Essay Study Guide

Surabi R, Pooja M, Eric S, Teja S, Varshini M, Kaushik N.


What is it?

Imperialism is when a country extends its power and influence to other areas through diplomacy, military force, or economic methods. Imperialism is usually extended over places which already have a preexisting government or power organization. European powers especially were notorious for opening imperial colonies all over the globe. In fact, nineteenth century imperialism was mostly dominated by European powers, although the United States and Japan began taking imperial colonies. Even today, European countries, the United States, and other major powers in the world have imperial colonies. An example is Puerto Rico (which is the United States').

Countries had several motives for extending imperialism. Some economic reasons included wanting sources of raw materials to fuel industrialization (the Industrial Revolution was occurring around the same time frame as the boom of imperialist ventures), and wanted new markets to sell goods. Imperial colonies also served as convenient strategic locations for countries. For example, the colony of Singapore, founded by Thomas Stamford Raffles, provided a convenient sea lane for the British between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. It was additionally the busiest port in the Strait of Melaka, and served as Britain's main base during its operation to conquer Malay. This demonstrates another political way imperial colonies could be used.

British Imperialism

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The British Empire expanded and contracted wildly over the years. It became fairly large with the ever expanding American colonies in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, particularly after the defeat of the French in the Seven Years War.

World War One appeared to add more colonies to the British Empire in the form of mandates while the Second World War would see much imperial territory threatened or temporarily lost. Britain was most prominently dominant in India. India was a crown colony of Britain, and Britain was involved in the political, social, and economic aspects of India.

Some of the former British colonies

History of the British Empire

French Imperialism

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France has held many imperialist colonies in several parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, France formed French Indochina, which comprised of modern-day Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. France attempted to push Roman Catholicism on its people and establish European-style schools there as well. This has affected many present-day happenings and cultures of these countries.

France was also an active imperial power involved in the colonialism in Africa, also known as the Scramble for Africa. France attended the Berlin conference and claimed many states in Africa. Examples are Algeria, Senegal, and areas on the Ivory Coast. These colonies maintained close ties to France, and France exploited their economies to further its own economy.

12. French Imperialism (Guest Lecture by Charles Keith)

Similarities and Differences between French and British Imperialism

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Differences: French Imperialism

  • Roman Catholicism: France actively attempted to promote Roman Catholicism in its colonies, such as French Indochina.
  • India: French imperialistic plans to dominate India fell through after the fall of Napoleon. Therefore, France was not prominent in India.
  • Mission Civilisatrice: The French coined a specific term for their reasoning behind imperialism, which included bringing "civilization" to people.

Differences: British Imperialism

  • South Pacific: Britain established settler colonies and prominent political institutions in Australia and New Zealand.
  • India: Britain made India a crown colony of Britain. They reformed its economy and made it dependent on Britain.
  • Singapore: Britain opened prominent trade hubs, such as Singapore, which allowed it to control sea lanes between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

Similarities between French and British Imperialism

  • Patriotism: Imperialism inspired patriotism and nationalistic beliefs in Britain and France.
  • Military: Imperial colonies were positioned at strategic sites, a primary reason why France and Britain extended imperialism over them.
  • Religion: French and British Christian missionaries traveled to imperial colonies and influenced the beliefs of natives.