A History of World Societies,
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.
- 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
- 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
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?
- To explore the impact of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century
on Western imperialism, review Chapter 25, "European Life in the Age
of Nationalism," Activity Two. Much of the "new imperialism"
was directly related to the technological breakthroughs occurring in Europe
and the United States. Review the charts at Western
and Central European Chronology: The Industrial Revolution 1700-1900
Chronology: The Era of Fossil Fuel Energy Sources 1700 to the Present.
Which new technologies furthered Western imperialism? For clues, read the
essays and study the images at Ships:
The Backbone of the Empire, Railways:
Workhorses of the Empire, Pakistan
Railway: History, Bureaucracy
on the Wires, and The
Gatling Gun. Make a chart that lists the important advances in transportation,
communication, weaponry, and credit that allowed Western powers to create
and sustain new empires in the late nineteenth century. Next to each category,
explain the role these developments played in the "new imperialism"
of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
- What led Westerners to exploit these advancements in technology? What
were the justifications for the aggression Westerners showed toward other
civilizations in the late nineteenth century? It is probably best to let
the actors speak for themselves. Read the essays at Modern History Sourcebook:
F. D. Lugard: The Rise of Our East African Empire, 1893, Modern
History Sourcebook: Jules Ferry (1832-1893): On French Colonial Expansion,
History Sourcebook: Program of the Pan-German League, 1890-1898, and
on Sea Power (1890). The first account was given by a British military
officer, the second by a French politician, the third by a German imperialist
organization, and the last by an American naval officer. While reading these
excerpts, take notes and keep track of the various justifications they offer
for the "new imperialism." When you finish, lump these reasons
into broad categories, such as economic, moral, and so on. Which reason
or reasons do you believe were the most influential? In other words, which
justifications do these excerpts mention the most?
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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
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?