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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 26: Africa, West Asia, and Western Imperialism, 1800-1914

Between 1800 and 1914, Western industrialized countries, including the United States, nearly conquered the world. During this period, they brought most of Africa and much of Asia under direct rule. Even in areas they did not control politically, they exerted significant power. Never before had one civilization assumed so much influence in world history. This development transformed the lives of millions of Africans and Asians. The peoples of these two continents were not passive victims of Western intrusion; they continually resisted this encroachment on their political, social, and economic traditions. This resistance, as much as Western imperialism, reshaped these societies and set the stage for their resurgence in the twentieth century. The following Internet activities will explore these encounters between Westerners and Asians and Africans in the nineteenth century. They will address the three learning objectives laid out at the beginning of Chapter 26: How and why did the West's many-sided, epoch-making expansion occur in the nineteenth century? How did the Ottoman Empire and its Egyptian province try to revitalize themselves, and what were the most important results? In what ways did African economies and societies change as the Atlantic slave trade declined, and what were the consequences of European conquest and empire building in Africa.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • Industrialism and imperialism went hand in hand. Western powers had shown a propensity to expand their influence around the world since the sixteenth century. Still, there were limits to this expansion. For example, go to a European map of Africa, 1794. What does this map reveal about how extensively Europeans were familiar with the various civilizations and societies of Africa? With what parts of Africa were they familiar? With what parts were they not? What factors limited Europeans' ability to penetrate and explore the rest of the continent? The maps at African Pre-colonial Political Entities and Africa: topography provide some clues. Compare and contrast European map of Africa, 1794 with Political Map of Africa, 1896. What had occurred during the intervening century? How had Westerners managed to conquer most of Africa by the end of the nineteenth century, a continent that was still relatively unknown to them at the beginning of that century? What role did the advent of industrialism in the West play in this imperial drive?
Activity Two: Activity Three: Activity Four:
  • Because of technology and willpower, Western nation states created huge overseas empires in the late nineteenth century. To view these new entities, go to Imperialism and the Balance of Power. You can also click on the map of Africa to view more detailed images of imperial holdings in these regions. Study the map at the beginning of this site. Note that all the imperial powers, except Japan, were European or of European ancestry. Imagine these empires connected by trains, shipping lanes, telegraphs, and trade. What kinds of exchanges took place between the rulers and the ruled, besides exchanges of goods and commodities? Answers to this question will be explored in the following activities.
Activity Five:
  • Most native peoples of Africa resisted Western imperialism, and many kingdoms resorted to warfare to defend their homelands. Most often, the results were ineffective. Read about one of these examples in Africa at Library of Congress: Sudan: THE TURKIYAH, 1821-85, 1884-98. Continue to the next page at Sudan: THE MAHDIYAH, 1884-98. To find out what became of the Mahdi's uprising, go to The Battle of Omdurman-Sudan 1898. For another example of resistance, see Library of Congress: Ghana: The Asante Wars. For a more successful example of resistance, see Library of Congress: Ethiopia: The Reign of Menelik II, 1889-1913.
  • Describe the role of the Mahdi, the Asante rulers, and Menelik II in organizing resistance to European imperialism. What were their 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 use any Western technology? Did they make any alliances with Western powers?) Describe how Europeans responded to this resistance. What technological advantages did they exploit? Did they make any alliances with African powers?
  • After reflecting on these questions, write a brief essay (4-5 paragraphs) that explains the reasons for Ethiopia's success at resisting European imperialism and the reasons for the Sudanese and Asante failure. Be sure to discuss the role of technology in this outcome.
Activity Six
  • By the beginning of the nineteenth century the Ottoman Empire was a shadow of its former glorious self.  Decades of unimaginative rule had weakened it, leaving it vulnerable to the Western imperial powers.  After suffering humiliating defeats at the hands of these powers, the Ottomans tried to modernize their empire. Such efforts were defeated, however, by conservative reaction within the empire and further encroachments by the European powers.  To learn more about the Ottomans' abortive attempts at modernizing the empire read 19th century modernization and Modernization of Turkey.  What exactly did Ottoman reformers try to accomplish? What influence did Britain, France, and Russia exert on these efforts?
  • Early in the twentieth century a vigorous group of reformers, the so-called Young Turks, seized power from the reactionary regime and tried yet again to modernize the empire.  Read The Young Turks: Proclamation for the Ottoman Empire, 1908. What sort of state did these reformers envision? What strikes you as "modern" or "Western" about the Young Turks' proclamation?