Difference between revisions of "World History Lecture Ten"

From Conservapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
(moved from Lecture 9)
(a start)
Line 1: Line 1:
[[World History Lecture One|1]]-[[World History Lecture Two|2]]-[[World History Lecture Three|3]]-[[World History Lecture Four|4]]-[[World History Lecture Five|5]]-[[World History Lecture Six|6]]-[[World History Lecture Seven|7]]-[[World History Lecture Eight|8]]-[[World History Lecture Nine|9]]-[[World History Lecture Ten|10]]-[[World History Lecture Eleven|11]]-[[World History Lecture Twelve|12]]-[[World History Lecture Thirteen|13]]-[[World History Lecture Fourteen|14]]
[[World History Lecture One|1]]-[[World History Lecture Two|2]]-[[World History Lecture Three|3]]-[[World History Lecture Four|4]]-[[World History Lecture Five|5]]-[[World History Lecture Six|6]]-[[World History Lecture Seven|7]]-[[World History Lecture Eight|8]]-[[World History Lecture Nine|9]]-[[World History Lecture Ten|10]]-[[World History Lecture Eleven|11]]-[[World History Lecture Twelve|12]]-[[World History Lecture Thirteen|13]]-[[World History Lecture Fourteen|14]]
World History – Post-Industrial Revolution, Imperialism and World War I
Tenth Lecture
Instructor, Andy Schlafly
Line 22: Line 16:
The industrial revolution was the transformation of society from being based mostly on farming and handicrafts into an economy based mostly on manufacturing and industry.  England, which had the strongest economy in the world, was the first to undergo the industrial revolution, although some historians cite the iron industry in China under the Song dynasty and the textile industry in India as being forerunners to what happened in England.  Regardless, the real industrial revolution began in 1760 in England and then, aided by the economic insights of Adam Smith, England’s economy expanded and its industrial revolution lasted until 1840.
The industrial revolution was the transformation of society from being based mostly on farming and handicrafts into an economy based mostly on manufacturing and industry.  England, which had the strongest economy in the world, was the first to undergo the industrial revolution, although some historians cite the iron industry in China under the Song dynasty and the textile industry in India as being forerunners to what happened in England.  Regardless, the real industrial revolution began in 1760 in England and then, aided by the economic insights of Adam Smith, England’s economy expanded and its industrial revolution lasted until 1840.
Realism was the new form of literature that told the dark side of the industrial revolution: the overcrowded, filthy conditions in which many workers struggled.
===Where, When and Why===
===Where, When and Why===

Revision as of 12:21, 25 March 2009



Nationalism was a concept that arose at the same time as Romanticism. Nationalists believed loyalty to one’s nation was of utmost importance. They felt that society should be viewed as a whole, rather than as being made up of individuals. In Germany and Italy, nationalism inspired unification. The Congress of Vienna had left the independent city-states of Italy under Austrian control in the north and Spanish control in the south. It had established Germany as a weak confederation of 39 states.


In Italy, a prominent nationalist named Giuseppe Mazzini began to argue strongly for the unification of Italy as one nation, and formed the “Brotherhood of Young Italy” in 1831. Mazzini’s call for unification was premature, however; rulers of the various Italian city-states were not ready to unite. But Mazzini’s efforts were not in vain. Twenty years later, a fierce patriot and former member of the Brotherhood of Young Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, led a revolution in Southern Italy, while King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont and his prime minister Count Cavour led one in northern Italy. Garibaldi zealously rallied an entirely volunteer army in Sicily and successfully overthrew the Spanish Bourbon king of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. Count Cavour eliminated Austrian control in northern Italy and the Italian people voted to unite their country in 1861. Venice and Rome were both added by 1870.


Germans were dissatisfied with the Confederation established by the Vienna settlement and the Frankfurt Assembly attempted unsuccessfully to unify in 1848. Prussia, the strongest “German” state, established a “Customs Union”—which resembled a national market system—and parliament. King Wilhelm I of Prussia chose Prime Minister Otto Van Bismarck in 1862. Fiercely patriotic to his native Prussia, Bismarck believed in “realpolitick” (or reality politics) and sought to unify Germany under Prussian control. He believed the only way this could be done was through a war. Bismarck’s motto by which to wage this war was “by blood and iron,” and without Parliament’s approval he forced the northern states to join the Northern German Confederation. When the southern city-states would not join, Bismarck tricked France into declaring the Franco-Prussian War, which Prussia won. This accomplished Bismarck’s goal of attaining southern Germany, which was now willing to accept Prussian rule. In 1871 the North and South were united into the new German Empire, the “Second Reich,” and Wilhelm was made “kaiser” (German word for “Caesar” or emperor, especially between 1871 to 1918).

The Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution was the transformation of society from being based mostly on farming and handicrafts into an economy based mostly on manufacturing and industry. England, which had the strongest economy in the world, was the first to undergo the industrial revolution, although some historians cite the iron industry in China under the Song dynasty and the textile industry in India as being forerunners to what happened in England. Regardless, the real industrial revolution began in 1760 in England and then, aided by the economic insights of Adam Smith, England’s economy expanded and its industrial revolution lasted until 1840.

Realism was the new form of literature that told the dark side of the industrial revolution: the overcrowded, filthy conditions in which many workers struggled.

Where, When and Why

The industrial revolution began in England in the cotton textile industry, with new machines for spinning and weaving fabrics. England obtained much of its cotton from the South in the United States, picked by slaves on plantations. When Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in America, production of cotton soared and England’s factories bought up as much as the South could produce. England also imported cotton from Egypt and India, however; India is famous for its brightly colored fabrics and it exported a colored cotton known as calico. (The South overestimated England’s reliance on the South’s cotton when it made the decision to secede from the North in the Civil War; the South miscalculated that England would be economically required to help the South.)

England and the United States built canals to connect waterways and transport goods, and in 1807 American Robert Fulton started the first commercial steamboat service. Macadam (smoothly paved) roads and turnpikes helped distribute newly manufactured goods. In the early 1800s, the railroad emerged as a powerful form of transportation also.

The United States, particularly in the North, industrialized its economy almost as quickly as England had, although the real manufacturing might of the United States was not seen until after it resolved its internal conflicts in the Civil War. England attempted to hide and conceal the secrets of its industrial revolution from continental Europe. The first European nation to follow England was Belgium in 1807, then France in 1848, and then Germany in 1870. The industrial revolution did not reach eastern Europe until the early 1900s, and China and India did not undergo the conversion until the mid-1900s.

In Egypt, modernization was attempted by Ottoman ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha (1769-1849) and his grandson Ismail. Muhammad Ali Pasha forced farmers to leave their farms and work on commercial plantations he established to export cotton and other crops to Europe. But in the end, his “reforms” resulted in a huge Egyptian debt to European countries, especially England. In Russia, industrialization was encouraged by the completion of the trans-Siberian railroad in 1904, connecting Russian to China and Japan. Japan was the only Asian country to successfully industrialize. Under Meiji rule, the government invited foreigners to teach industrialization principles. Businesses were sponsored and controlled by the government, and, when established, were then sold to private individuals.

