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The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, Second Edition
Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, David Northrup
History WIRED

The New Imperialism, 1869-1914


Colonial Empires, 1914

The Overland Telegraph Link between Europe and India, 1870
Scroll down to see this map.

African Political Entities Before the Scramble

Colonial Africa, late 1800's

Africa, Imperial Boundaries, 1914

Maps from the Boer War

Germany's African Empire before World War I

East Asia, 1903

China at the beginning of the twentieth century

The Caribbean
This is a contemporary map of the region.

CNN: Interactive Map of the Panama Canal


The Gatling Gun

Heart of Darkness Web Page: Images
This site presents four images of the Belgian Congo around the turn of the century.

Weaponry in the Boer War
Scroll down to view many images of the weapons used in this turn-of-the-century conflict. Included are images of machine guns and long-range artillery.

BoondocksNet.com: Historical Graphics Gallery
This outstanding site provides illustrations of American imperialism at the turn of the century.  It also includes many anti-imperialist illustrations.

An Online History of the United States: The Age of Imperialism
This comprehensive site contains numerous images of U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean and the Pacific at the turn of the century.

1898-1998: Centennial of the Spanish-American War
This online exhibit contains numerous photographs and illustrations, from the American perspective, of this period of American expansion.

A War in Perspective: Public Appeals, Memory, and the Spanish-American Conflict
This is another online exhibit that focuses on the propaganda surrounding this conflict.

Stereoscope Image of the Sinking of the Maine
This is an example of the kinds of images that helped to spark the Spanish-American War.

Photos of the Maine
This site presents more photos of the vessel destroyed in Havana Harbor.

Statistics on the Extent of Colonialism, 1939

The Suez Isthmus
There are numerous images of the construction and early operations of the Suez Canal here.

CNN: Panama Canal, Historical Images

Java Animation Explaining the Operation of the Canal
This multimedia site explores how the system of locks operates in the Panama Canal.

Photos of the Canal
This site offers recent photographs of the operation of the Panama Canal.

A Brief Natural History of Latex Rubber Allergy
Observe several images of the collection of natural rubber at this site.  Rubber was produced in the Congo, Southeast Asia, and Brazil during the era of New Imperialism.

Activity One:

The industrial powers literally conquered most of the nonindustrialized world during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (see Statistics on the Extent of Colonialism, 1939).  This kind of naked aggression is roundly condemned by today's international community.  What, then, led these societies to support such a conquest? What were the justifications for this aggression?

It is probably best to let the actors speak for themselves.  Carefully read the following essays:  Capt. F. D. Lugard: The Rise of Our East African Empire, 1893; Joseph Chamberlain Preaches the Doctrine of Commercial Imperialism, 1893; Modern History Sourcebook: Jules Ferry (1832-1893): On French Colonial Expansion; Modern History Sourcebook: Program of the Pan-German League, 1890-1898; Friedrich Fabri Urges Imperialism on Germany "If She Would Live," 1879; President McKinley Explains His Attitude toward the Philippines, 1900; and Russia's Landward Expansion.  The first two accounts were given by British supporters of imperial expansion, the third by a French advocate, the fourth and fifth by German imperialists, the sixth by an American president, and the last by a Russian officer.

While reading these excerpts, take notes and keep track of the various justifications that they offer for the "New Imperialism."  When you have finished, group these reasons into broad categories such as economic, cultural, and political.  Which reason or reasons do you believe were the most influential in motivating these societies to support this expensive undertaking?  In other words, which justifications do the writers mention most often?  

