Chapter 22


In This Chapter

• Imperialist motives

• Imperialism in Africa

• Nationalism in India

• The decline of the Qing dynasty

• The rise of Japan

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a new stage of competition developed between the European nations. No longer was European explorationand colonization used to create trading posts but vast territorial holdings. This new imperialism caused intense political rivalries between the nations of Europe.

Who Wants an Empire?

The motives for this imperialism were varied. Most of the nations needed raw materials like rubber, oil, tin, and iron to fuel industrialization, and wanted new markets for their products and direct control over them.

Nationalism created rivalries that at times forced the nations to compete whether they wanted to or not. Some justified the new imperialism with social Darwinism and the belief that only strong nations survived. Others

Notable Quotable

"It was the mission of the Anglo-Saxon race to penetrate into every part of the world, and to help in the great work of civilization.”

—Thomas Hodgkin, The Aborigines’ Friend, July 1896

were racist in their beliefs and motives, thinking that white men had a right to dominate. Missionaries supportedimperialism with the view that it helped to spread Christianity to the “pagans.” Finally, many had a humanitarian perspective and saw imperialism as an extension of the “white man’s burden” to bring the benefits of democracy and capitalism to other countries. Regardless of the reasons, the ideas of imperialism dominated European interactions with the world during the nineteenth century.

Imperialism in Southeast Asia

By 1900, a majority of Southeast Asia was dominated by imperialist policies of Britain, France, and even the United States. Great Britain started its control of the region in 1819 with the founding of the port of Singapore on the tip of the Malay Peninsula. Later, the British took command of the kingdom of Burma to protect its possessions in India and the route to South Asia.

France first started its imperial policies by promoting Christian missionaries in Vietnam. Eventually, France forced the state of Vietnam to accept French protection. From there, France occupied the city of Saigon and then the rest of the country. In 1884, French armies seized the other major city of Vietnam, Hanoi, and made Vietnam an official French protectorate. With Vietnam as a base, the French extended control over the states and regions of Cambodia, Annam, Tonkin, and Laos. These territories were united in 1900 into the Union of French Indochina.


A protectorate is a state or nation that is dominated or controlledby a much stronger state or nation.

The only state that remained free of Britain and France on the mainland of Southeast Asia was the state of Thailand. King Mongkut and his son King Chulalongkorn promoted Western learning and friendly relations with the European powers, occasionallyplaying one off the other to remain independent. As a result in 1896, Britain and France agreed not to try to control Thailand and leave it as an independent bufferstate.

The United States also got into the imperialist act in the archipelagos of Southeast Asia starting in 1898 with the Spanish-American War. Commodore George Dewey defeated Spanish naval forces at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines, and the Philippine Islands became an American territory to be used as a jumping off point for trade with China. The Filipino population did not appreciate the imperialist policiesof the United States. Emilio Aguinaldo led a group of Filipino freedom fighters against the American occupying forces but was defeated.

The imperial regimes in Southeast Asia were ruled in two different ways: indirect and direct. Indirect rule depended on local elites to maintain law and order and collecttaxes for the imperial country. This method made it easier to access resources and lowered the cost of governance. In addition, it made less of an impact on the local culture, making it somewhat more tolerable to the native inhabitants. The Dutch East Indies was an excellent example of this type of rule.

Imperial direct rule was used when local rulers resisted. In these cases, an imperial government was created to rule directly over the local inhabitants. The problem with this was that it was difficult to administer from afar and created resentment among the inhabitants.

Scramble for Africa

Imperialism also dominated the continent of Africa from 1880 to the early twentieth century. This period when the Europeans fought for territory in Africa has been called the Scramble for Africa.

West Africa

With the abolishment of slavery, the economy in West Africa was in decline. Eventually the export of timber, peanuts, oil, and hides replaced slavery as an economicresource. Britain saw the advantage of controlling these exports and in 1874 annexed the west coastal states called the Gold Coast. In addition, they established a protectorate over Nigeria. Not wanting to be left out, France also established itself in the region in 1900 with French West Africa. Germany established territories in Togo, Cameroon, and German Southwest Africa.

