Home / Western Imperialism Influences Many Parts of the World

Western Imperialism Influences Many Parts of the World

The Industrial Revolution described in earlier had consequences far beyond western Europe and the United States where it made its most rapid progress. The Industrial Revolution led to bitter rivalry between industrial powers for control of sources of raw materials, markets for manufactured articles and places in which to invest profits. Here we describe this rivalry and its effect on several parts of the world up to the outbreak of World War II.

Contacts with the Western World took different forms in different places. European powers carved out colonies in Africa. Sometimes the scramble for colonies led nations to the brink of war. In the Far East, European powers penetrated the coastal areas of China and opened up Japan to Western trade and ideas. Unlike China, Japan quickly made far-reaching changes in its industry and armed forces. As a result, in less than a century, Japan became the foremost power in the Far East.

Further revealed is a brighter side of colonialism. British settlers brought their ideas and customs to colonies where they settled. In time such former colonies as Canada, Australia and New Zealand became self-governing. Britain also extended varying degrees of self-rule to other colonies. Out of the former British Empire grew the present Commonwealth of Nation.

Although Latin American countries retained their independence, economic life in many of them was controlled by outside nations. Indeed, until recently, most Latin American countries felt that the United States threatened their independence. Finally, European powers, taking advantage of Turkey’s weakness, made gains within the Moslem world, but in the Moslem world, as elsewhere, outside control aroused national feelings and movements for independence.

Imperialism Affects the Moslem World

Slowly the train had puffed over the heights of the Lebanon Mountains. Now, at last, it was coasting down the eastern slope. Hasan Ali, an Arab trader, gazed ahead down onto the broad Syrian plains far below. Already in the growing light of early morning he could make out some of the tall minarets of the 300 mosques in Damascus. Hasan Ali had first looked on the ancient city many years before when he was a boy. He and his father had joined the great caravan which yearly wound its way from Damascus across the Arabian Desert to Mecca, the holy city of Mohammed, the Prophet of Allah. Hasan Ali smiled as he thought of the changes that had occurred in his lifetime. This jolting train was one and so was the telegraph line. Both were good for trade. The hospital and the school for girls in Beirut, the city he had just left, seemed to him fine things, although many of his countrymen were less pleased with such changes in their way of life. The same could be said for the modern guns and the clever machines which sewed cloth. The spread of Western imperialism helped to bring about the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. We have read about widely separated parts of the globe — Africa, the Far East, the Pacific and Latin America. All these areas were brought into contact with Western industrialized nations during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Contacts with the West and Western ways likewise took place, as the opening paragraphs indicate, in the area which extended from southeastern Europe to what is now western Pakistan. Most of the people of this region, along with those of North Africa, shared a common bond — they were followers of the great religious leader, …

Read More »

The British Empire Becomes the Commonwealth of Nations

On a January evening in 1896, a famous British statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, attended a banquet in honour of an Englishman about to go to Australia as a colonial governor. Chamberlain was called upon to make an after dinner speech. What he said that wintry evening years ago explains what people at that time meant by the “British Empire” and points to the changes which he hoped would take place in the future. Here is part of what Chamberlain said: I have heard it said that we [English] never had a colonial policy, that we have simply blundered into all the best places in the earth. I admit that we have made mistakes . . . but, after all is said, this remains –that we alone among the nations of the earth have been able to establish and maintain colonies under different conditions in all parts of the world, that we have maintained them to their own advantage and to ours, that we have secured not only the loyal attachment of all British subjects, but the general good will of the races, whether they be natives or whether they be Europeans that have thus come under the British flag. . . . Let us do all in our power by improving our communications, by developing our commercial relations, by co-operating in mutual defense and none of us will then even feel isolated; no part of the Empire will stand alone, so long as it can count upon the common interest of all in its welfare and in its security. . . . In the words of Tennyson, let Britain’s myriad voices call, “Sons, be welded each and all, Into one Imperial whole, One with Britain, heart and soul! One life, one flag, one fleet, one Throne!” In time to come, the …

Read More »

Contact with the West Brings Changes in Asia (the East)


In July 1858 a small fleet of American warships steamed into Tokyo Bay in Japan. The commander, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, had served during the War of 1812 and the war between the United States and Mexico (1846-1848). Perry’s voyage into Japanese waters did not mean that Japan and the United States were at war. Instead, Perry was bound on a peaceful mission, although it was expected that a show of force would help him to accomplish his purpose. For years American and European ship captains had tried to enter Japanese ports to trade and obtain supplies, but without success, for the Japanese mistrusted Western peoples and Western ways, but the Japanese were impressed by Perry’s steamships (the first they had seen) and by the big guns these vessels carried. The Americans were allowed to land and present their request that Japan begin to trade with the United States. Then Perry sailed away, giving the Japanese time to make up their minds. When he returned some months later in 1854, the Japanese rulers agreed to a treaty whereby American vessels could trade and obtain supplies in two Japanese ports. Within a few years, more generous terms were granted both to Americans and to Europeans. Perry’s voyage showed how keen was the interest of Western nations in trade with Asian countries even in the mid 1800’s. Later, as Western nations became more and more industrialized, the same scramble for trade took place in Asia and the Pacific as in Africa. Countries sought greater trading privileges, or areas which they could control, or outright colonies. There was, however, one major difference between imperialism in Africa and imperialism in much of Asia. In many parts of Africa the colonizing powers could ignore the Africans. Statesmen could sit around the table with explorers’ maps …

Read More »

Europe Annexes the African Continent


In 1871 there occurred one of the strangest meetings in history. The place was Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika in the heart of Africa. The men who met were David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary who was also a doctor, and Henry M. Stanley, a newspaperman. Livingstone had come to Africa about thirty years before. Anxious to spread Christianity and civilization among the Africans, in this unknown and mysterious continent, he had undertaken long trips into the interior. For several years, however, Livingstone had not been heard from, so the New York Herald sent Stanley, a roving reporter, to look for him. After what seemed like an endless journey through the dark forests of the African jungle, Stanley finally came upon Livingstone and his small party in a native village. There in the market place stood Livingstone, weak from fever and worn out from years of exploring regions hitherto unknown to white men. As the story goes, Stanley advanced toward him, rushed with the excitement of finally meeting the man he had for months been trying to locate. It would have been natural at such a dramatic moment for Stanley to shout a welcome or to rush forward and clap Livingstone on the back. But Stanley merely tipped his hat and said, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” as if this were an everyday meeting of two men on a city street! Stanley’s meeting with Livingstone occurred at a time when Europeans were taking a new interest in African continent. Within a few years several European countries had become engaged in a scramble for colonies. In fact, by the early years of the twentieth century, all Africa except for two or three areas had been taken over by one European power or another. Nor was interest in colonies confined to Africa. During the same …

Read More »
Translate »