3. Rise of Imperialism

Historical Context.
 
The process of industrialization that began to transform western European societies in the last half of the 18th century fundamentally changed the nature and impact of European overseas expansion. In the centuries of expansion before the industrial era, Europeans went over-seas because they sought material things they could not produce themselves and because they felt threatened by powerful external enemies. They initially sought precious metals, for which they taded in Africa and waged wars of conquest in the Americas. In the Americas, they also seized land on which they could grow high-priced commercial crops such as sugar and coffee. In Asia, European traders and adventurers sought either manufactured goods, such as cotton and silk textiles (produced mainly in India, China, and the Middle East), or luxury items, such as spices, that would improve the living standards of the aristocracy and rising middle classes.
 
In the Americas, Africa, and Asia, missionaries from Roman Catholic areas such as Spain and Portugal sought to convert what they saw as "heathen" peoples to Christianity. Both the wealth gained from products brought home from overseas and the souls won for Christ were seen as ways of strengthening Christian Europea in its long struggle with the Muslim empires that threated Europe from the south and east.
 
In the industrial era, from roughly 1800 onward, the things that Europeans sought in the outside world as well as the source of the insecurities that drove them there changed dramatically. Raw materials - metals, vegetable oils, dyes, cotton, and hemp - needed to feed the machines of Europe, not spices or manufactured goods, were the main products the Europeans sought overseas. Industrialization began to transform Europe into the manufacturing center of the world for the first time. As a result, overseas markets for machine-made European products became a key concern of those who pushed for colonial expansion.
 
Christian missionaries, by then as likely to be Protestant as Roman Catholic, still tried to win converts overseas. But unlike the rulers of Portugal and Spain in the early centuries of  expansion, European leaders in the industrial age rarely took initiatives overseas to promote Christianity. In part, this reflected the fact that western Europe itself was no longer seriously threatened by the Muslims or any other non-European people. The fears that fueled European imperialist expansion in the industrial age arose from internal rivalries between the European powers themselves. Overseas peoples might resist the European advance, but different European national groups feared each other far more than even the largest non-European empires.
 
The contrast between European expansion in the preindustrial era and in the age of industrialization was also reflected in the extent to which the Europeans were able to build true empires overseas. In the early centuries of overseas expansion, European conquests were concentrated in the Americas, where long isolation had left the indigenous peoples particularly vulnerable to the technology and disease of the expansive Europeans. In much of the rest of the world, European traders and conquistadors were confined largely to the sea-lanes, islands, and coastal enclaves. Now, industrial technology and the techniques of organization and discipline associated with the increasing mechanization of the West gave the Europeans the ability to reach and infiltrate any foreign land. From the populous, high centralized, and technologically sophisticated Chinese Empire to small bands of hunters and gatherers struggling to survive in the harsh environment of Tierra del Fuego on the southern coast of South America, few peoples were remote enough to be out of reach of the steamships and railways that carried the Europeans to and across all continents of the globe. No culture was strong enough to remain untouched by the European drive for global dominance in this era. None could long resist the profound changes unleashed by European conquest and colonization.
 
The shift from the preindustrial to the industrial phase of European overseas expansion was gradual and cumulative, extending roughly from 1750 to 1850. By the mid-19th century, few who were attuned to international events could doubt that a turning point had been reached.
 
Source: 
Stearns, Peter N., Adas, Michael, Scwartz, Stuart B., and Gilbert, Marc Jason. World
    Civilizations: The Global Experience - Third Edition. p. 213. New York: Addison-Wesley
    Educational Publishers, Inc., 2003.
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