North Africa

The British were also the first to gain territories in North Africa. Egypt, which had been part of the Ottoman Empire, was established as an independent state in 1805 by Muhammad Ali. This helped to bring Egypt into the modern world and to the attention of European powers. In 1869, the Egyptian government completed the massiveproject of digging the Suez Canal. The British saw the canal as a lifeline to their trading interests in India. So in 1875, the British bought the Egyptian share of the canal. With the canal under their control, the British felt justified in putting down an Egyptian revolt against foreign influence in 1881. In 1898, the British seized the Sudan located south of Egypt and, by 1915, Egypt was considered a British protectorateand well under British control.

France, again not wanting to be left out of the race for territory, also made imperialistmaneuvers in North Africa. In 1879, they took control of the region of Algeria. In 1881, the French made Tunisia a protectorate and in 1912 Morocco became a French protectorate. The Italians got into the act, too, and in 1911 took over the Turkish territoryof Tripoli, which became the Italian colony of Libya.

Central Africa

Central Africa also came under the influence of imperialist Europe. From 1841 to 1871, David Livingstone explored the region of central Africa. He was followed by Richard Burton, who sought the source of the Nile River. Later in the 1870s, Henry Morton Stanley explored the region by sailing the Congo River to the Atlantic Ocean. After his trip, he tried to convince some to settle the Congo River. Only Belgium responded and, in 1876, King Leopold II hired Stanley to help establish Belgian settlements south of the Congo River. France followed Stanley and the Belgians and established settlementsnorth of the Congo River.

What in the World

David Livingstone loved the continent of Africa so much that he gave instructions that his heart was to remain in Africa when he died. Today, his body is buried in Westminster Abby while his heart is buried in Blantyre, Malawi, a city named after his birthplace in Scotland.

East Africa

In East Africa, the competition for imperial control heated up between Great Britain and Germany. Germany had possessions in West Africa and for political purposes the German Chancellor Bismarck was interested in colonizing East Africa. The British saw East Africa as a bridge between their territories in North and South Africa.

Eventually the conflict was settled in 1884 at the Berlin Conference. At the conference,official recognition was given to both British and German territorial claims while Portugal received Mozambique. In typical imperialist fashion, no Africans were present at the conference to give their view of the division of their territory!

South Africa and the Boers

Developments in South Africa were also influenced by the imperial policies of European nations. The Dutch first settled the region permanently and by 1865 there were over 200,000 Dutch settlers in South Africa. After the Napoleonic wars, the British had received control of the region and encouraged British settlers to come to the Cape Colony.

In response, the Dutch settlers or Boers fled from the Cape into the region north of the colony—a time period referred to as the Great Trek. The Boers believed that God ordained white superiority over the indigenouspopulation. They fought the native tribes in the regions that they settled and confined them to reservations. The Zulus, a tribe with a strong military tradition, fought back but were defeated by the combinedefforts of the Boers and British.

What in the World

The Zulus divided their regimentsof soldiers by age group. Each regiment lived in a different village during times of peace. Also, young men were not the only warriors the Zulus retained. They had regiments in the Zulu War of men in their sixties.

British Rule and Cecil Rhodes

When Cecil Rhodes became prime minister of the Cape Colony, things appeared to be well in hand. With Rhodes’ guidance, resources were used to found diamond and gold companies that were very economically viable. Rhodes even expanded British settlement in South Africa and got to name a territory after himself (Rhodesia). But eventually Rhodes’ rule went south (forgive the pun), and the British government discovered secret plans he had been making to overthrow the Boer government of the South African Republic. These plans angered the Boers and started the Boer War, which lasted from 1899 to 1902.

The British won the war and combined the British and Boer territories in South Africa to create the independent Union of South Africa in 1910. To aid its establishment,the British used a policy of appeasement and per Boer insistence allowed only whites to vote in the nation. This set up a system of apartheid, which lasted until the end of the twentieth century.


