most European colonization until the 19th century, although the descendants of Dutch settlers, known as Afrikaans or Boers, came to South Africa as early as the 16th century.   The Atlantic Slave Trade took a heavy toll on Western African development from the 16th century onwards with millions of young people of working age taken away - a much smaller scale slave trade but with a much longer history had been operating along Africa's Eastern coastlines in the Indian Ocean for at least 1000 years before this....


Asia's population was too great, and its civilizations were too firmly established for Europeans to rule as directly as Africa. The Europeans did establish control over seaports and trade. In places like India and Indonesia, Europeans ruled indirectly through their domination of the local aristocracy.  China was broken up into spheres of influence, whilst Japan decided to copy rather than resist Europeans and became the world's first modern imperial power from outside Europe


Great Britain was the leading European colonial power and had already established much of its overseas empire by the beginning of the 19th century.  France had substantial holdings in Southeast Asia and in North and West Africa, all of these had been established during the 19th century.  Portugal, Spain and Holland kept hold of some of the colonies they had established over the age of the earliest sea trading, spice seeking colonial expansion, and still had in the 19thC.  Germany and Italy were late arrivals on the colonial scene because they had only unified themselves in the 1860's, and as such had had limited opportunity to establish colonial empires, a point which both countries were unhappy about.  Belgium likewise had limited options until King Leopold decided to claim a huge swathe of central Africa for himself, a move which started the whole Scramble for Africa of the 1880s. The French, the British, the Germans and the Italians competed with each other in the last third of the 19th century to lay claim to Africa. The only remaining areas of Africa not colonized by the end of the century were Ethiopia in the horn of Africa and Liberia on the Atlantic coast.

The British forced China to open itself to the world and its own India-based Opium trade in the 1840's. As a result, China also experienced huge political, economic and social upheaval, such as the 20 year Taiping rebellion, and was unable to prevent foreign domination of its trade. By the end of the 19th century, England, Germany, Russia, Japan, and the United States had all compelled China to trade with them. Russia occupied Manchuria and Port Arthur, Japan was in Korea, Germany was in the Shantung peninsula, and the British were in Hong Kong.

Europeans attempted to justify this colonisation by developing theories that said that they were superior to non-European peoples. There were a number of racist ideas widely used and believed by Europeans:


1) Whites were mentally superior to non-whites, with pseudoscientific, or fake scientific, studies such as eugenics claiming to be able to prove these disparities using  theories about skull sizes which have all since been demonstrated to be false and without any scientific merit.  Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton was a key British eugenist.
2) Charles Darwin himself had published On the Origin of Species in 1861, a book which established evolution as the scientific explanation for life on earth. 
Social Darwinism was a strand of Darwinist thought which focused on how evolutionist theory could explain the disparities between the different ethnic groups of 19thC humanity (but this was not what Charles Darwin believed...).  It was a loose collection of ideas which centred around the notion that because white Europeans had industrialised first they had proven themselves the fittest race and as such deserved to lead the rest of the world.  This of course conveniently ignores the fact that all the areas conquered had much longer and richer cultural histories than Europe could claim to possess - China, India, SE Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and huge swathes of N & S America had civilisations dating back 1000s of years.....


3) Christianity was also used in its position as the only true religion with heathens needing converting in order to save their souls.  This again was the manipulation of previous ideas to suit the goals of Europeans who wanted to be able to justify their racist policies.

But what was NEW about New Imperialism? 

How did it differ from the Imperialism humanity has always undertaken?

How do we remember all this stuff?

  • Click on the Word document on the right Read the text and the reasons why

      Europeans were able to conquer the world between 1880-1910

  • Click on the left-hand digital book icon at the top of the page 

  • Read pages 686-687 + add to the explanations by using examples 

  • Re-read the reasons - which have always been around, which are new?

  • Using the new reasons, explain why New Imperialism was 'New'....

  • Try to create mnemonics like this one to help with other topics

       and other subjects....​


Scramble for africa


The archetypal New Imperialist campaign was the late 19thC invasion of Africa by European powers - a campaign which in its brutality of conquest and rule has left a racist legacy that has continued to determine much of what still happens today within the continent and elsewhere, here and now in the 21st century...

Watch the short film below left.  What do you believe it is saying about relations between Europe and Africa?; and how people from countries in Africa see both themselves and Africa?  Who do you think made this film?

Now read the article below right - how accurate were you?

