The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw European Great Powers, including Great Britain, France and Germany, engaged in an active colonial policy, or what historians may term New Imperialism. This era was marked by the formalisation of colonies and empire through treaties, as well as an extension from economic influence to political rule of the European powers over their colonies. In my opinion, this late nineteenth century phenomenon can indeed best be understood in terms of concerns over national weakness rather than as an assertion of national strength. In this I mean that New Imperialism was caused by, as well as developed throughout the late nineteenth century as a result of, the vulnerabilities and shortcomings of these powers, more than it was a display and exercise of national power and superiority of any kind, be it economic and political, over others.
Examples of these vulnerabilities and shortcomings include domestic discord between the classes in Germany and Britain that threatened the national cohesion, and the disgrace that France faced as an European power after the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany during the 1971 Franco-Prussian War. These national weaknesses in fact engendered an insecurity that further manifested itself in the form of colonisation. In the course of my essay I will limit my discussion to the time frame of 1877 (when King Leopold of Belgium first staked a claim on Zaire, or Congo) to the end of the nineteenth century, as given in the above hypothesis.
[...] Furthermore, it does matter that the racial and cultural superiority was mistakenly perceived, because this implies that it was not real national strength that was asserted. Rather, the ‘national superiority' that the European colonial power asserted over its colonies was a delusional misperception altogether, for the colonisation took place not due to cultural or racial meliority but perhaps more plausibly due to technological and military superiority. This line of thought was, and still is, a distortion of Darwinism. This can be seen in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) in which the myth of European superiority was shattered when the Japanese defeated the Russians. [...]
[...] Evidence of such popular sentiment can be witnessed in the influences of the time such as Rudyard Kipling's idea of White Man's Burden”. However, it seems to me that the above arguments are misleading due to their one-sidedness. Firstly, they fail to specify where late nineteenth century capital was invested into. Later studies, especially those of D.K. Fieldhouse1, have shown that the bulk of overseas investments still flowed into earlier settlement colonies such as the USA and Latin America, rather than to the new ones like Africa. [...]
[...] Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1980. [...]
[...] New Imperialism Essay ‘Late nineteenth century imperialism can best be understood in terms of concerns over national weakness rather than as an assertion of national strength'. Discuss. The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw European Great Powers, including Great Britain, France and Germany, engaged in an active colonial policy, or what historians may term New Imperialism. This era was marked by the formalisation of colonies and empire through treaties, as well as an extension from economic influence to political rule of the European powers over their colonies. [...]
[...] This insecurity is undeniably more a result of national weakness rather than of national strength, as it is simply not logical to fear if one were adequately strong. The nature of empire, too, had transformed. Primarily because of the Great Depression during the 1880s and 1890s, protectionism was on the ascent amongst the European nations. An obvious example is the 1892 French Meline Tariff. This protectionism was in fact so strong that it in fact manifested itself in empire too. [...]
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