During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there was a great surge of imperialist activity. The major European states, particularly Great Britain, France, and Germany, divided virtually all of Africa and much of Asia among themselves. This imperial expansion provided a dramatic manifestation of Europe's power and dynamism. By the end of the century, the United States and Japan had joined the ranks of the imperalist powers winning a surprising victory over Russia. As the imperialist powers increased their activity, rivalries intensified, increasing tensions among the powers.


Reasons for Imperialism

The possession of colonies offered a means to increase a country's military and economic power in relation to its rivals. The failure to acquire colonies came to be regarded as a sign of national decadence. Social Darwinists of the period (Herbert Spencer) emphasized the idea of life as a struggle, with the stronger surviving at the expense of the weaker. Countries that failed to expand were seen as losing the struggle for survival. Social Darwinists like Rudyard Kipling, also believed that the advanced white race had an obligation to civilize the less developed peoples of the world. The religious ferver of the late 19th century also contributed to imperialist policies. Both Protestants and Catholics engaged in missionary activity in the name of humanitarianism. The activities of Dr. Livingstone illustrate this venture. Finally the growth of European industry led to demands for new sources of raw materials as well as the need for new markets for the capitalists.



Throughout the 19th century Britain expanded her world wide empire. In 1843 the British took control of Natal in South Africa and in 1867 the Dominion of Canada was established. Following the Great Mutiny (Sepoy Rebellion) in 1857 the British took control of India which came to be known as the Crown Jewel of the Empire. India was to remain under British control until 1947 when it was the last of the crown colonies to obtain freedom. At the conclusion of the Opium War in 1842 China became part of the British Empire when Hong Kong was annexed. Prime Minister Disraeli obtained controlling interests in the Suez Canal in 1875 which lead to British concern about a native rebellion in the Sudan in 1885. During this rebellion General Gordon died at Khartoum and his death was avenged by General Kitchener at Omdurman in 1898. Other territories which should be added to the list of British possessions include Gibraltar, Ceylon Singapore and Australia and New Zealand. Australia was granted self government in 1901 and New Zealand in 1907.



Although Bismarck was not greatly interested in acquiring colonies Germany did acquire Togoland and Cameroon in 1884 and in 1885 established controlm,over German East Africa. Italy acquiured Somaliland in 1889 but suffered a major set back with its defeat at the Battle of Adowa in 1896 at the hands of the Ethopians (the first European power to be defeated in Africa). From 1860-1890 France extended her control over Indochina while Spain and Portugal settled for retaining their old coastal trading colonies of Guinea and Angola in West Africa and Mozambique in East Africa.

Imperialism turned sour with the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in China in which nearly 200 europeans were killed and diplomats were beseiged in Peking. An international expeditionary force supressed the revolt.

Russain advances in China angered the Japanese who engaged the Russians in the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War. This war resulted in the defeat of the Russians at the Battle of Mukden (on land) and the Battle of Tsushima Straits (at sea). Together these demonstarated the decline of the Russaians as a world power and the rise of Japan to major power status. The war ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905 at which Teddy Roosevelt negoiated a settlement which gave Japan eventual control of Manchuria and additionally, Korea by 1910.