There were two key aspects to the industrial revolution: technological and culture. In technology, the industrial revolution began using iron and steel as basic resources and converted to energy sources such as electricity, oil and the steam engine. Transportation benefited from the steam engine (invented by James Watt in the 1770s) and later the car and airplane (invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903), while communication benefited from the telegraph (invented by Samuel Morse in 1837) and (later) the telephone (invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876) and the radio (invented in 1895). New machines such as the power loom and spinning jenny enabled mass production, and factories arose to divide labor and permit specialization. Increase application of science to industry helped enormously.

Other factors also caused industrialization. As farming techniques improved, each farm could obtain better yield or output from their land, and there was less of a need for so many farmers. A few farmers benefited from “economies of scale,” which is when something can be doing more efficiently on a larger scale, like when a large store like Wal-Mart provides cheaper goods than a small store can. In the early 1700s, there was an “enclosure movement” whereby wealthy farmers bought land from small farmers, then benefited from economies of scale in farming huge tracts of land. The enclosure movement led to improved crop production, such as the rotation of crops. People began moving to cities, where they could more easily work in factories than on farmland. In England, population growth caused former farmers or children of farmers to migrate from southeastern England to the northwest, where factories were being built.

England, the land of free enterprise and Adam Smith, had the perfect economic climate for the industrial revolution. England had all of the necessary “factors of production” (a term for the resources of an economy: land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship) to become an industrialized economy. There was plenty of money or capital to invest in new factories. There were many entrepreneurs hoping to profit from new businesses. There was sufficient land and natural resources, with the colonies of England providing raw materials as needed. And there was also adequate labor for the factories: the former small farmers. Most of all, there was a world of customers around the world wanting to buy the manufactured goods, and England’s merchant navy traded with the entire world.

Other countries lacked some of these factors of production, and it took decades or even a century to industrialize. Historians claim that some countries, like Austria-Hungary and Spain, lacked the waterways needed by factories, or had too much hilly terrain. But the real reason other countries did not industrialize as quickly as England and the United States is simple: the other countries did not respect free enterprise and the teachings of Adam Smith. Industrialization depends on capitalism, free enterprise, and the benefits of competition. In the United States, industrialization was enhanced by the structure of an entity known as the “corporation”, whereby investors provide capital without taking on risks any greater than the amount of their investment.

Additional factors contributed to the industrial revolution. Land declined as the major source of wealth, and more people could acquire different forms of wealth, such as cash, stocks, bonds or even intellectual property like books, music and paintings. Man felt more confidence in controlling natural resources like oil and gas fields, and enjoyed exploiting nature for profit. Political changes adapted to these social changes, and nations began to look to factories (which can make weapons) as the source of power.

If you are a businessman or investor, then you love the industrial revolution because it enables you to make money without being a farmer, and gives you access to all sorts of goods and products that might not otherwise be available, such as computers. But some people, like Thomas Jefferson, felt that a farming lifestyle was important to the family unit and overall peace and well-being in society. The industrial revolution did damage families and created a stressful lifestyle that exists today, such as commuting to work.

The Effects

Global effects of the industrial revolution included the growth of European nations in wealth and power and the increase of trade among nations. Areas of the world participating in trade and industrialization grew closer together, and global interaction increased. However, nations that resisted industrialization became increasingly isolated. Colonization continued, with Japan joining Europe in the conquest of territories to obtain raw materials. As aforementioned, the middle class increased and more people became interested in politics, which led to reforms and new policies.

Initially there were many negative domestic effects of the industrial revolution. Poor working conditions existed for factory workers: factories were dirty and dangerous places to work and wages were low and hours were long. But these initial problems among workers were lessened by the industrial reformation, by which quality and standards of living were greatly improved. A wide range of products, which previously would have been impossible to attain, were now cheaply produced and available to the average citizen. Real income—the actual purchasing power of money—greatly increased: people were able to buy much more with their money. The middle class composed of shopkeepers, factory owners, civil servants and merchants grew greatly.

However, many other problems arose. Child labor increased and many families lived in crowded “tenements”, or apartments, which were unsanitary and often burned down in fires. Urbanization—or the development and movement of people to cities—increased so rapidly that slums arose, garbage and sewage (there were no sewers) filled the streets and epidemics spread quickly. Authors such as Charles Dickens in England and Victor Hugo in France wrote about the negative effects of industrialization. In the U.S., the Confederate states bragged that slaves were treated better than northern factory workers.

In response to many social problems, some insisted that government should control the economy. Progressive taxation to redistribute wealth evenly among all citizens arose, and socialism became popular as a result of the industrial revolution. But many others believed it was the responsibility of Christians, not the government, to care for the poor. The social problems of industrialization inspired Christians to take action, especially in America and England. Charles Spurgeon was a minister who attracted huge crowds in London and taught that faith without works is dead. He urged Christians to take action and help the poor. He participated in the establishment of Stockwell Orphanage in England in 1867. In Germany, the Inner Mission was established by Johann H. Wichern. The Red Cross society was founded in Switzerland by Jean Henri Dunant, and was used in America during the Civil War. In Bristol, England, George Mueller spent his life working to care for youth delinquents, orphans, and anyone poor and needy. The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), originally founded as a place for Bible study and prayer in England in 1844, found enormous popularity and spread to America. In the 1860s, William and Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army to provide food, clothing and shelter to the poor and homeless and spread the Gospel. Many of these Christian institutions continue to exist today.

Post-Industrial Revolution

After the industrial revolution, many European nations extended their power through “imperialism”, which means one nation trying to control other people. Imperialism makes the bigger nation feel more powerful and more influential. It can also be very profitable for the imperialistic nation as it exploits the natural resources and labor of the other people. But subjugated people began to resent rule by another nation, and imperialism became a huge problem worldwide.

Prior to the 1800s, strongly independent nations had not yet arisen in continental Europe. The Holy Roman Empire held much power until the Reformation in the 1500s, and even afterwards. The Hapsburg ruling family was a powerful ruling dynasty throughout Europe, especially in Austria where it ruled from 1278 to 1918. This family served as Kings of Germany for several centuries (until 1806), as Holy Roman Emperors, and as Kings of Croatia, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and Bohemia. They even installed the Emperor of Mexico from 1864 to 1867!