Apartheid refers to a legal and institutional separation of blacks and whites that existed in South Africa during most of the twentiethcentury.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Africa was dominated by the imperial rule of the various European nations. Only Liberia and Ethiopia remained free and independent states. Although it appeared that foreign domination was bad, imperialismin Africa and elsewhere was not without paradoxes. Imperialism provided what might be consideredthe blessings of Western civilization. This included freedom and democracy, capitalism and industry, roads and railroads, and the development of the export market.

Imperialism in India

Soon the paradox of imperialism created different reactions in the Indian subcontinent,Asia, and Africa. Resistance movements started with the ruling classes, gradually turned to peasant revolts, and finally became the responsibility of Westernized intellectuals and nationalists. This last group had a better comprehensionof Western values and institutions, so they understood the deep contradiction of imperialism and Western ideas of democracy. But resistance in the form of revolutionand independence was not the only reaction to imperialism. Other countries had more unique ways of dealing with the European incursions.

British power in India increased with the decline of the Mogul rulers. To make rule more convenient, the British government gave power to the British East India Company. This commercial company ruled India during the eighteenth and nineteenthcenturies using sepoys, or Indian soldiers, to protect its interests in the region.

This system worked well until the mid-nineteenth century. In 1857, the Indians’ distrust of the British erupted into the Great Rebellion. The immediate cause of the Sepoy Mutiny, as the British called it, was a rumor that the British were giving bullets greased with cow and pig fat to the sepoy soldiers. Of course, cow was sacred to Hindus and pig was taboo to Muslims making this rumor, if true, a big problem. As a result, the sepoys resisted British orders to use the possibly tainted bullets in their rifles. This resistance turned into a revolt in which 50 Europeans were killed, but the revolt was disorganized. The Muslim and Hindu sepoys quarreled over leadership and the British army crushed the revolt by 1858. From that point, the British governmenttook over direct control of India from the British East India Company; in 1876, Queen Victoria was given the title Empress of India.

British direct rule in India was through a viceroy or governor. This proved to be of some benefit to the Indian subcontinent; order and stability were established with an efficient government that created a school system and an infrastructure including railroads, telegraphs, and a postal service. But British rule was not without its costs. The agriculture of the subcontinent became focused on cotton to supply the mills of Great Britain. Local Indian industries were destroyed and at times food supplies ran short as Indians switched their field production to cotton. As a result, in the nineteenthcentury over 30 million Indians died of starvation.

Shortly after the beginning of direct British rule, Indian nationalism emerged. In 1885, the Indian National Congress formed with the expressed desire to share in the governance of India. But the organization had problems; religious differences divided the group. During the early twentieth century, Mohandas Gandhi came forward to help the Indian nationalist movement. Gandhi came from the native intellectual crowd. He studied in London and became a lawyer in 1915, practicing in South Africa. Gandhi advocated the use of nonviolent resistance to highlight British exploitation and obtain the Indian nationalist goals, which included independence and improving the lot of the poor.

Imperialism and Its Impact on China

Despite being at the height of its power in 1800, the Qing dynasty in China also succumbedto the imperial ambitions of the European nations, which helped to hasten its decline. Coupled with the internal problems of corruption, peasant unrest, incompetence,rapid population growth, and food shortages, China experienced a difficult period during the nineteenth century.

The First War on Drugs

The first event that set off the Qing decline was the Opium War. Europeans had maintained a trading post at the Chinese city of Canton for close to 200 years, but the British had grown dissatisfied with the arrangement. Chinese trade restrictions had created a British trade imbalance. To improve this balance of trade, the British used opium rather than silver to trade with the Chinese. Opium was a highly addictivedrug that came from the British-controlled region of India.

In an effort to protect their people, the Chinese made opium illegal, but the British refused to stop its trade. Finally the Chinese blockaded the city of Canton. The British responded with force, triggering a war that lasted from 1839 to 1842. Of course, the British, using superior gun and cannon tactics, won.


