Oct 22, 2020 in Research

Responses to Colonialism and Imperialism of the 19th and the 20th Centuries

The impact of colonialism and imperialism was so considerable that it is difficult to mention the events and processes in the 19th and the 20th centuries that were not impacted by them. As these centuries are rich for important events, this paper focuses on several main points. The center of attention is new imperialism ideologies in the U.S., Japan, France and Britain regarding territory and marketplace expansion along with intensification of trade relations. The major consequence if the 19th century imperialism was the First World War, which was the result of political contradictions between the most powerful states and of the discredit of value of peace compared to economic benefit.

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New imperialism of the U.S. and Japan is a response to imperialism and colonialism, grounded on weaknesses of existing empires of Spain and China. Both the U.S. and Japan benefited from established imperia’s defeat in wars. As a result, these states imperial ambitions made them powerful political subjects in the beginning of the 20th century. The first stage of European imperialism was ended by the American Revolution and Spanish Empire’s collapse in 1820s. It made the U.S. able to consolidate and to become a powerful state that started Mexican–American War, which added to the U.S. the territory of California and other western territories in 1846. As a consequence of imperialism regarding economic development, it created new opportunities for the U.S. to access Latin America’s markets. It is worth considering ideological background of this war: the American’s military initiatives were accompanied by the attempts to civilize and Christianize people from the annexed territories. It resulted in economic and social inequality, racism, launching and discrimination of people of Spanish origin. Similarly to Spanish Empire, in the second half of the 19th century China was week and fragmented. While the military and economic might of Japan was growing, political discourse of Taiwan and Korea implied joining powerful Japan in terms of political and economic development. Due to colonialism and imperialism policies held by both western and eastern states, some countries including China became unable for further rivalry. These factors contributed to annexation of Taiwan in 1895 and Korea in 1910 by Japan. The new imperialism ideology that ruled Japanese decision-making promoted not only exploitation, but also development of its colonies: apart from cultural discrimination in the beginning of colonial period, people of Taiwan and Korea faced modernization of infrastructure and reforms in education establishments. Nation-building processes in the Empire of Japan involved the youth of Korea and Taiwan to cooperate for a better future, including military service for Japan during the wars and participation in political discourse of the empire. In 1904-1905 Japan also defeated Russia, which added power and influence among the European states. The interests of two powerful empires crashed, but the weakness of Russia of the time allowed Japan winning the war and becoming more powerful at the expanse of Russian commanders’ failure. In case of Russian-Japanese war, the opposition of old and new imperialism demonstrated that the former is more vivid and effective in the 20th century world.

The construction of Suez Canal is another example of new-imperialism policy that had a considerable effect on the economy of European and Asian states. New imperialism was not only about territorial conquest, but also about rivalry for markets. Imperialism of the first era was focused on separation of particular powerful states that wanted to create monopolies, whereas new imperialism was grounded on competition and interaction. The construction of Suez Canal witnesses collapse of a wall between western and eastern world, creating new space for political and military cooperation. In addition, by the second half of the 19th century, European countries were more modern and politically might compared to Asian countries. That is why European imperial states intended to gain profit from altering Asian markets, especially considering economic wellbeing of European states. Due to attractiveness of Asian markets, Britain and France were rivalries, who aimed to create the faster and easier way to access Asia. Britain was already influential in Asia in the late 19th century because it developed commercial networks, merchant fleet as well as protected trade routes. It made France act by searching for a quick way to Asia through Egypt. It was opened in 1869 and resulted in British conquest of 1882. The Suez Canal was extremely important in terms of economic impact. For it promoted shipping and steamships construction, it gave advantage to countries that had heavy industry. In turn, this motivated countries to develop heave industry and participate in Asian markets exploration. Tight contact between the most powerful states intensified considerably, shifting industrial development and pushing them into contradictions that resulted in the First World War. The construction of the Canal made Egypt more influential regarding Eastern question. In addition, relationship between France and England became more complicated as Britain wanted to discredit Suez Canal Company with purpose to make France less influential. Thus, construction of Suez Canal was another manifestation of new imperialism, which intensified contacts between European countries causing rivalry between France and Britain. Suez Canal also favored development of economic relations between the West and the East, emphasizing the role of the Eastern question.

The most considerable reaction on imperialism and colonialism as well as their consequences was the First World War. As stated above, trade and other economic relations between powerful states did not promote peace. Instead, each country wanted to play the most influential role and get most benefit regardless means and victims. As European countries in the beginning of the 20th century had neither desire not means to solve the contradictions and disagreement in a peaceful way, World War I became a reaction on harsh economic development and rivalry. It is worth dividing the triggers that seem to cause the war, and the true reasons that are resulted by many-years conflicts and contradictions. Diplomacy was no longer able to mask under peaceful intentions the true interests of each state: diplomacy became de jure mean that was not effective. It made European countries unite into blocs, which allowed lobbying own interests and being protected by the alliance states. Though the events were located in the Western Europe, the war had a great impact on the rest of the world. However, it is worth underlining the efforts of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who managed to promote peace through diplomacy in 1890s. His activity led to development of trade relations between rivalries, sponsored international meetings to harmonize imperial intentions and contributed to encirclement of eastern and western borders, focusing on national wealth promotion.

However, in the beginning of the 20th century Bismarck’s’ approach collapsed because diplomacy could not restrict imperial interests that led to war conflict between the strongest neighboring states. Diplomacy was weak compared to profit gained by war. In In 1914, conflict between European countries was resulted by the following imperial interests. Ottoman Empire and Turkey joined Germany in the beginning of the war to modernize Turkey and preserve Arabian territories. British government mobilized dependent territories and joined France and Russia into the Triple Entente. After the revolution of 1917-1918 Russia withdrew, while the U.S. entered the war. Japan evicts from Chinese mainland and acts against Germany. The consequence of the First World War was a Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which reorganized but did not replace states-systems of the nineteenth century. As a result, the territories in Arabia were divided between France and Britain, while Ottoman Empire succeeded in 1923 by the Republic of Turkey. Fragmentation of German and Austria-Hungary Empires resulted in contradictions between multi-ethnic societies and homogenous nation-states. The issues and challenges raised by imperialism were not solved: the peace and distribution of contribution did not satisfy all participants of the case. They were rather exhausted by long and bloody war than ready to cooperated based on new principles of diplomacy and value of human life. Thus, new imperialism did not solve the issues of modernized imperial state. Instead, rivalry for profit and influence deepened contradictions and disagreements that caused the First World War.

In conclusion, imperialism and colonialism were transformed into new imperialism approach, which was different from the first era imperialism. New imperialism ideology was spread among the European states, the U.S. and the Eastern Empires. The raising imperia were aimed not only to conquest new territories, but also to develop the colonies and to include them in nation-building, as Japan did in 1930s. The new empires ruled by new imperialism ideologies used weak empires to gain power, economic and military might. The construction of the Suez Canal has considerably contributed to development of economic relations between European countries, Egypt and Asian Empires. Its construction also promoted industrial development and rivalry between France and Britain. Emphasis on trade and benefit promoted the growth of imperial interests that resulted in European conflict and World War I. This war did not change existing order of European state system, but divided the territories between the alliance counties and affected the entire world community, though was located in Europe.


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