But Napoleon conquered most of continental Europe in the early 1800s, and after his defeat other nations began to grow in power. France itself grew again in power under Napoleon III, who was the third son of a stepdaughter of Napoleon. After several unsuccessful attempts, Napoleon III finally seized power in France after the failed revolutions of 1848 swept Europe. Napoleon III became emperor of the French in 1852, and served for nearly twenty years until he foolishly fell for the bait of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to fight a war against the Prussians (Germans). The Prussians defeated Napoleon III and shipped him off to exile in England, and soon Bismarck formed the new nation of Germany. Ever since, Germany has been the leading power in continental Europe, rather than France.

The European nations grew bigger and stronger in the 1800s and early 1900s. These industrialized nations (Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and also the United States and Japan) sought natural resources and raw materials for their factories and new markets to sell their finished goods. In England and Germany, people who believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution felt a racial superiority and sought conquest (survival-of-the-fittest) to force other races into submission.

Post-Industrial Revolution

Much changed due to the industrial revolution, and not all of the change was good. A debate arose over whether the government should regulate businesses that ran factories. Most of the economic thinkers in the 1800s were in England, where the industrial revolution initially occurred.

The British Thinkers

On one side of the debate were the “laissez-faire” economists who, like Adam Smith, wanted the government to stay out of business. They felt that the “invisible hand” would produce the best outcome, and that supply and demand would be far better at allocating resources to their best use than government regulation could.

Inspired by Adam Smith, classical economics is the economic theory emphasizing self-interest along with the operation of universal economic laws. For example, classical economics predicts full employment if the government does not interfere with minimum wage laws or other regulations. In addition to Adam Smith, leading proponents of classical economics included David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Jean Baptiste Say, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill. They advocated “capitalism”, by which ownership of private property helps create profits for the owners and greater wealth for all of society.

David Ricardo (1772-1823), was a pessimistic British economist most famous for developing the theory of comparative advantage. He explained that it was advantageous for England to produce cloth and Portugal to produce wine even though Portugal might have produced both wine and cloth at a lower cost than England did, as long as there was free trade between the two countries. However, David Ricardo also proposed incorrect theories like the gloomy “iron law of wages,” which claimed that wages would never rise above the bare minimum necessary to sustain a worker. Opponents of Adam Smith and free enterprise used some of these incorrect theories later to argue for government regulation of business.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was another British classical economist, but he was so pessimistic that he caused the entire field of economics to be called “the dismal science,” such that failure and collapse of the economy are supposed to be inevitable. Malthus insisted that population increases by the geometric ratio but that the means of subsistence only increases by the arithmetic ratio, and thus population will outgrow the food supply and many will die (unless a war kills them first!). This was completely false as even the poorest countries like India produce far more food than they can consume, and obesity is a bigger problem than hunger today.

The last of the English classical economists was John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Homeschooled in an atheistic way by his father, Mill supported laissez-faire but with social reforms like redistribution of wealth, shorter working days, and regulation of monopolies. Today he would be called a “moderate conservative” due to his support of some government controls over the economy. Mill was ahead of his time in advocating the development of labor unions and farm cooperatives, and emancipation (voting) by women. He sympathized with the North in the American Civil War. In his book “On Liberty,” Mill advocated that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Mill also advocated utilitarianism, a concept previously proposed by the atheist Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Utilitarianism means that government should do whatever maximizes overall “utility” (benefits minus costs). If killing one innocent man saves ten other lives, then utilitarianism would favor it. Under utilitarianism there is no Christian morality, and it is replaced by comparing benefits versus costs. Under this view government should experiment on embryonic stem cells today if benefits are greater than costs. Mill admitted that his longtime love for a particular woman, who was married to another man for many years, influenced his view of morality.

There were other new ideas during this time, not all of them good. There was “utopian socialism,” which English and French philosophers proposed. In England Robert Owen (1771-1858) was the leading proponent, while in France Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was the leader. They suggested the creation of self-contained communities in which the government owned the instruments of production (e.g., land and money) and politics was run by a voluntary, democratic process. The notion of “socialism” for everyone, not just self-contained communities, also developed as a so-called reform of capitalism. Under socialism, government owns or controls many factors of production, including business property and money, and also controls the distribution of goods. The invisible hand is replaced by government control, supposedly for the common good. Workers are able to keep what they make as needed to survive.

German thinkers named Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who were about to move to England, promoted the radical idea that all private property should be eliminated and that society would be better off under “communism”. Karl Marx published these ideas in 1848 in a booklet called “The Communist Manifesto.” “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class [economic] struggles,” Marx declared in that book. Later he developed a motto for communism: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Marx predicted that the proletariat (working class) would overthrow the wealthy in a capitalistic society, and then establish a new system that would be socialism in its early stage and pure communism in its later stage.

Another Englishman, Charles Darwin (1809-1882), was destined to be credited with developing the theory of evolution, although a few others had proposed the idea before him. Darwin’s own family considered him to be a disgrace even before he failed at an attempt to become a doctor. His father later sought for him to become an Anglican parson (pastor), but Darwin abandoned the Christian faith instead. He could not even earn a degree in science and he struggled in scientific subjects such as physics (and math). But after collecting some plant and animal specimens on a voyage (on the H.M.S. Beagle ship) around the world, in 1859 Darwin published a radical (and racist) book entitled “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” It proposed that species had evolved into complex forms of life over millions of years through “natural selection.” Darwin had not observed any transitional forms (fossils reflecting evolution between species), and no credible transitional forms have ever been found. The greatest scientists and mathematicians, from Louis Pasteur to Bernhard Riemann, viewed Darwin’s theory as absurd. The French described Darwin’s theory as “a fairy tale for grown-ups.” Darwin’s explanation for an evolution of the whale (a mammal) was that it somehow came from black bears swimming with their mouths open. No one can reconcile Darwin’s theory with the evidence of a huge flood, or the fact that all mutations are harmful, or the observation that species have been going extinct rather than being generated, or the fact that all unaided things become more disordered and scattered over time. Today Darwin’s theory is most popular among people who, like Darwin himself, have some superficial education in science without any depth of study or insight. Darwin’s theory is particularly silly to those who appreciate the vast beauty in the world, as Darwin’s theory is based only on functionality, without any place for artistic design.

It was for political reasons that Darwin’s theory, aided by frauds like the Piltdown Man, crept into schools in England, Germany and the United States. As a fellow Englishman, Darwin is promoted heavily in England and even buried next to Isaac Newton. Germany also promoted the theory of evolution heavily until the Darwinists engaged in racial cleansing and experimentation to “perfect” the Aryan race under Adolf Hitler. In the United States, evolution has been taught in public schools for nearly 100 years, yet 90% of Americans continue to reject the theory as it is being taught.

The link between Darwinism, atheism and politics was strong in the late 1800s and even stronger today. Beginning in 1887, social scientists were using the term “social Darwinism” to apply a barbaric survival-of-the-fittest theory to social situations. Under this theory, the wealthiest or most powerful in society must be biologically superior, and less “fit” persons should die or simply be killed like weak animals. Soon many began to view racial struggles, and war itself, as a perfectly natural example of survival-of-the-fittest in the human race. The horrific wars of the 20th century, employing shockingly brutal tactics, were encouraged by a belief in survival-of-the-fittest among humans.