Extraterritoriality is the policy of a host nation to create a sectionof the country for foreigners which is not subject to the host nation’s laws.

The Chinese were forced to open five coastal Chinese ports to the British, where Europeans were not subject to Chinese law—a tradition known as extraterritoriality. The Chinese also agreed to limit the taxation of imports and pay war reparations to the British. Finally the Qing dynasty was forced to give the port city and island of Hong Kong to the British. The only question that remained open was the legality of the opium trade.

The Taiping Rebellion

The Taiping Rebellion was the peasant response to the humiliation of the terms of the Opium War, a revolt that lasted from 1850 to 1864. The leader of the revolt was a Christian convert named Hong Xiuquan, who believed fervently that God had given him the mission to put an end to the Qing dynasty. Xiuquan also had other goals for this peasant revolt, including providing land to the peasant population, treating women as equals, and sharing possessions equally.

By March 1853, the peasant rebellion was in full swing and had captured the town of Nanjing. After the death toll in the town reached 25,000, the European nations decided to come to the aid of the Qing dynasty. With their intermittent assistance, the Chinese crushed the rebellion but not without a cost. Over 20 million Chinese died during the conflict.

Notable Quotable

"The existence of the presentday China hangs upon the patience of foreign governments,who have too great a stake in the country to sink the ship so long as there is a hope of her floating.”

—A.B. Freeman-Mitford, The Attaché at Peking, 1900

During the time of the Taiping Rebellion, the Second Opium War erupted in 1856, again over the issue of the opium trade in China. This time Great Britain and France joined forces and seized the Qing dynasty capital at Beijing. At the end of the conflict, the Chinese government agreed to legalize opium and open another port to foreign trade.

A Need for Reform

By the 1870s, with the outlook extremely bad for the Qing dynasty, Chinese reformers advocated self-strengthening, meaning that China should adopt Western technology but hang on to Confucian values. This ideology became the basis for Chinese government and culture until the beginning of the twentieth century. The reform movement proved to be of some benefit. New railroads and factories were built and the civil service examination was updated to help the governmental bureaucracy.

But the reforms were not enough to prevent imperial European nations from having their way with China. Russia took Chinese territories north of the Amur River in Siberia. The territory of Tibet broke free of Chinese rule and became a free state. And finally European nations, including Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Japan negotiated with regional Chinese warlords rather than the Qing dynasty to create spheres of influence within the country.

So at the end of the nineteenth century, the Qing dynasty suffered growing internal and external obstacles to rule and stability. In 1894, China went to war with Japan over involvement in the Korean Peninsula; remember Korea was China’s Little Brother. At the end of the conflict, China was defeated. In return for peace with Japan, China had to give up control of the island of Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula. Later, the European powers, for political reasons, forced Japan to return the territories.

In 1897, the Chinese fought with Germany, resulting in a German win and Germany acquiring the Shandong Peninsula. In 1898, more problems arose. The Qing emperor Guang Xu declared 100 days of reform in China, issuing edicts creating major political,administrative, and educational reforms. Not everyone was happy. The emperor’s aunt, Empress Dowager Ci Xi, opposed the reforms and imprisoned Guang Xu.

The Boxer Rebellion

Just when it appeared that China could not suffer any more problems, the United States came on the scene in 1899. The U.S. Secretary of State John Hay issued the Open Door Policy with China. This policy reduced the limits on foreign imports imposed on each sphere of influence. It also lessened the fears of foreign domination of Chinese markets. Of course, it benefited most every nation but China.

The people of China started to attribute all of the internal and external problems of the Qing dynasty to the foreign powers. Of course, they were not far from the mark. As a result, a secret society called the Society of Harmonious Fists was created; its members were called “Boxers,” and their slogan was “Destroy the Foreigner!”

The Boxers disliked Christian missionaries and Chinese Christian converts, and, in 1900, they rounded up Christians and killed them. The Qing dynasty could not get a handle on the situation, so the cavalry was called. An allied army of 20,000 soldiers from Britain, Germany, Russia, Japan, and the United States descended on China and seized the capital of Beijing in August 1900. Once the allies restored order, they demanded more concessions from the Qing dynasty. So the Chinese government was forced to pay indemnity to the nations that stopped the Boxer Rebellion.