Finally watch the 5 minute talking heads clip underneath - what ideas does Richard Dowden talk about when discussing the impact of New Imperialism on Africa?  How does he see the future and why?

The TED talk next to this is a really interesting presentation on what is means to be 'African' in the 21stC by a young writer, Siyanda Mohutsiwa, whose use of Twitter has helped promote a new appreciation of Pan-Africanism, what the future could hold, and the use of the internet in all of this...

(Richard Dowden is Executive Director of the Royal African Society in London (  He worked for the Times until 1986 when he became Africa Editor of the Independent and in 1995 took the post of Africa Editor at The Economist. He also made three television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 on Africa.

(Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a writer and satirist from Botswana. Mohutsiwa, also known as Siyanda-Panda, wondered how Africans would behave in a bar, so she started the hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar. The idea was for Africans to speak to one another in a “lighthearted, non-hateful sort of way.” The hashtag went viral, with continued demands for Mohutsiwa leading the way with her own tweet)


So how did Europeans conquer a continent previously untouched because of the challenges it presented outsiders?  The 19th century saw Europe rapidly industrialise and progress in many ways far faster than the rest of the world.  This allowed them to develop industrial, military and scientific solutions to these age old challenges...

Access the scanned text below and use it to complete the summary sheet attached...


Systems of rule in colonial Africa

The problems of colonial governance in this period are striking. Contemplate the differences in the cultural values of the European and the colonized. Consider the differences in power between the two groups. Consider the differences in what each group sought from the other out of their relationship. 


Indirect rule was the plan to use existing tribal structures and traditions as conduits for establishing rules and regulations while English officials worked behind the scenes and could exercise a veto power. In some cases the British designated a person to act as "chief" in settings where there was no clearly hierarchical structure in place.


This was not the only approach to colonial rule. The French and Germans employed direct rule--the idea that--because of these differences--European officials should call the shots for themselves by establishing and administering the rules and regulations for their African colonial subjects.

There was also the case of the Belgian Congo which until 1905 was the private property of one man, the Belgian king of the time, Leopold II, and so was more an estate than anything else...a position which allowed for exploitation and abuse on an unprecedented scale.  

How did these systems of rule affect the peoples of Africa who were subjected to them; how did they these systems affect the European who administered them; how have these systems continued to affect the continent of Africa up to now; and how have they affected Europe over the years?


British in E & S Africa

BBC Empire series - Maxim Force (Niall Ferguson)

The European powers that ended up dividing Africa ranged from the traditional Great Powers of France and Great Britain to smaller, more marginalised nations such as Portugal and Belgium.  Alongside these established European nation-states were the newly unified German and Italian nations who were eager to establish themselves on the world stage.  They all had individual ways of governing their new territories - the British used indirect rule; the Continental powers were more direct; and there were even heads of state such as Belgium's Leopold II who established personal claims and treated their new colonies as private fiefdoms.  Our first case study is the British in East and South Africa - watch the video on the left and answer the questions....

Belgian Congo; German South-West Africa

Left :

Belgian Congo






What was the legacy of the Scramble for Africa?

UKs Biggest Fibs - India + Empire of 19C

Marr's History of the World - ep 7 - Age of Industry - New Imperialism Prezi introduction








Open publication - Free publishing - More africa



BBC series - "History of Racism" - 3 episodes :-

(1) 16th/17th Cs - basis

(2) 19th C - justification

(3) 20th C - impact




Scramble for Africa

- nw imp lecture

- division of africa and effects




Systems of rule

  - Maxim Force - UK and Africa - BBC Empire series with Niall Ferguson - episode 1/5 - 

- BBC documentary on UK in S Africa & the Boer War

- BBC documentary on Germany in Namibia at start of 20th century

- modern history of congo

- brutality of the congo ( 10 min bbc4 snippet)

"White king, red rubber black death" .... BBC Storyville doc about NI in the Congo

This World BBC documentary Rwanda : Untold Story

Guardian article on US involvement in Rwanda


Division of Asia

- new imp in asia lecture

- BBC Empire - Making a Fortune episode - India; China featured 

- Pacific Century - Two Coasts of China (China & UK)

 - Powerpoint intro to Opium wars between UK and China in 19th Century 

- Docudrama on Opium Wars (1997)

 - Pacific Century - Meiji Restoration (Japan & USA) - video/audio has a little time delay.... 

- Road to War - Japan - documentary on Japanese and West relations deteriorating 

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