Today, there is a strong correlation between belief in evolution and belief in a controlling government. England was the strongest nation in the world at the time of Darwin, but its embrace of forms of socialism weakened it dramatically. The United States, where the vast majority has always rejected Darwinism, rose from being a relatively weak country at the time of Darwin to becoming by far the strongest nation today.

Social Reform

Labor unions arose in the late 1800s, as John Stuart Mill suggested, in order to combat a perceived exploitation of workers. “Collective bargaining” between workers (the “collective” side) and their opponents, the owners, became popular and continues to exist today. It was the method of collective bargaining in the late 1900s that helped enable American baseball players to increase their salaries to astronomical levels. Collective bargaining usually works like this: raise our salaries or the workers will go on strike. Several times baseball players made good on their threat, and went out on strike. Brutal strikes by auto workers in Detroit in the 1970s for higher wages had a huge effect on the competitiveness of the auto industry there.

Other so-called reforms in the late 1800s included “free” public education in Western Europe, Japan and the United States; rehabilitation for prisoners; and child labor laws to control working conditions for children. Earlier the abolition movement, which was motivated mostly by Christianity rather than by non-Christian reform movements, wiped out slavery and slave trade in much of the world by 1888.

In 1848, women suffragettes (supporters of the right to vote for women) met in Seneca Falls, New York, where they issued their own version of the Declaration of Independence called the “Declaration of Sentiments.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott of the United States and the British Emmeline Pankhurst protested for suffrage. Britain and the United States gave the right to vote to all women shortly after World War I.

Growth in Democracy

The industrial revolution led to the growth of cities, which in turn led to demands for greater amounts of democracy or “suffrage” (rights to vote). In England the right to vote was limited to those who owned property until Parliament reduced these restrictions with the Reform Bill of 1832. That reform also eliminated “rotten boroughs,” in which relatively few residents had the power to elect a representative with the same vote as much bigger districts. Parliament then redistricted the cities to reflect their growing populations.

By 1838 the Chartist movement demanded that Parliament extend suffrage to all men based on the secret ballot. The Chartist movement also sought annual elections for Parliament, salaries for its members (so that the middle class could afford to serve), and the elimination of property requirements as a condition for belonging to Parliament. But Parliament did not enact these reforms until 1900.

Gradually the power of the monarchy in England was reduced to that of figurehead, which is all it is today. Parliament increased in power, and much of that power went to the elected lower house (the House of Commons) rather than the upper, unelected House of Lords.

Democracy came much later to other European countries. The great potato famine of the 1840s killed many in Ireland and caused many more to immigrate to the United States. But Ireland was ruled by Britain then, and would not obtain any substantial level of self-government until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. Many in Ireland and many Americans of Irish descent blame British leaders for allowing that horrific potato famine to happen, and without home rule there was little the Irish people could do to stop it.

Canada achieved effective independence (as a Dominion within the British Empire)in 1867, and even then it remained within the British empire (Newfoundland remained a British territory and did not join Canada until 1949). Australia, which was settled by prisoners from England, did not obtain self-rule for its separate colonies until the 1850s; it obtained independence as a united Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. New Zealand also won self-rule in the 1850s and Dominion status (effective independence) in 1907. In France its Third Republic ruled from 1875 until the German Occupation in 1940.

Technology and Science

Capitalism unleashed a burst of creative activity in science and technology. Beginning in the 1870s, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, motion pictures and, even though he was mostly deaf, the phonograph. In 1895 Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio. Henry Ford perfected the assembly line and manufactured the first automobiles in the early 1900s. Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the first gasoline-powered airplane in 1903.

Scientific and mathematical discoveries were equally marvelous. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), the greatest experimental scientist who ever lived, discovered how to kill bacteria in milk and in all liquids through pasteurization. He also developed a rabies vaccine, first using it in response to a mother who begged him to save her young son, who had been just bitten by a rabid animal. Pasteur did save her son’s life with his new vaccine. Perhaps greatest of all was Pasteur’s discovery of the germ theory of disease, which more than anything has reduced illness and the spread of disease. Pasteur explained that diseases are transmitted through germs. Had people known this when the Black Death (bubonic plague) hit the world, far fewer would have died.

Pasteur was a devout Christian, and did not see any conflict between science and Christianity, remarking that “science brings men nearer to God.” Pasteur experienced many hardships throughout his life, including the death of three of his five children to childhood diseases, but these hardships only served to strengthen his faith and his determination to find cures. Through it all Pasteur gave God the glory, stating that “the more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.”

Another devout Christian was the brilliant mathematician Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866), who was perhaps second only to the Greek Archimedes as the greatest mathematician of all time. When Riemann was sent as a teenager to an advanced German school, he quickly became bored with his math class. He went to the principal and requested more advanced material, whereupon the principal gave him the lengthy and most advanced math book known. Riemann returned in a just few days declaring, “I have mastered it!” He went on to create a new type of geometry that became useful in the next century, and he formulated the most famous unsolved hypothesis that remains in mathematics today.

Marie Curie, a brilliant female Polish scientist who moved to Paris, discovered radioactivity along with her less talented husband Pierre. Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, put together the periodic table of elements that is still taught today. British physician Joseph Lister applied Pasteur’s germ theory of disease and implemented an antibacterial cleaning technique for hospital tools and facilities, greatly reducing the number of infections.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “imperialism” as “the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas.” www.m-w.com . More simply, imperialism is one nation trying to control another nation or people. Examples include Spanish imperialism towards Mexico and perhaps American imperialism towards the Philippines.

The motivations for imperialism were obvious: power and money. Every ruler dreams of an empire, and imperialism meant more territory to wield power over. Every ruler wants to be like Caesar or Napoleon. There were financial incentives for imperialism also. Industrial Europe needed raw materials to use in manufacturing, and also wanted customers to sell their finished products to. Colonies gave the mother countries both the raw materials at the beginning of the industrial process and new markets for selling the products at the end of the process.

In general, there were four patterns that Europeans used in their imperialism:

1. Establish colonies, like the British colonies in America, whereby the European power had direct influence or control over the colonies.

2. Establish protectorates, whereby the region has its own government and is an independent country, but is protected by a larger country. Puerto Rico and Guam today would be an example of that, as they are protected by the United States.

3. An even less direct form of imperialism was “spheres of influence,” in which the European country had special trading privileges over the region.

4. Finally, there was “economic imperialism,” whereby the outside influence was exerted not by a country but by a private business over a region.


Perhaps the roots of European imperialism date back as early as 1492, when Columbus discovered the New World and Spain soon sent conquistadors. But in the 1800s European imperialism began to focus in particular on Africa, for the following reasons.

