Bruce Morrison » The Age of Imperialism, 1850–1914

The Age of Imperialism, 1850–1914

Western countries colonize large areas of Africa and Asia, leading to political and cultural changes.


Section 1: The Scramble for Africa

Section 2: CASE STUDY: Imperialism

Section 3: Europeans Claim Muslim Lands

Section 4: British Imperialism in India

Section 5: Imperialism in Southeast Asia


Section 1: The Scramble for Africa

Ignoring the claims of African ethnic groups, kingdoms, and city-states, Europeans establish colonies.


AfricaBefore European Domination


Problems Discourage Exploration

  • Armies, rivers, disease discourage exploration


Nations Compete for Overseas Empires

  • Imperialism—seizure of a country or territory by a stronger country
  • Missionaries, explorers, humanitarians reach interior ofAfrica


The Congo Sparks Interest

  • Henry Stanley helps King Leopold II ofBelgiumacquire land in Congo
  • Leopold brutally exploits Africans; millions die
  • Belgian government takes colony away from Leopold, much of Europe begins to claim parts ofAfrica

Forces Driving Imperialism


Belief in European Superiority

  • Race for colonies grows out of national pride
  • Racism—belief that one race is better than others
  • Social Darwinism—survival of the fittest applied to human society


Factors Promoting Imperialism in Africa

  • Technological inventions like steam engine, Maxim gun help conquest
  • Perfection of quinine protects Europeans from malaria
  • WithinAfrica, Africans are divided by language and culture


The Division of Africa


The Lure of Wealth

  • Discovery of gold and diamonds increases interest in colonization


Berlin Conference Divides Africa

  • BerlinConference—14 nations agree on rules for division (1884–85):

-countries must claim land and prove ability to control it

  • By 1914, onlyLiberiaand Ethiopia are free of European control


Demand for Raw Materials Shapes Colonies

  • Raw materials are greatest source of wealth inAfrica
  • Businesses develop cash-crop plantations

Three Groups Clash over South Africa


Zulus Fight the British

  • Shaka—Zulu chief—creates centralized state around 1816
  • British defeat Zulus and gain control of Zulu nation in 1887


Boers and British Settle in the Cape

  • Boers, or Dutch farmers, take Africans’ land, establish large farms
  • Boers clash with British over land, slaves -move north to escape British


The Boer War

  • Boer War between British, Boers begins in 1899
  • British win; Boer republics united in Union of South Africa (1910)


Section 2: Imperialism - CASE STUDY: Nigeria

Europeans embark on a new phase of empire building that affects both Africa and the rest of the world.


A New Period of Imperialism


Extending Influence

  • Europeans want to control all aspects of their colonies:

-influence political, social lives of people

-shape economies to benefit Europe

-want people to adopt European customs


Forms of Control

  • Europeans develop four forms of control of territory:

-colony—governed by a foreign power

-protectorate—governs itself, but under outside control

-sphere of influence—outside power controls investment, trading

-economic imperialism—private business interests assert control


Methods of Management

  • Europeans use two methods to manage colonies:

-direct control

-indirect control


Indirect Control

  • Limited self-rule for local governments
  • Legislative body includes colonial, local officials


Direct Control

  • Paternalism—Europeans provide for local people, but grant no rights
  • Assimilation—adaptation of local people to ruling culture


A British Colony


Gaining Control

  • Britainconquers southern Nigeria using both diplomacy and force
  • Conquest of northernNigeriathrough Royal Niger Company, in 1914 Britain claims all of Nigeria as a colony

Managing the Colony

  • Nigeriais culturally diverse area, with about 250 ethnic groups
  • British use indirect rule successfully with Hausa-Fulani
  • Yoruba and Igbo chiefs resent limits on their power


African Resistance


Africans Confront Imperialism

  • Broad resistance to imperialism, but Europeans have superior weapons


Unsuccessful Movements

  • Algeriaactively resists French for almost 50 years
  • Samori Touré fights French inWest Africafor 16 years
  • InGerman East Africa, people put faith in spiritual defense
  • Results in about 75,000 deaths; famine kills twice as many


Ethiopia: A Successful Resistance

  • Menelik II, emperor ofEthiopia in 1889, resists Europeans
  • plays Europeans against each other
  • stockpiles arsenal of modern weapons
  • defeatsItaly, remains independent


The Legacy of Colonial Rule


Negative Effects

  • Africans lose land and independence, many lose lives
  • Traditional cultures break down
  • Division ofAfricacreates problems that continue today


Positive Effects

  • Colonialism reduces local fighting
  • Sanitation improves; hospitals and schools created
  • Technology brings economic growth


Section 3: Europeans Claim Muslim Lands

European nations expand their empires by seizing territories from Muslim states.


