A variety of motives and methods led to the intensification of European global control and increased tensions among the Great Powers.
The European imperial outreach of the 19th century was in some ways a continuation of three centuries of colonization, but it also resulted from the economic pressures and necessities of a maturing industrial economy. The new technologies and imperatives of the second industrial revolution (1870–1914) led many European nations to view overseas territories as sources of raw materials and consumer markets. While European colonial empires in the Western Hemisphere diminished in size over this period as former colonies gained independence, the region remained dependent on Europe as a source of capital and technological expertise and was a market for European-made goods. European powers also became increasingly dominant in Eastern and Southern Asia in the early 19th century, and a combination of forces created the conditions for a new wave of imperialism there and in Africa later in the century. Moreover, European national rivalries accelerated the expansion of colonialism as governments recognized that actual control of these societies offered economic and strategic advantages. Notions of global destiny and racial superiority fed the drive for empire, and innovations such as antimalarial drugs, machine guns, and gunboats made it feasible. Non-European societies without these modern advantages could not effectively resist European imperial momentum.
The “new imperialism” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was promoted in European nations by interest groups that included politicians, military officials and soldiers, missionaries, explorers, journalists, and intellectuals. As an example of a new complex phase of imperial diplomacy, the Berlin Conference in 1884–1885 outlined the procedures that Europeans should use in the partition of the African continent. By 1914, most of Africa and Asia were under the domination of Great Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Notwithstanding the power of colonial administrations, some groups in the colonial societies resisted European imperialism, and by 1914, anticolonial movements had taken root within the non-European world and in Europe itself.
Imperialism exposed Europeans to foreign societies and introduced “exotic” influences into European art and culture. At the same time, millions of Europeans carried their culture abroad, to the Americas and elsewhere, through emigration, and helped to create a variety of mixed cultures around the world.
3.5.1: European nations were driven by economic, political, and cultural motivations in their new imperial ventures in Asia and Africa.
3.5.1.A: European national rivalries and strategic concerns fostered imperial expansion and competition for colonies.
3.5.1.B: The search for raw materials and markets for manufactured goods, as well as strategic and nationalistic considerations, drove Europeans to colonize Africa and Asia, even as European colonies in the Americas broke free politically, if not economically.
3.5.1.C: European imperialists justified overseas expansion and rule by claiming cultural and racial superiority.
3.5.2: Industrial and technological developments (i.e., the second industrial revolution) facilitated European control of global empires.
3.5.2.A: The development of advanced weaponry invariably ensured the military superiority of Europeans over colonized areas.
3.5.2.B: Communication and transportation technologies allowed for the creation of European empires.
3.5.2.C: Advances in medicine supported European control of Africa and Asia by preserving European lives.
3.5.3: Imperial endeavors significantly affected society, diplomacy, and culture in Europe and created resistance to foreign control abroad.
3.5.3.A: Imperialism created diplomatic tensions among European states that strained alliance systems.
3.5.3.B: Imperial encounters with non-European peoples influenced the styles and subject matter of artists and writers and provoked debate over the acquisition of colonies.
3.5.3.C: Especially as non-Europeans became educated in Western values, they challenged European imperialism through nationalist movements and by modernizing local economies and societies.