The invention of the steam engine encouraged Europeans to explore the interior of the African continent, and cables and railroads facilitated communications and transportation as well.

Africa was an easy and attractive target for the Europeans. It was easy because Europeans had better weapons and could easily defeat African tribes, who were divided among themselves. The many different ethnic groups and languages spoken in Africa also made it difficult for the continent to unify and defend itself. Meanwhile, Africa was attractive because it had a profitable slave trade, and the rivalries created by the slave trade made it easier for European countries to divide and conquer.

Malaria was historically a problem in Africa (and still is today), but the antidote “quinine” was discovered that immunized Europeans against contracting it.

Aided by all of the above, the Scotsman explorer and missionary David Livingston explored central Africa in the late 1860s. He was searching for the source of the mighty Nile River. Because the Nile is unusual in flowing south-to-north, its source could only be in central Africa in the vicinity of the Congo.

But Livingstone was gone for years without any communication. A news reporter from America, Henry Stanley, decided to travel to Africa to look for him. Upon finding a stranger who stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of central Africa, Stanley uttered the famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Indeed, Stanley had found Livingstone alive and well, and Stanley later returned to Africa to sign treaties with chiefs near the Congo River. Belgium King Leopold II used these treaties to gain control for himself (not Belgium) over the region.

Leopold II exploited the region for personal profit, building large rubber plantations for the natives to work on. This destroyed the farming community and compelled the workers to toil for unreasonably low wages. The working conditions on these plantations were very harsh. Eventually an international outcry caused the Belgian government to take over the region, and rename it the Belgian Congo. But this also increased competition among European powers for African colonies.

France was another European power competing for control of the Congo, which contained valuable copper and tin deposits. Further to the south, in what is South Africa today, there were even richer gold and silver deposits. The European powers saw much wealth in Africa in the form of minerals and wanted this for themselves. They also wanted plantations that could produce rubber, palm oil and even cocoa (chocolate) for the European factories.

To minimize armed conflict the Europeans held the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885 to divide Africa among themselves, without regard to what the tribes of Africa wanted. Ethnic and cultural differences within Africa were also ignored, and lines of demarcation were arbitrarily drawn for the sole benefit of the European nations. All of Africa except for Ethiopia (which successfullly resisted Italian control in 1896) and Liberia were divided and taken by European nations.

One of Africa’s biggest and wealthiest countries today is South Africa, located on the southern tip of the continent. It has a very advantageous location for trade routes by sea from Western Europe to India and the Far East. As a result, there was far more immigration by Europeans to South Africa than any other region of Africa, and whites of European ancestry completely ruled South Africa until the late 1900s. Since then, democracy has brought representative government to the African ethnic groups. The World Cup (soccer) will be played in 2010 in South Africa, the first time it has ever been held in Africa.

The Dutch (or Boers) were the first to establish a European settlement in southern Africa, at Cape Colony on the very southern tip in 1652. This port supplied ships on the way to the Indian Ocean. The Dutch exploited the labor of African slaves and set up farming communities that displaced the native Africans. In the 1800s the British arrived and took over Cape Colony, and disfavored the continuation of the Dutch slavery system. The Dutch then moved inland, further north, in what is called the Great Trek. This created further conflict with the native Africans.

In the late 1800s, an African ethnic group known as the Zulus rose to power in southern Africa, led by a military African genius named Shaka. But his successors could not retain power. By 1887 the British, with better military technology, defeated the Zulus.

The Boer War broke out between the British and the Boers in 1899. The dispute was sparked by disagreements over land, access to diamonds and gold discovered in South Africa, and whether immigrants should have political rights. The British won this brutal war, and in 1902 established the Union of South Africa to include all the Boers republics. This country was controlled by the British but enjoyed some self-rule.

European imperialism on the African continent had both good and bad effects. On the good side, the Europeans brought advances in technology, built hospitals, and improved the infrastructure, such as railroads, telephones, telegraphs, sanitation and other public works. This improved trade and communications, and reduced disease. Europeans also built schools, but used them to teach European language and culture rather than respecting local traditions. Literacy did improve as a result, however. On the bad side, the Europeans displaced Africans from their individual farms and shifted them into working for European businesses. Africans lost control of their land and saw a reduction in their own food crops. Europeans also completely disrupted African cultural groups and village life, resulting in arbitrary geographical boundaries that continue to cause war and strife to this day.

Ottoman Empire

In the 1800s, the powerful Europeans and even the Russians took on the Islamic powers, most notably the Ottoman empire.

The Russians were the first in challenging the Ottoman empire in the Russian attempt to gain access to the Mediterranean Sea through the Black Sea. In 1853 the Russians fought the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War. The British and French fought on the side of the Ottomans, however, and they defeated the Russians. But the Russians gained alliances with Slavs in the Balkan area of the Ottoman empire, which weakened further. The Ottoman empire continued to lose territory in the Balkans and northern Africa, and was only a shell of its original power by the beginning of World War I. Western technology had far outpaced Muslim know-how.

Muslims in Egypt, led by Muhammad Ali (not the American boxer!) and his son, Isma’il, arranged for the French to build the Suez Canal to connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The idea of the canal was originally Napoleon’s, but he was mistakenly told that the Red Sea had an elevation too much higher than the Mediterranean Sea to make it work. The canal opened in 1869 and the British became particularly dependent on it to avoid the long trip around the southern tip of Africa. The British took over control of the canal (and Egypt) in 1882, when Egypt failed to repay the debts it incurred to build it.

Britain argued with Russia over dominance in Persia (now Iran). In 1907 they divided that region after there were riots protesting the exporting of tobacco to Britain. When some gold was discovered in Persia in 1908, British influence increased.

China and Japan

China and Japan have always been very different from each other, and are longtime enemies. China has historically been a more philosophical and peaceful country, while Japan has traditionally been nationalistic and militaristic.


China deliberately isolated itself from the West, allowing only one port in southern China to conduct trade with Europe: Guangzhou. But the British learned that the Chinese people (like many people worldwide) became easily addicted to opium, a terrible drug that is illegal today. In the late 1700s the British took advantage of this addiction and began sending massive amounts of opium to China. At one point a Chinese government official wrote a letter to Queen Victoria begging her to stop this. In 1839 the Opium War broke out over this issue, but the British defeated the Chinese and the Treaty of Nanjing gave the British the key port of Hong Kong, which it held until just a few years ago. Another treaty in 1844 gave other western powers, including France, Germany, Russia and even the United States, extraterritorial or foreign rights to four additional ports, along with special exemptions from Chinese law.