A New Republic

The Qing dynasty seemed to be taking a long time to fall, but in 1905 it was becoming inevitable. Legislative assemblies started to meet at the local levels. They reformed the civil service examination and in 1910 called for an election of a national assembly to give advice to the emperor. Regardless of the democratic reforms, living conditions worsened and taxes increased.

Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese leader who emerged during the late nineteenth century to help rid China of the Qing dynasty. He formed the Revive China Society, which had revolutionary goals including military takeover, preparation of democratic rule, and the creation of a constitutional democracy. In 1905, to gain support, Sun Yat-sen united the Revive China Society with other more radical groups and formed the Revolutionary Alliance. The stage was set for revolution in China.

In 1908, Empress Dowager Ci Xi died and left the throne in the infant hands of Henry Pu Yi. Sun Yat-sen saw this as the moment for the Revolutionary Alliance to strike. In October 1911, an uprising was started in central China and the Qing dynasty collapsed. Unfortunately, Sun did not have the strength to form a successor government so he turned to General Yuan Shigai and his army for help. Yuan became the first president of the new Chinese Republic.

Yuan was corrupted by the power that he wielded in China with this army, and tried to create a new imperial dynasty out of the Chinese Republic. He destroyed the democratic institutions that had been put in place and dissolved parliament, which of course put him in conflict with Sun’s Nationalist Party. The Nationalist Party tried to overthrow Yuan and his new imperial dynasty, but Sun was forced to flee to Japan. But the dynasty that Yuan established was unstable and when he died in 1916, the country slipped into civil war with local warlords fighting for control of the country.

Changes in Chinese Culture

During all this time of imperialism and internal and external crisis, Chinese society and culture changed considerably. The Chinese adopted many advances in Western communication and transportation, integrating China into the world economy. New crops were grown, increasing food production. Local industries declined as industrial centers emerged in Chinese cities, financed by foreign investment. This created a new middle and working class in China. Traditional farming still existed, but more of the Chinese people lived in the cities, where radical reformers wanted to completely Westernize the nation and create a New China. Finally, literature and art reflected Western movements rather than traditional Chinese culture.

The end result of imperialism in China was not good. It ended a dynasty and created instability in South Asia, which endured until after World War II.

Japan’s Different Take on Imperialism

Japan had a completely different reaction to the imperial movement of the nineteenth century. When the West started to notice Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate had ruled Japan for close to 250 years, with a policy of isolation from the outside world. Of course, the West saw this as a challenge. It wanted Japan to open up to Western economicinterests.

Commodore Perry Comes A-Knocking

In the summer of 1853, U.S. Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay. He brought a letter from President Fillmore demanding better treatment of shipwrecked sailors and the opening of relations between the United States and Japan. The commodore then sailed away, promising to return in a few months for an answer.

The Japanese debated the issue and, when Perry returned, finally agreed to the Treaty of Kanagawa, which opened up two Japanese ports to Western traders. It also gave better treatment to shipwrecked sailors and established a U.S. Consulate in Japan. Later U.S. Consul Townsend Harris signed a better treaty with the Japanese, providing the United States with more open ports and an exchange of foreign ministers. Other treaties with other European nations soon followed the U.S. initiative.

What in the World

To impress the Japanese officials when he arrived, Commodore Perry set up a miniature railroad and gave officialsrides at break-neck speeds.

The problem with this opening to the West was that it was unpopular with the Japanese. Resistance to the new policy was especially strong with samurai warriors in the territories of Satsuma and Choshu, who had strong military traditions and apparentlydid not know the Americans had lots of big guns.

