Forces That Drove European Imperialism

Topics: Colonialism, Imperialism, Scramble for Africa Pages: 10 (3495 words) Published: April 24, 2013
Course: History 1401E
Assignment: Final Essay
Student: Yousif Arya
Student number: 250697891
TA: Paul Z.
Professor: Brock Millman
Word count(excluding footnotes, title page, works cited): 2994 Question : What forces drove Europe's imperial expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? You may, if you wish, focus on one of the major European powers.

At the turn of the 20th century, the forces of “new imperialism” motivated European empires to seek territorial acquisition abroad in the hopes of building their empire by obtaining political, economic, and social advantages over their fellow adversaries. This essay will show that the increasing imperial interests of the Great Powers inevitably united the colonized populations with the rest of the world, thus creating for the first time in modern history a global civilization. Economic interests were a key driving force as to why many of the Great Powers sought to colonize. The need for new markets to absorb the surplus goods produced in Europe and the increased need for raw materials motivated nations to colonize. Furthermore, the increasing political rivalries among the Great Powers in conjunction with the proliferation of nationalism drove many empires to seek colonial expansion as a form of prestige and supremacy. Lastly, the growing popularity of Social Darwinist doctrines in combination with European society’s approval of imperialism further promoted colonization. By seeking to expand their empires, the Great Powers were hoping to successfully follow the doctrines of neo-mercantilism by establishing a commanding and multi-faceted economy with overseas colonies, whose production would assist the home country in meeting its needs. The industrialization of Germany, the United States, Japan and other countries after about 1870, heavily intensified the foreign trade market. The revival of mercantilism in the late 19th century stressed the need for each of the Great Powers to sustain an economic advantage over their rivals by imposing trade barriers and by obtaining raw materials and goods from a wide range of climates and areas. By exporting more goods and services in comparison to importing, each nation attempted to obtain a favourable balance of trade which would benefit their own domestic economy. The Industrial Revolution’s revolutionary impact on many European nations, specifically Britain, allowed their economies to rapidly increase their production. However, the new innovative methods resulted in over production and the accumulation of surplus capital. With the additional capital at their exposure, many investors sought to expand into new territories in Africa and Asia in order to take advantage of the abundance of resources and cheap labour in these countries. As a result of the over production of goods by the industrialized European economies, prices dropped due to the decreased demand for the excess of products. Consequently, the high levels of profit that investors were accustomed to making dropped. Many Great Powers also needed the raw materials that could only be found outside of Europe, such as rubber, tin and oil. In Lenin’s The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin wrote that through the concept of finance capitalism, countries hoped to continue to generate greater profits outside of their domestic economies, by expanding into under developing economies where they would export and invest capital to make profit. Evidently, the acts of colonial expansion represented the desperate attempts of the Great Powers to recover from the financial woes that the abuses of economic exploitation had caused in their domestic countries. Furthermore, many European nations were inspired to expand their empire so that their investors could take advantage of the favourable circumstances in regressive countries that produced high returns on investment. Britain’s foreign investment increased from nearly $6 billion in 1875 to almost $10 billion in 1900 and...
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