The opium drug problem continued and in 1850 a Christian heretic named Hong Xiuquan led the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864) in order to rid the country of opium and establish a “Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.” Declaring himself to be the second son of God and the younger brother of the Messiah, Hong conquered much of southeastern China, but lost it back to the Qing Empire in 1864. Historians estimate that 20 million were left dead from these conflicts, and consider this Rebellion to have been one of the most deadly in all of history.

Chinese leaders then called for a new educational system to prevent a repeat of these conflicts, by training young people not to engage in such rebellions. They also sought a modernization of the Chinese military. The Dowager Empress Cixi (1861-1908) started a modernization program that included gunboats and factory-made weapons. Foreigners operated these factories, and foreign influence increased.

In 1899 the United States, fearing further foreign influence in China, announced the Open Door Policy demanding that China’s ports be open to all foreign traders. European powers agreed and foreign contact increased further in China. A secret Chinese society known as the Boxers rebelled against Beijing, China’s main city, in 1900. The foreign powers joined forces to quash (put down) this Boxer Rebellion.


Japan was one of the imperialistic powers that eventually threatened China. Even though much smaller than China, Japan has a military culture that seemed invincible until the United States dropped two atom bombs on it in August 1945.

But Japan was similar to China in one respect: both were very suspicious of Europeans and both preferred isolation over European influence. In 1543, shipwrecked Portuguese sailors discovered Japan and they were welcomed. In 1549, some Japanese welcomed European Christian missionaries and liked the European technology that they brought to the island. European technology, especially firearms, helped the Tokugawa Shogunate unify Japan in 1603 and establish its capital at Edo (now Tokyo), and that family ruled Japan until 1868. European cannons easily punched through the castle walls of the daimyo or large Japanese landowners. In some areas fortified walls were built, which sheltered communities for artisans, merchants and government bureaucracy.

But by 1637, the spread of Christianity in Japan caused a retaliation and persecution of Christians. Japan then closed its doors to the West and kept only one port, Nagasaki (hit with an atom bomb in 1945), open for merchants from China and the Netherlands.

American Commodore Matthew Perry attempted to break the isolation of Japan by sailing into Edo (Tokyo) harbor in 1853. His trip was successful, causing the Treaty of Kanagawa to be signed in 1854 to allow the United States to use two ports and also to open an embassy. European nations then gained similar access by 1860.

Japan urbanized during the 1700s, causing families to leave farms and begin to work in cities, and some of the Japanese women worked in city jobs for the first time.

The Japanese ultimately revolted against the Tokugawa shogun, which abdicated power in November 1867. The cause was complaints about too much foreign influence. A new emperor Mutsuhito established the Meiji government in the spring of 1868, which lasted until 1912. During this Meiji period feudal lords gave their land back to the emperor, and Mutsuhito industrialized Japan, strengthened its national military, centralized its government and established universal public education. In the late 1800s the Japanese produced coal and built railroads and many factories. By the early 1900s Japan was a world power that could compete militarily and economically with the greatest nations in the world.

Japan first defeated China, which had invaded Korea in 1894. Japan beat the Chinese back, causing them to retreat from Korea and then Japan invaded and conquered Manchuria in the Sino-Japanese War. The peace treaty (signed in 1895) gave the Pescadores Islands and Taiwan to Japan.

Japan felt it was invincible. It next took on Russia and defeated it in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Japan destroyed the Russian fleet and received control of the southern portion of the Chinese Eastern Railway and a lease on the Liaodong Peninsula, including Port Arthur, in its Treaty of Portsmouth with Russia. Russia withdrew from Manchuria and promised to stay out of Korea.

There was even more to Japan’s aggression. It took over Korea and annexed it to Japan in 1910. This alarmed the rest of the world, making everyone wonder if and when Japan would stop expanding. Japan took over Korea’s schools and taught the children in a way that favored Japan. Japan also took over the presses (media) in Korea, thereby controlling what was said. Japan completely dominated Korea. Japan’s land policies favored Japanese settlers. An underground nationalist movement in Korea began to grow, with resentment towards Japan.

The story of Japan can be summed up in one sentence: Japan started out as a target of imperialism and ended up as one of the most imperialistic nations of all.

Latin America

“Latin America” includes all of the Americas south of the United States. Put another way, Latin America consists of the Spanish-speaking countries plus Brazil, which speaks Portuguese.

Prosperity did not come to Latin America when the people won their independence from European powers. Even after successful revolutions, land ownership remained in the control of a very small group of people. Even today, in Mexico almost half of the nation’s wealth is owned by only 10% of its population, and 20% of the people earn too little to pay for a healthy diet. The country as a whole is not poor, it is just that the wealth is poorly distributed.

For hundreds of years, Latin Americans have accepted rule by an elite, and often corrupt, few. The revolutionary leaders ruled as caudillos (dictators). Eventually democracy took root, but a narrow few would still hold power no matter what the outcome of the voting was.

Few Latin American countries developed their own economies and banking after obtaining independence. Instead, they would import goods from the United States and Europe and take on large foreign debt that they would be unable to pay. Latin American countries did begin to export agriculture to the United States and Europe once the refrigerated car was invented in 1882, which kept the food from spoiling. The weather seasons are the opposite in South America from the United States, enabling us to purchase fresh fruit in the wintertime from South American countries such as Chile.

United States President James Monroe ended European imperialism in Latin America with his famous “Monroe Doctrine” in 1823, which demanded that Europe not colonize any more areas in the Western Hemisphere. Britain quickly agreed and the other European countries followed suit. Spain pulled out of its last remaining colonies (Cuba and Puerto Rico) in 1901, when the United States defeated it in the six-week-long Spanish-American War.

Some in Latin America complain about imperialism by the United States there. After the French unsuccessfully attempted in the 1880s to build a canal across the thin isthmus of Panama to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Americans were ready to apply our “can do” determination and innovation to the project. President Teddy Roosevelt rejected a demand by Colombia to sell the land to us, and waited until after Panama won its independence from Colombia. Panama then granted the United States a ten-mile-wide path across its country. The United States completed the Panama Canal in 1914 and it became an instant success for shipping.

Democratic President Jimmy Carter arranged for the United States to agree to give the canal back to Panama, even though Americans paid for its construction, beginning in 1979 and culminating in 1999. President Carter claimed the canal was part of improper imperialism or colonization by the United States in Latin America. In New Jersey, a Republican Senator who favored the give-back treaty was defeated in his own primary for reelection, reflecting enormous public disapproval of the treaty. Today Panama allows communist China to run the canal, making many wonder if the United States would even be able to use it in wartime.

The Monroe Doctrine has an important corollary today, known as the Roosevelt Corollary, announced by the aggressive President Teddy Roosevelt in 1904. Under the Roosevelt Corollary the United States may intervene in and occupy any country in Latin America to protect interests of the United States. Communism remains a threat to the United States in the Latin American countries of Cuba and Venezuela, and very recently the president of Venezuela (Hugo Chavez) called President Bush the “devil” in a speech given before the United Nations. In December 2006, Chavez then won reelection in Venezuela by a 61-38% margin (based on early election returns), and promised more socialism for that country and perhaps others in the region.


