Causes of Imperialism

Unit 6: c. 1750-1900

Main Ideas:

  • Many cultural, religious, and racial ideologies were used to justify imperialism

  • European nations colonized other nations to get raw materials to supply to their industrial factories & also to gain new markets for industrial goods

  • European nations colonized other nations to gain more political influence in the world

Cultural, Religious, & Racial Justifications

Europeans Justified Imperialism with many Racial Ideologies 

Key Ideas:

  • Europeans used racial ideologies to say that their colonial subjects were racially inferior & "uncivilized," and European colonization was actually benefiting the subjects by imposing a more "civilized" government

    • Social Darwinism: A racial ideology that justified European supremacy

      • Europeans used this to justify imperialism

    • Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" claimed it was a burden for Europeans to deal with "uncivilized" people → Argued that Europeans need to colonize these people to "civilize" them

  • Europeans sought to spread Christianity and European culture to their colonies
    • Europeans built churches & European schools that taught Christianity & European languages in an effort to promote European culture

Economic Causes

Europeans Colonized Other Lands to Gain Raw Materials & New Markets for Industrial Goods 

Key Ideas:

  • Europeans colonized other lands to gain raw materials, which were then sent to Europe to make finished goods (in industrial factories)
    • Europeans established mines and plantations in their colonies to create an export-oriented economy to export raw materials to Europe to be used in industrial factories
    • Cotton from India, Rubber from Congo & Malaya, Diamonds from South Africa

  • Europeans colonized other lands to gain exclusive rights to sell their cheap industrial products there → Often superseded local economies

    • After gaining raw materials from colonies & making finished goods, Europeans sold those finished goods in the colonies

    • These finished goods were much cheaper than local handmade goods → European goods prevailed → Local industries declined

      • Indian handmade textile industry declined in favor of the British industrially-produced textile industry

Political Causes

Europeans Colonized Other Lands to Gain More Political Influence 

Key Ideas:

  • Europeans colonized other lands to gain political benefits, such as more glory, political power, and land
    • European nations wanted to gain more land so that their people could migrate there (to save living space in Europe)

    • European nations wanted to build military bases in strategic locations throughout the world

    • Europeans also wanted more glory and pride from their supporters → Often colonized other lands to distract their people from internal communist rebellions