Ancient history


Nineteenth-century imperialism constituted a complex process of territorial expansion and dispute between European nations.

By Me. Cláudio Fernandes

When it comes to Imperialism, some aspects should always be analyzed together. The main ones are:Nationalism , Neocolonialism and junction between financial capitalism and industrial capitalism. These aspects summarize the political, economic and cultural landscape of a period that goes from the 1870s to 1914, the year in which World War I began.

The term “Imperialism” obviously suggests an “Age of Empires”; to a large extent this is the same. But, conceptually speaking, 19th century Imperialism consisted of a type of expansionist policy of the main European nations, whose objective was the search for a consumer market, cheap labor and raw materials for the development of industries.

This phenomenon of expansion of European countries began when, after the Bourgeois Revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries and the formation of modern nations in Europe (such as Germany, Italy and France), there was an intense process of industrialization in these countries. Industrialization, therefore, generated strong competition between nations, which began to dispute territories and establish their borders with modernized armies and sophisticated diplomacy. This process gradually accentuated the nationalist character of European countries.

At the same time, industrialization also required unprecedented economic integration. The capital generated by industry, that is, all the wealth of the production process – from machinery to consumer products – needed credit and financial support. The financial capital sectors (banks and stock exchanges) began to integrate with the industrial sector, thus creating ways to structure the complexity of the integrated world economy.

And, just like in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, when European nations like Portugal and Spain promoted the colonization of the American continent (and from these colonies they extracted raw materials and developed systems of political and administrative organization), the industrialized imperialist nations of the 19th century promoted the colonization of regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The expansion process into these regions was marked by various tensions and wars. Africa, for example, had its territory divided at that time between European nations, in an event called the Berlin Conference, which took place in November 1884. This division was characterized by complete arbitrariness, entire African tribes were disaggregated with the division, while some merged with others that were their historic rivals. England, at that time, became known as the great Empire “where the sun does not set”, precisely because of its vast expansion, which included large countries such as India and Australia.

Imperialism reached its saturation point in the early 20th century, when nationalist tensions became more vehement. The First World War (1914-1918) is a direct result of this saturation.

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