In India, the story is of British imperialism followed by Indian nationalism and independence. Beginning as early as the 1600s, the British established trading posts in India. When the Mughal empire weakened in the 1700s, British influence (especially the East India Company) became more influential. By the early 1800s British dominance over the subcontinent was immense. The British imposed rules that limited the internal operations of the Indian economy, and the British decimated the local Indian industry in handmade textiles by flooding the market with cheap manufactured clothing from Britain. A famine resulted when the British displaced many farmers in India through economic changes similar to what happened in Africa, with cash-crop and big business plantation techniques destroying small farms.

When the Civil War broke out in America, and the South expected Britain to intervene on its side in order to protect the production of cotton, Britain turned to Indian cotton instead. Britain also benefited from many other forms of agriculture or raw materials from India: indigo, coffee, tea, jute and even opium (now an illegal drug). The British would profit by selling the opium to the Chinese, which caused addiction and severe problems for China.

To be fair, the British also made many improvements in India, building roads, railroads, hospitals, schools, and improving the overall infrastructure and sanitation. The British also brought Christianity to India, which causes some resentment and had only limited success in converting Indians from Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, all of which remain more popular than Christianity there. But certainly the British improved India immensely.

Demands for independence in India began as early as 1857, when Indian soldiers (“sepoys”) acquired new cartridge-based rifles. Soldiers were instructed to bite off the cartridge seals before loading the cartridges into the rifles and firing them. But then a rumor spread that the cartridges were sealed with beef fat (prohibited by Hinduism) and pork fat (prohibited by Islam). Many were angered by this rumor, and in the Sepoy Rebellion or Sepoy Mutiny, Indians revolted against the British in northern India. The British suppressed it and continued to rule India directly as part of a 200-year period known as the Raj (1757-1947).

There were peaceful calls for independence for India dating back to the early 1800s. Educated leaders such as Ram Mohun Roy sought an end to the caste system and the practice of sati by widows who would throw themselves on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands. The British did prohibit sati and it is debatable how widespread that practice really was. In the late 1800s, a nationalist group called the Indian National Congress formed to demand independence, and in the early 1900s the Muslim League made similar demands.

But all attempts at independence for India failed throughout the 1800s because of religious divisions. The Hindus and Muslims could never agree, and the Sikhs, a military offshoot of the Hindus that resisted Islam, remained loyal to the British.

Southeast Asia

As trade expanded beyond Africa and India to Southeast Asia, so did imperialism. Britain established a trading post and supply station at Singapore, the French acquired influence over Indochina, the Dutch grabbed Indonesia, and the Germans dominated New Guinea, the Marshalls, and the Solomons. The United States even got into this game, as it acquired the Philippines and Hawaiian Islands. The only country that successfully resisted western imperialism was Siam, which is now Thailand. It was respected as a buffer zone between the British colony of Burma and the French colony of Indochina. In a sense that gave Siam the best of both worlds: it enjoyed western advances in technology (hospitals, railroads, communications, etc.) while retaining its own culture.

The story of French imperialism in Southeast Asia is simple: since the 1800s France has dominated several countries, including Vietnam, known as French Indochina. Rubber and rice were the key crops for France, and the harvesting and exporting of these crops caused Vietnamese to resent the French. In the mid-1900s, communists in Vietnam overthrew French influence and forced the United States to pull out of the country also.

The Dutch had influence over Indonesia beginning in the 1600s, enjoying full dominance by the 1800s over this region, calling it the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch harvested rubber and extracted tin and oil from the area. Many Dutch immigrated to the region and worked in trading posts and managed plantations.

The British, meanwhile, took control of the port of Malaysia, Burma and the port of Singapore near the Malay Peninsula. This region had a surplus of rubber, teak and tin. The British attracted many Chinese immigrants to this region, who eventually outnumbered the native Malay people and conflict with them to this day.

The United States engaged in some imperialism of its own around 1900 in acquiring the Philippines (and also Puerto Rico and Guam) from Spain as a result of the Spanish-American War. Separately, the United States also picked up Hawaii (also spelled as Hawai’i), even making it a state after World War II.

In 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo led an intense rebellion against the United States in order to establish independence for the Philippines (the “Filipinos”). The insurgents were brutal and unrelenting in their tactics and the American commanders concluded that they simply had to kill them all to suppress the rebellion, which the Americans did, causing some criticism back in the United States. But the Philippines are probably a free and Christian nation today as a result of that decision not to let the insurgents take control of it.

American businesses did exploit the Philippines, displacing farms with large sugar plantations. But Americans also vastly improved the island. Decades later the United States granted the Philippines its full independence.

American businesses also set up sugar plantations in Hawaii. They demanded that Hawaii be annexed to the United States so that the businesses could avoid paying high tariffs on sugar imports. In 1893 Queen Liliuokalani, a native Hawaiian, attempted to increase the political power of herself and the natives at the expense of the Americans on the island, but the American businesses overthrew her and in 1898 Hawaii was annexed to the United States as a territory. It became our 50th state in 1959. An interesting bit of trivia is that one spot in Hawaii has the most rainfall in the entire United States (460 inches of rain per year, or an average of more than one inch of rain per day).

Early Modern Period

We now enter the Modern era in world history: from 1900 to today. In this lecture we will cover from 1900 to World War I.

Rivalries in Europe

The relationship among European nations was strained and tense at the turn of the 20th century (1900). They had much to disagree about. The imperialism cause conflicts to arise. Economic competition intensified, and the quest for raw materials like gold, oil and agriculture heightened the tension.

Nationalism increased, whereby the countries of Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russian, France and Italy began to feel pride in themselves and dislike for the others. The balance of power that was set up after Napoleon was no longer effective. It seemed inevitable that a future Napoleon-like dictator would try to rule the world again.

Nations built up massive militaries, and bragged about them. Germany sought to have the largest navy to compete with Britain’s claim that it had the best navy. Rulers found it popular to have a huge standing army that could be mobilized at any time.

In sum, there were three causes of increased rivalries among European nations: nationalism, militarism and imperialism. Remember those three causes of problems.

The Problem with Alliances

You may recall that European nations entered into many alliances beginning as early as the fall of Napoleon (the “Concert of Europe” established at the Congress of Vienna).

But later suspicions caused new alliances, some of them secret. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck entered into the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary in 1879 as a way of protecting those countries against possible aggression by France. Italy joined this alliance against France in 1882, making it the Triple Alliance.

