The New Imperialism (New England College)

Thesis: The decades between 1870 and 1914 speedily completed the expansion of European influence and civilization over the whole of the earth; and it was accomplished in an era when the realism, ruthlessness, and rivalries of European national governments were exceptionally great. European Imperialism of the late 19th century  therefore had a temper uniquely masterful and remorseless, brooking no obstacles and relentlessly self-assertive. Once begun, the scramble for land seized all the countries and created international anarchy.


1. A "glut of capital" earned during the Industrial Revolution financed the rapid military conquest of new territories in Africa and Asia which provided
  • new sources of cheap labor, 
  • abundant and cheap natural resources for factories
  • captive markets in which to sell manufactured goods.

2. The invention of modern "weapons of empire" made the Europeans impossible to resist militarily.

the iron battle ship, the railroad, and the Gatling Gun

3. Intense competition for world markets led to a land rush for territory and to establish key military bases.

The Players:

England, France, Austria, Russia, and the new comers: Germany, Italy, and the United States

4. The political ambitions of individual leaders drove imperialist conquest.

Cecil Rhodes of England and South Africa, Alexander II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, King Leopold of Belgium, William McKinley of USA 

5. The propagandizing of  intellectuals, economists, and patriotic publicists anxious to use the idea of European superiority to justify conquest. 

Christian Missionaries, Liberal Administrators, Social Darwinists, Nietzschean Supermen

The Berlin Conference of 1884:

"spheres of influence” defined to bring some order to the imperial land rush in Africa: any power that effectively occupied African territory and duly notified the other powers could thereby establish possession of it. The treaty was, in short, a compact among the powers to pursue the further partition of Africa as amicably as possible; and an attempt to separate colonial competition from European rivalries.