The New Imperialism, 1869–1914
I0. The New Imperialism: Motives and Methods
10. The New Imperialism was a tremendous explosion of territorial conquest in which the
imperial powers used economic and technological means to reorganize dependent
regions and bring them into the world economy as suppliers of foodstuffs and raw
materials and as consumers of industrial products.
20. In Africa and in other parts of the world this was done by conquest and colonial
administration; in Latin America, the same result was attained by indirect means.
B0. Political Motives
10. One political motive for imperialism was the desire to gain national prestige.
20. The actions of colonial governors also led to the acquisition of new colonial possessions.
Colonial agents often sent troops to take over neighboring territories first and informed
their home governments afterwards.
C0. Cultural Motives
10. The late nineteenth century Christian revival in Europe and North America included a
commitment to exporting Western “civilization” through Christian missionary activity.
20. Persons other than missionaries also believed that Europeans and Americans were
morally and culturally superior and that their technological prowess was proof of this
superiority. Some used racist ideas in order to justify this superiority and to relegate non-
Europeans to a permanent state of inferiority.
30. Imperialism was attractive to young men who found opportunities for adventure and
glory in the imperialist enterprise. By the 1890s, imperialism was a popular cause; it was
the overseas extension of nationalism.
D0. Economic Motives
10. The industrialization of Europe and North America stimulated a demand for minerals,
industrial crops, and stimulants (sugar, coffee, tea, and tobacco). The economic
depression of the mid-1870s to the mid-1890s gave the industrialized countries an
incentive to seek control of the sources of raw materials and the markets for their
20. Entrepreneurs and investors looked to profit from mines, plantations, and railroads in
Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In order to minimize their risks, these entrepreneurs
sought the diplomatic and military support of their governments.
E0. The Tools of the Imperialists
10. The Industrial Revolution provided technological innovations that made it possible for
Europeans and Americans to build the “New Imperialism.”
20. Steamships, the Suez Canal, and submarine cables gave European forces greater mobility
and better communications than Africans, Asians, or Latin Americans. The discovery
that quinine could be used to prevent malaria allowed Europeans to enter Africa in large
numbers for the first time.
30. The invention of the breechloader, smokeless powder, and the machine gun widened the
firearms gap and made colonial conquests easier than ever before. F0. Colonial Agents and Administration
10. Colonialism is the system of administering and exploiting colonies for the benefit of the
home country. In applying modern scientific and industrial methods to their colonies,
colonialists started the transformation of Asian and African societies that has continued
to our day.
20. The forms of colonial administration varied with the social and economic conditions of
the colonies. Some colonies were protectorates that retained their traditional
governments, and some were administered directly.
30. Colonies were administered with the cooperation of indigenous elites. Colonial
administrations used two different types of indigenous elites: traditional rulers and
youths trained for “modern” jobs as clerks, nurses, policemen, customs inspectors and
40. European and American women seldom took part in the early stages of colonial
conquest. When they did arrive in the colonies, the presence of European and American
women led to increased racial segregation.
II0. The Scramble for Africa
10. The Egyptian khedives carried out a number of expensive modernization projects in the
mid-nineteenth century. These projects were financed with high-interest loans from
20. French and British bankers lobbied their governments to intervene in Egypt in order to
secure their loans. In 1882 the British sent an army into Egypt and established a system
of indirect rule that lasted for seventy years.
30. The British worked to develop Egyptian agriculture, especially cotton production, by
building a dam across the Nile at Aswan. The economic development of Egypt only
benefited a small elite of landowners and merchants, and it was accompanied by the
introduction of Western ways that conflicted with the teachings of Islam.
B0. Western and Equatorial Africa
10. In West Africa, the French built a railroad from the upper Senegal River to the upper
Niger in order to open the interior to French merchants. In the Congo Basin, King
Leopold II of Belgium claimed the area south of the Congo River, while France claimed
the area on the northern bank.
20. German chancellor Bismarck called the Berlin Conference on Africa in 1885 and 1886 in
order to lay out the framework under which Africa would be occupied by the European
nations. In practice, the division and occupation of Africa met with resistance and
required many years of effort.
30. In West Africa, the new colonial powers took advantage of and developed the existing
trade networks. In Equatorial Africa, where there were few inhabitants and little trade,
the colonial powers granted concessions to private companies that forced Africans to
produce cash crops and to carry them to the nearest navigable river or railroad.
C0. Southern Africa
10. Southern Africa had long been attractive to European settlers because of its good
pastures and farmland and its mineral wealth. The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley
in 1868 attracted European prospectors and Africans; it also set off the process by which
the British Cape Colony expanded, annexing Kimberley and defeating the Xhosa and the
20. Cecil Rhodes used his British South Africa Company to take over land in central Africa,
where he created the colonies of Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia.
30. British control over South Africa was consolidated when Britain defeated the Afrikaaners
in the South African War (1899–1902). In 1910 the European settlers created the Union of South Africa, in which the Afrikaaners emerged as the ruling element in a government
that assigned Africans to reservations and established a system of racial segregation.
D0. Political and Social Consequences
10. Africa at the time of the European invasion contained a variety of societies. These
societies responded differently to the European invasion; some welcomed the Europeans
as allies against local enemies, while others resisted European rule.