The Meiji Restoration

In 1863, the Sat-Cho alliance made the Tokugawa Shogunate promise to end its relationshipwith the West. When that seemed to fail, the Sat-Cho alliance attacked and destroyed the shogunate, proclaiming that the wishes of the Japanese emperor were restored. The Tokugawa Shogunate and the shogunate system were ended, but not contact with the West. The Sat-Cho alliance realized that they needed to use the West and Western ideas to remain in power.

The Meiji Restoration period started at the end of the shogunate. It was a period of reform in Japan, with the goal of creating a modern industrial nation. The symbol of this reform movement was the new young emperor, Mutsuhito, who called his rule the Meiji or the Enlightened Rule. In reality, the Sat-Cho rulers controlled Mutsuhito, but needed reforms were made to keep up with what was seen in the West.

First the capital was moved from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo). Then the daimyo were stripped of their titles and lands in 1871 in return for government bonds. The island was divided into territories called prefectures, with a governor to rule over each. So reform was underway in Japan. The Japanese government studied Western political systems and decided Imperial Germany had the best fit for them. So in the 1890, the Meiji Constitution was drafted and enacted. In the government created by the Constitution, the executive branch, made up of the prime minister and his cabinet picked by Meiji leaders, had the most authority. There was also a legislative branch made up of two houses—one appointed and one elected. So the Meiji Constitution gave the Japanese a democratic look, but it had an authoritarian edge.

Beyond the structural and political changes, the Meiji leader worked with the economicsof the island. The land reform program gave former daimyo lands to peasants and levied new taxes on the lands, not the harvest. The Meiji leaders also fostered new industries by providing subsidies to industrial investors. They created a new educationalsystem with an emphasis on applied science, which was good for industries like weapons, shipbuilding, tea, silk, and the national drink sake. The educational system was modeled after American schools but with an emphasis on the Japanese virtues of family, community, and loyalty to the emperor. They also sent many Japanese students abroad to study at Western schools.

The Meiji used their strong military background to create the new and improved Imperial army in 1871, well equipped with the most modern of weapons. It also was compulsory for every Japanese male to serve three years when they came of age.

Japanese culture and society also went through changes. At first, women were allowed to seek an education—which was very daring for Japanese culture—but later with the Civil Code of 1898 they were put back into the context of the family. Japanese society changed from primarily an agricultural society to an industrial one. Finally the Japanese adopted Western and American fashions and styles leaving traditional Japanese dress behind.

Ready to Join the Imperialist Club

Japanese culture altered a great deal with its Westernization. By the beginning of the twentieth century, it was heavily influenced by Western art and literature, although they emulated many different time periods of Western culture at once. There was also a movement to retain Japanese culture. In 1889, the Tokyo School of Fine Arts was founded to promote traditional Japanese styles. Japan also exported some culture, including Japanese Gardens and traditional arts and crafts.

With the Meiji Restoration, Japan was ready to join the club of the Western powers. The problem was that they lacked the resources to keep up with the imperialist pace. Japan needed to expand. So, in 1874, Japanese forces seized control of the Ryuku Islands. Then, in 1876, they forced Korea to open ports to Japanese trade. Finally, in 1894, the Japanese humbled China by destroying the Chinese fleet and capturing the Manchurian city of Port Arthur.

Japan needed to defeat a Western or partially Western nation. In 1904, the Japanese attacked Port Arthur, which was by this time Russian territory, since they had taken it from China in 1898. Japan then mopped up a Russian army in Manchuria. As a result, the Russians sent their Baltic fleet to teach the Japanese a lesson. Of course, Japan was the teacher and the Russian fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Tsushima. The Russians were forced into the Treaty of Portsmouth, which gave the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan. Japan was now a member of the club. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea, but suspicion between the United States and Japan started to grow as interests in the Pacific came into conflict.

The Least You Need to Know

• Imperialist polices of the nineteenth century created competition between the European nations.

• The majority of the African continent was dominated by European powers before the beginning of the twentieth century.

• British imperial policies in India created an Indian nationalist movement led by Gandhi.

• The Qing dynasty in China declined because of the imperialist policies of the Western nations.

• Japan westernized itself in reaction to the imperialism of South Asia.

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