Ottoman EmpireLoses Power


Reforms Fail

  • After Suleyman I dies in 1566, empire starts to decline
  • Ottoman Empire falls behindEuropein technology
  • Selim III attempts to modernize army and is overthrown
  • Subject peoples inGreeceand Serbia gain independence
  • European powers look for ways to take Ottoman lands


EuropeansGrab Territory



  • Geopolitics—taking land for its strategic location or products
  • Access to sea trade routes focuses attention on Ottoman lands


Russia and the Crimean War

  • Crimean War—Russiaattacks Ottomans in 1853 to gain warm-water port
  • Russialoses, but Ottomans are shown to be weak; still lose land


The Great Game

  • Great Game—war waged betweenRussia and Britain over India
  • Battles fought inAfghanistanuntil British withdrawal in 1881


EgyptInitiates Reforms


Military and Economic Reforms

  • Muhammad Ali breaks away from Ottoman control and rulesEgypt
  • Begins series of reforms in military and economy
  • Shifts Egyptian agriculture from food crops to cash crops


The Suez Canal

  • Egyptbuilds Suez Canal—human-made waterway -connects Red Sea to Mediterranean
  • Modernization efforts create huge debt
  • British oversee financial control of canal, occupyEgyptin 1882


PersiaPressured to Change


The Exploitation of Persia

  • Russiawants access to Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean
  • Britainwants Persian oil and Afghanistan
  • Persiaconcedes to Western businesses


Battle over Tobacco

  • Persian ruler sells concession toBritainto export tobacco
  • Persians boycott tobacco, leads to riots
  • In 1907,Russiaand Britain seize and divide Persia between them


Section 4: British Imperialism in India

As the Mughal Empire declined, Britain seizes Indian territory and soon it controls almost the whole subcontinent.


British Expand Control over India


East India Company Dominates

  • British East India Companyrules India until 1850s
  • Company has its own army led by British officers
  • Army is staffed bysepoys—Indian soldiers


Britain’s “Jewel in the Crown”

  • Indiais Britain’s most valuable colony, or “jewel in the crown”
  • Forced to produce raw materials for British manufacturing
  • Also forced to buy British goods


British Transport Trade Goods

  • Railroads move cash crops and goods faster
  • Trade in specific crops is tied to international events


Impact of Colonialism

  • British hold much of political and economic power
  • Cash crops result in loss of self-sufficiency, famine
  • Indian life disrupted by missionaries and racist attitudes
  • British modernizeIndia’s economy, improve public health


The Sepoy Mutiny


Indians Rebel

  • Sepoys refuse to use cartridges of new rifles for religious reasons
  • Many Sepoys are jailed; others startSepoy Mutinyagainst British
  • Many Indians, especially Sikhs, remain loyal to British


Turning Point

  • British put down rebellion, take direct command ofIndia
  • Raj—term for British rule overIndia, lasts from 1757 to 1947
  • Uprising increases distrust between British and Indians


Nationalism Surfaces in India


Call for Reforms

  • In 1800s,Ram Mohun Royleads modernization movement
  • Many Indians adopt western ways and call for social reforms
  • Indians resent being second-class citizens in own country


Nationalist Groups Form

  • Indian National Congressand Muslim League form
  • Nationalists angered by partition ofBengal

-pressure forces Britain to divide it differently


Section 5: Imperialism in Southeast Asia

Demand for Asian products drive Western imperialists to seek possession of Southeast Asian lands. 


European Powers Invade the Pacific Rim


Europeans Race to Claim Pacific Rim

  • Lands of Southeast Asia that border Pacific Ocean formPacific Rim
  • Dutch, British, French, Germans claim parts ofPacific Rim

-establish trading ports

-land perfect for plantation agriculture


Dutch Expand Control

  • Dutch colonies, called Dutch East Indies, includeIndonesia
  • SettleIndonesia, establish rigid social class system


British Take the Malayan Peninsula

  • Britainseizes Singapore as a port and trading base
  • Also gets colonies inMalaysia,Burma
  • Chinese immigration toMalaysiacreates problems


French Control Indochina

  • French come to controlVietnam,Laos, Cambodia
  • Directly control French Indochina
  • Export rice, angering Vietnamese


Colonial Impact

  • Modernization mainly helps European businesses
  • Education, health, sanitation improve
  • Millions migrate toSoutheast Asiato work in mines, plantations
  • Colonialism leads to racial and religious clashes


SiamRemains Independent


Modernization in Siam

  • Siamremains independent, neutral zone between French, British
  • King Mongkutmodernizes country:

-starts schools -reforms legal system -reorganizes government -builds transportation and telegraph systems

-ends slavery


U.S.Imperialism in the Pacific Islands


The Philippines Change Hands

  • U.S.gains Philippines after Spanish-American War
  • Emilio Aguinaldo leads Filipino nationalists againstU.S.rule
  • U.S.defeats three-year nationalist revolt (1902)
  • U.S.promises to prepare Filipinos for self-rule
  • Focus on cash crops leads to food shortages


Hawaii Becomes a Republic

  • Americans establish sugar-cane plantations onHawaii
  • By mid-1800s, sugar accounts for 75 percent ofHawaii’s wealth
  • leaders want annexation—adding territory to country
  • Queen Liliuokalani tries to restore Hawaiian control
  • American businessmen have her removed from power
  • U.S.annexes Republic of Hawaii (1898)