what is imperialism?
Empire (Latin "imperium") is an old and complex word; imperialism a quite recent and more treacherous one. At its simplest, an empire is a territory within which there is one supreme military and legal authority. By the end of the fifteenth century, empire in this strict sense was not fully achieved in Europe until the unification's of Italy (1860) and Germany (1870) swept away the petty states and overlapping jurisdictions of Central Europe and completed the division of most of the continent into large competing territorial states, marking the onset of modern "imperialism" as distinct from mere "empire." For the defining feature of imperialism is not the mere presence of empires in a state system, but the domination of that system by struggles between empires. But by the end of the fifteenth century, this very limited sense of empire was about to be vastly extended as petty European kings began to develop extensive overseas realms to rival, or even supplant, the longer established, extensive, and wealthy empires of Asia and the Americas.
Jones, Charles. "Imperialism." History of World Trade Since 1450. Ed. John J. McCusker. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 369-373. World History in Context. Web. 11 Feb. 2014