Bismarck was a very skilled statesman and diplomat, and was one of the most influential in European history. He is credited with unifying Germany as a nation in the 1860s (ironically, while the United States was torn by the Civil War). Bismarck even arranged for wars against Denmark, then Austria and finally France to help unify the Germans. Unified as a nation in 1871, Germany made Bismarck its first Chancellor, whereupon he consolidated Germany’s power in Europe by entering into the above alliances with other countries. He was eventually forced to resign in 1890 after having a policy dispute with Wilhelm II, who as the “Kaiser” or Caesar of Germany wanted more power for himself.

Kaiser Wilhelm II immediately ended Germany’s alliance with Russia, causing it to form an alliance with France in 1891. In 1907 Great Britain, feeling threatened by Germany’s growing navy, joined France and Russia in their alliance, or entente, and this became the Triple Entente. Britain was not expressly required to defend France and Russia, but it promised not to fight against them.

Therefore one powerful group of three nations (Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary), known as the Triple Alliance, stood against another powerful group of three nations (Britain, France and Russia), known as the Triple Entente. It was like one football team standing on a field opposite another football team, with both teams fully suited up. It doesn’t take much for someone to shout, “let’s play,” and the battle will begin.

World War I Begins

Within ten years of the formation of those alliances, something did ignite a war. And what a devastating war it was. Never before in the history of the world was a war fought in such a deadly manner. With Christians on both sides, one might wonder how this could have happened. But this was long past the feudal times when fighting stopped on every Christian holiday. By 1914, leaders in both Germany on one side and Britain on the other had embraced concepts of survival-of-the-fittest, and many educated people felt that war was an essential part of the improvement of the human race. Let the stronger race win, according to this theory.

What Ignited the War

The Balkans in Eastern Europe was where the war began. The Ottoman empire had declined, leaving a power vacuum that European nations tried to fill. The Slavs in Serbia, with Russian support, wanted to unite all the Slavs in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary, which has a very small Slavic population, opposed this. Instead, Austria-Hungary wanted to control the Balkans rather than Russia.

In 1908, Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia (and Herzogovina), a region adjacent to its southeast (and east of Italy across the Adriatic Sea). But Bosnia was mostly Slavic while Austria was not, and this greatly angered the Slavic Serbia, which wanted to take Bosnia back. Why did Austria act at this particular time? Because there was a rebellion by the Committee of Union and Progress (the so-called “Young Turks”) that overthrew the Ottoman government at that time, and the foreign minister Baron Aloys von Aerenthal saw a rare opportunity to act. Russia, which was Austria’s main adversary, was weakened by its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and by an internal revolution in 1905. In January 1909, the chief of staff of the Austrian army approached his German counterpart and asked what Germany would do if Austria next invaded Serbia and caused Russia to intervene on behalf of Serbia. Despite the original defensive nature of the Austria-German alliance, the Germany army officer said Germany would back Austria and Germany would also invade France because it was Russia’s ally. This happened in the summer of 1914, as the struggle in the Balkans exploded into the First World War.

The War ignited on June 28, 1914, when the heir to the Austrian throne (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) was visiting the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo along with his wife Sophie. It was an official visit, not a vacation, and crowds gathered to greet the couple. But a 19-year-old member of a youthful Bosnian resistance movement devoted to self-rule, Gavrilo Princip, shot the couple to death as they rode in an open automobile through the streets of Sarajevo. The killer was part of a large conspiracy and a bit earlier that day another member of the conspiracy had thrown a hand grenade at the Archduke. Princip was quickly captured and imprisoned, where he died of pneumonia a few years later.

Austria was obviously furious about the assassination and, with Germany’s support, demanded that Serbia end all resistance to Austria. Serbia agreed to some of the demands and offered to submit other demands to arbitration (decision) by an impartial international panel. But Austria would not wait and on July 28, 1914, it declared war against Serbia. Russian responded by mobilizing its army towards Austria and Germany.

This triggered the alliances. Germany responded to Russia’s mobilization of troops by declaring war on Russia four days later (on August 1st) and then Germany declared war on France another two days later (on August 3rd). Germany decided to invade and defeat France first before it had to fight Russia, and thereby avoid fighting a war on two fronts at the same time. This was the Schlieffen Plan to avoid a two-front war.

But Belgium, which was neutral, would not allow Germany to pass through its borders to invade France. So Germany invaded and defeated Belgium. Britain had a relationship with Belgium and Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914.

In a mere week a small dispute between Austria and Serbia over an assassination escalated into a world war between Britain, France and Russia (Allied Powers) and Germany and Austria-Hungary (Central Powers). Italy left the German side when it invaded the neutral Belgium, and Italy eventually joined the Allied Powers along with Japan. The Ottoman empire and Bulgaria eventually joined the Central Powers.

Initial Stages of the War

The fighting in the “Great War,” as it was called then (it is now called World War I), was savage and brutal. Army casualties totaled more than 37 million people, and there were another 10 million in civilian deaths. For weeks armies would be in trenches opposite each other, spending day after day trying to kill their opponents in the opposite trench. This was known as trench warfare. Movement of ten or twenty feet in advance of a trench was a big success. Barbed wire marked off an area known as “no man’s land” between the two trenches, where any visitor would be shot on sight. Also, a deadly flu virus spread among the soldiers and infected the world, killing a huge number.

At the end of the war the peace agreement caused another great war to occur (World War II). So this World War I was bad news all around. In terms of military strategy, it is not terribly interesting either. The first year and a half (1914-15) is known as “Entrenchment”. The next year, 1916, is known as “Continued Stalemate”. Get the idea? The following year, 1917, is known for the entrance by the United States and the withdrawal by Russia due to its communist revolution. In 1918 more nations withdrew, and the major remaining nations of Britain, France, Germany and the United States ended the war with an armistice in November of that year.

In detail, the first year of the war finished with terrible casualties but no knock-out punches. France won a key initial Battle of the Marne, and that forced Germany to fight on two fronts after all. But while the Allied Powers were holding their own on the Western Front, Russia was losing on the Eastern Front. Russia was not as industrialized as the West and its military was inferior, but Russians were tenacious in battle.

The Colonies

Britain drew upon its colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to supply a failed Gallipoli campaign, which attempted to forge a supply line to Russia by capturing the Dardanelles. Instead, these three colonies suffered heavy losses that left them bitter about Britain, and desirous of independence from the British empire.

However, Britain was successful in enlisting troops from the colonies of Egypt, India, Australia and New Zealand to defeat the weakened Ottomans. An Arab revolt against the Turks (German allies) was led by a British soldier named T. E. (Thomas Edward) Lawrence, known as “Lawrence of Arabia.” His guerrilla warfare campaign against the Turks kept large numbers of troops tied up trying to suppress it, and it helped the British capture Aqaba and Damascus. Meanwhile, the Indian Mohandas Gandhi encouraged support of the British in the war as a way of building good will towards the Indian cause for independence. French colonies also lent support.

The German colonies could not help the Germans, because these colonies were captured by Allied Powers.