New Imperialism New Imperialism Starting around the 1870s and lasting until around 1905, western nations began what is today called “New Imperialism.” The major powers of the western world started to gain a need for expansion. Italy, France, Great Britain, United States and Germany started to feel the pressure being exerted on them by each other and realized that in order to stay on top and remain the a western power they must stretch their boundaries across seas. During this time period imperialism was a common theme amongst the populations of the western nations and many very influential people wrote and preached the need for expanding their particular countries influence. There were three reoccurring explanations given by people in favor of expansion: the need for more land and resources in order to better suit the rising populations in the countries and increase economic chances for them, the feeling of social Darwinism meaning only the strong and powerful will survive and be on top when it is all over, and finally most of the countries that are being considered, want to be under the rule of the western powers. All these factors lead to this brief but extremely large “imperialistic explosion.” A very common explanation for imperialism which people were using was the need for more territory in order to allow the population to expand culturally and economically.
The rapid increase in population in Europe and the industrial revolution started causing an overcrowding in cities and serious need for jobs in order to maintain order throughout the different countries. Many countries held the belief that if a population increase was to continue at its current pace, then sometime in the near future individual countries could no longer support itself and provide jobs for the majority of the population. The United States felt the need for expansion because of the massive flow of immigrants into a recently developed nation and was not prepared for such a dramatic increase in the overall population. A common view was that the foreign territories could provide a vast new amount of natural resources as well as new agriculture. Also, once colonized, the new territories would provided a new region to sell its goods from the homeland and at the same time export more goods throughout Europe and North America.
Because of the tariff barriers that most of the powers had, there was little room for exports. According to a Frenchmen of the time, Jules Ferry,” exports are essential for public prosperity. Both demand for labor and scope for capital investment depend on the foreign market.” (Wiesner pg. 252) With the rise of the industrial revolution a larger market for various products had developed and with the resources and fertile lands of foreign territories, economic growth was inevitable. With the increase in employment in the western world, people started a demand for new goods.
It was clear that the customary thought of the western powers was that there was no escaping the need for new territories in order to export and import more goods. The people all knew that in order to gain these new territories and to insure and better economic future that there would be a cost. There would have to be a significant amount of money used by the government in order to send and army over to the new lands. Once the army was to arrive it was evident that there would be some sort of fighting and with war comes loss of lives. None the less expansion was necessary because “..it is less secure and more expensive to endeavor to cultivate three million hectares of barren land.. than to insure the prosperity of a large agricultural colony..”(Wiesner pg.
257). Because of, at times, the intense rivalry between the western powers all the nations felt the need for expansion in order to remain not only a military power but an economic power. During this period of “New Imperialism” many countries made the realization that this time period could be the last chance for them as a nation to build up their empires. On account of this idea many people developed a sense of “Social Darwinism.” This is the assumption that humans are involved in a struggle for supremacy over each other and for those nations that could come forth victorious will be considered the most worthy to be called a western power. Because of this idea, the exploitation of the weaker nations “by laws of nature” was not only allowed but also encouraged. By following in accordance with this new “law,” eventually a better world for everyone will result. In 1879 a German used this way of thinking to try and urge his fellow country men to move on expand as a western power: “..More important is the consideration that one nation which is led to the height of political power can only maintain its historical position as long as it understands and proves itself as a bearer of a cultural mission.
This is at the same time the only way which guarantees the existence and growth of the national well-being, the necessary foundation for a lasting development of power.” (Wiesner pg. 249) Not only did people have the over bearing feeling of imperialism, but also they wanted to be the first to do so. Many living at the time knew that it was impossible to avoid the expansion of other nations so why not pave the way for the other countries thus showing their willingness to take the “torch” and lead all into the new era. To many the British Empire was a prime example of imperialism. By gaining so much territory during the initial wave of imperialism, England had an enormous economic advantage as well as military advantage with naval ports located all over the globe.
Countries like Germany, Italy, and France came to the conclusion that they too could have such power and cultural strength because in many cases there armies were exponentially bigger than that of England. In light of this “Survival of the Fittest” attitude, people held it as their duty to stand up and speak out for imperialism because it would not only benefit there own country largely but also the territory to which the conquer would reap the overwhelming benefits that they had to offer. Possibly one of the most interesting explanations for imperialism, as we look back on it today, is the idea that these colonies needed to be influenced by the different powerful nations. The opinion that the natives of the different land required the help of western control in order to become more civilized people. Europeans felt that, as a powerful nation, it was there “burden” to educate those that appeared savage and to introduce them to western society. In one instance, John G. Paton urges the British to gain possession of the island of New Herbides before the French.
Paton goes on to say: ” The sympathy of the New Herbides natives are all with Great Britain, hence they long for British protection, while they fear and hate the French..and certainty it would be unwise to let any other power now take possession and reap the fruits of all this British outlay.” (Weisner pg.250) According to Paton, they not only need to acquire New Herbides for there own profit but also largely to prevent France for adding it to there empire and putting the British colonies in the surrounding area in danger. It was popular belief that to those countries that had civil war occurring were in need and virtually calling out for help from the various nations to establish peace even if it means colonizing them. One of the most important reasons that much of Europe wanted to colonize foreign territories was to spread and educate the natives about Christianity. The western powers felt that in order for the natives to become “civilized” that they must first learn the teachings of Christianity. European powers did recognize the natives current religions and their ethnocentric views lead them to believe that the inhabitants of the different lands across the world were not only in need but asking for European interaction in the altering of their cultures.
The belief that foreign lands required the assistance of the western powers in order to become amore civilized and developed nation eventually became a major factor that influenced imperialism from the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century. During the brief but very effective period in which Germany, Italy, France, United States, and Great Britain all strengthened their empires and it helped to alter the world. Because of the fierce competition for new territories between these western powers a new attitude was formed that ultimately led to a scramble for new unclaimed land. The western nations felt the intense pressure to expand and believed that they needed more land and resources in order to support the growing population. Throughout Europe, the belief that only the strongest nations will survive, and finally the belief that many of these potential colonies needed the help of a western power in order to bring peace and become more civilized. The period called “New Imperialism” made an enormous impact on the commercially, on the humanity, the spread of Christianity, and the political makeup of the western world and its new colonies.