Industrialization to Imperialism: Europe

Today, Europe and Western Culture dominates most of the world and economic markets. But how did the world end up this way? Imperialism is when a “stronger” country dominates a “weaker” country whether by military force or by diplomacy. And its Imperialism that created the world we know today, and its very important to understand how our world has developed; even The Japan Times is still tweeting about imperialism today (The Japan Times)! Taking this back one more step, why were some countries “stronger” while some were “weaker”. This can be attributed to industrialization. Industrialization helped fuel the start of imperialism in the 19th century.

The age of Imperialism started around the late 1800s after the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was a catalyst to imperialism. The Industrial Revolution created fast economic growth as well as huge improvements in technology. Because of these new improvements, population growth was on the rise, people were living longer, there was mass production of goods, and changes in the distribution of those goods. The industrial Revolution started in Great Britain because of their geographic advantages and able farm animals (Diamond). Soon, industrialization spread throughout Europe and to the United States. These new industrialized nations needed more raw materials to fuel their mass production and population growth.

In order to maximize the countries profits, these industrialized nations went out to find nations that they could exploit natural resources and cheap labor from thus leading to imperialism. By the late 19th century, ¼ of earth’s territory redistributed among less than 12 industrialized countries (“Imperialism Stats.”). All of these countries were scrambling to get the best natural resources to fuel their factories, growing populations and economic growth caused by industrialization.

Looking at the countries that did not industrialize, we see that they were the ones who were taken over by imperialism.

The White Mans Burden

“American Imperialism” 

First printed in Life, March 16, 1899, this illustration shows the true dominance of the industrialized nations over the industrialized nations. This particular image was depicted from the poem “The White Man’s Burden” which shows the “white” colonial powers being carried as the burden of their “colored” subjects. “The White Man’s Burden” is known as the anthem of imperialism because it shows responsibility industrialized nations felt they had to take over “weaker” nations (Kipling). 

In 1902, an English economist named John A. Hobson wrote a famous critique on the economic basis of imperialism. By analyzing the most frequent words used in Hobson’s writings the basis of imperialism clearly stems from industrialization. The most frequently used word in Hobson’s writing is market/economic market. Industrialization caused a huge growth in the economic markets of industrialized countries which created a demand for more goods and imperialism was used as the answer go getting more of those goods. A few other words that Hobson used very frequently were population, and nation/nationality (Hobson). Population growth also occurred during the industrialization and now industrialized nations were trying to have the biggest, strongest country with the most land, resources and people; this type of mind set also led to nationalism.

Great Britain is the best example of an industrial nation gone imperialistic. Because of certain environmental factors and political situations, Great Britain was the first country to experience industrialization. Industrialization set the stage for imperialism in Great Britain. More demand for products, higher population, rapid economic growth, a new sense of nationalism led to Great Britain taking over huge amounts of land throughout the globe. By 1886, Great Britain, ruled over all of what is now Canada, India, Australia, South Africa, parts of the east African coast, and many islands in the Caribbean.

Imperial Federation, map of the world showing the extent of the British Empire in 1886

Author: Colomb, J. C. R.

As other nations industrialized, they had the same effects as Great Britain — growth of their population, economic market, nationalism and demand. Thus, imperialism also came along with the industrialization of countries. The nations that did not industrialize in the 19th century then did not take part in imperializing other nations, but instead were the “burden” to those industrialized nations.

                                                                        Works Cited
“American Imperialism.” American Imperialism | Stanford History Education Group. Accessed April 27, 2017.

Colomb, J. C. R. . “Imperial Federation, map of the world showing the extent of the British Empire in 1886 | The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.” Norman B. Leventhal Center. Accessed April 27, 2017.

Diamond, Jared M. Guns, germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Hobson, John A. ” The Economic Bases of Imperialism.” Economic Bases of Imperialism by John Hobson – HistoryWiz Primary Source – Imperialism in Africa and Asia. Accessed April 27, 2017.

“Imperialism Stats.” Imperialism stats. Accessed April 26, 2017.

The Japan Times. “Commentary: Identifying the deadly sins of U.S. imperialism .” Twitter. April 16, 2017. Accessed April 27, 2017.



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by | May 11, 2017 · 10:12 am

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