Activity Two:

Most native peoples of Africa and Asia were not passive victims of imperialism.  A review of the chart Wars of 1899 reveals that during that year alone, all of the military conflicts involved imperialist actions.  Most of the wars were waged between industrial powers and indigenous peoples who were resisting foreign encroachment.    Most often, the latter's efforts proved ineffective.  Exploring a few of the many conflicts that occurred in Central Asia, Africa, and Southeast Asia during this time can help you understand how the industrialized nations were able to impose their will on other societies.  Begin by reading the following essays: In the Steppe of Central Asia, The Colonial Wars of Imperial Germany, and Lightning from the Clouds: The U.S. Army and the Moro Wars.   Describe the native peoples' resistance to the Russian, German, and American aggressors.  What were these peoples' goals and strategies?  What economic, political, and religious traditions did they use to organize their resistance?  What innovations, if any, did they use in their strategies?  (For example, did they employ any Western technology?  Did they form any alliances with Western powers?  Did they ally themselves with other groups?)

Next, describe how the Russians, Germans, and Americans responded to this resistance.  What technological advantages did they utilize?  Did they exploit divisions within indigenous groups?  After responding to these questions, analyze this statement from page 729 of Bulliet, et al., The Earth and Its Peoples (Second Edition): "Technological advances explain both the motives and the outcome of the New Imperialism."  Was technology the decisive factor in the outcomes of these conflicts?  Did technological advances lead to the industrial powers' willingness to fight and conquer these people?

Activity Three:

The governments of industrial nations would not have been willing to expend the effort and funds necessary to colonize Asia and Africa if their citizens had not supported these moves.  Indeed, many governments used imperialist actions abroad as a means of unifying their constituents at home (see web Activity Four for Chapter 28, The New Power Balance, 1850-1900).  In the United States, more than in other countries, public opinion was extremely divided on the issue of imperialism since the nation had originally been a colony itself.  U.S. supporters of the Spanish-American War and the consequent colonization of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam used a variety of measures to garner support for their cause.  One resource available to them was three-dimensional stereoscopic photographs.  To learn more about this new technology of the day, see Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire: Introduction.  Why was this medium so effective for reaching the general public?  Can you think of any equivalent device used today?  To view some of these images, go to Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire,  and analyze the images in the first four categories under "Content."  Do not focus on the text; instead, concentrate on the images.  You do not have to view every image, but be sure to examine several under each category.

How did these stereoscopic images promote imperialist goals?  What messages did the American public receive when viewing them?  Remember to place yourself in the proper time and place while viewing the images.  These people did not necessarily share the same values you have today.  How did these images reflect the Victorian values of the time, especially views on race?  (To review Victorian values, see the section entitled The Victorian Age and Women's "Separate Sphere" on pages 711-713 of Chapter 28.) Which of the motives for the New Imperialism that you explored in Activity One--economic, cultural, or political--do these images reflect?  Do you think that the mass production of photographic images aided or abetted the imperialists' cause?  Explain your answer.

Activity Four:

As the debate over imperialism that was occurring in the United States suggests, not all citizens of the industrialized nations supported imperialist causes.  The first real international backlash against the excesses of colonial policies came at the turn of the century in response to the situation in the Belgian Congo.  To learn more about this movement, go to Heart of Darkness.  On the left-hand side of your screen, click on "Historical Background," and then click on the hyperlinks that appear below this topic and read the corresponding text in the right-hand frame.

After obtaining this overview of the situation, read the primary sources at Personal Observations of Congo Misgovernment and Conditions of the Congo State and then answer the following questions: What were the primary goals of the Congo Reform Association?  Describe the activities in the Belgian Congo that sparked its outrage?  How would you characterize the people who were involved in this group?  Did it include supporters of imperialism, critics of it, or both?  To what extent would you describe the Congo Reform Association as an anti-imperialist organization?  In other words, did it propose liberating the Belgian Congo from foreign rule?  Did it question the values and assumptions of the Victorian Age or uphold them?

Even if the Congo Reform Association never directly challenged the right of Europeans to rule the Congo, in many ways its efforts were the first blows to imperialism made in the twentieth century.  As many Westerners began to notice the contradictions between their notions of their cultural superiority and their actions, the justifications for imperialism, especially for white supremacy, began to fall apart during the first half of the twentieth century.