World History Lecture Ten

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This lecture focuses on the 19th century (1800s); next class we begin studying the 20th century.

The 19th century saw a great increase in wealth in Western Europe due to the Industrial Revolution. This century also had a rise in nationalism and imperialism. During this time there were advances in mathematical and scientific knowledge, such as James Clerk Maxwell (British physicist), Louis Pasteur (French chemist) and Bernhard Riemann (German mathematician).

The Industrial Revolution

In the 1700s England and France were already nations. In England there began a powerful “industrial revolution” that transformed its society from an agrarian economy (based mostly on farming) into an economy powered by manufacturing and industry. England, which had the strongest economy in the world, was the first to undergo an industrial revolution, although some historians cite the iron industry in China under the Song dynasty and the textile industry in India as forerunners to the English Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution started in England around 1760. Then, aided by the economic insights of Adam Smith, England’s economy continued to transform, grow and expand until 1840.

A new form of literature also rose during this time, called "Realism". These stories told the dark side of the Industrial Revolution: the overcrowded, filthy conditions in which workers struggled. Many of Charles Dickens' classics, such as David Copperfield, belong to this genre of literature, portraying the plight of the poor in 19th century England.

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 cotton from the South in the United States, where it was picked and separated into fibers by slaves on plantations. The process of separating the good cotton from sticky seeds was difficult and time consuming when done my hand. 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; India is famous for its brightly colored fabrics, and it exported 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 during the Civil War; the South mistakenly thought that England would be economically forced to help the South, when actually England had other good sources of cotton, such as India.)

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 also emerged as a powerful form of transportation.

The United States, particularly in the North, industrialized its economy almost as quickly as England had, although the real manufacturing power of the United States did not emerge until after it resolved its internal conflicts with the Civil War.

The industrial revolution spread from England to continental Europe, beginning with Belgium in the early 1800s and then France and Germany. 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 Islamic Egypt, modernization was attempted by the 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 government-planned industrialization resulted in a large debt to Western 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 industrialize successfully. 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: technology and culture. In technology, the Industrial Revolution began using iron and steel as basic resources, and developed 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 then 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. Increased 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 took advantage of “economies of scale,” which is when something can be done 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.

Leader of the Luddites

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 embrace 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. People felt more confident 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 also make weapons) as the source of power.

If you were a businessman or investor, then you loved the Industrial Revolution because it enabled you to make money without being a farmer, and gave you access to all sorts of goods and products that might not otherwise be available. 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 many hours spent commuting to and from jobs each week, and traveling to distant cities, away from the family.

There was a movement against the Industrial Revolution in England, called the “Luddites”. They even rioted against it, destroying machinery that they opposed (see image above). Today the term “Luddite” is used to refer to someone who resists using new technology, such as the internet.

The Effects of the Industrial Revolution

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

Initially there were negative effects. Poor working conditions existed for factory workers: factories were dirty and dangerous places to work, 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, which was composed of shopkeepers, factory owners, civil servants and merchants, grew immensely.

However, some problems arose. Child labor increased and many families lived in crowded “tenements”, or apartments, which were unsanitary and sometimes tragically 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. Air pollution from the factories was terrible in some areas, such as London. Authors such as Charles Dickens in England and Victor Hugo in France wrote about the negative effects of industrialization. In the United States, 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 felt (and still feel) that churches and charity, not the government, care best 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 should produce good works. 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 in 1848. In 1863, the Red Cross society was founded in Switzerland by Jean Henri Dunant, and an American Red Cross was subsequently founded by Clara Barton. 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, became enormously popular 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 or heavily influence other people in another land. 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.

That is how imperialism is usually described. But there is a more supportive view. Imperialism can be described as a powerful nation trying to make things better for an underdeveloped region, by building hospitals and churches and distributing food, the Bible, and ideas that promote success. The British colonization of America was imperialistic, but not all bad. In fact, many would say that the British colonies brought much that was good to America, and that we are still benefiting from it today. We will discuss imperialism again in more detail later in this lecture.

Prior to the 1800s, strongly independent nations had not yet arisen in continental Europe (Europe other than Britain). The Holy Roman Empire held much power until the Reformation in the 1500s, and even afterward. 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 the German territories for several centuries (until 1806), as Holy Roman Emperors, and also served 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, forming the "Second French Empire" and leading it for nearly twenty years. (The "First French Empire" was under the first and greatest Napoleon.)

Otto von Bismarck provokes the Franco-Prussian War

Otto von Bismarck, a convert to Christianity from atheism, was one of the most brilliant political figures in all of history. After wasting most of his youth, he eventually married and became quite religious. He rose to power in one of the larger Germanic states, Prussia, prior to the formation of the nation of Germany. Otto von Bismarck invented the concept of "realpolitik", an approach that emphasized practical politics rather than philosophy (this is discussed again below under "Germany").

An example of Bismarck's brilliant ruthlessness was how he enticed France to declare war on Prussia, such that France appeared to be the aggressor. This caused other Germanic states to rush to the aid of Prussia. Bismarck knew that he could defeat France and, because of the unifying effect of the war on the Germanic states, Bismarck could then establish a new nation of Germany.

Napoleon III fell for the bait, and the war began. Prussia and its Germanic allies defeated Napoleon III in a mere six weeks (in 1871), and shipped Napoleon III off to exile in England. Bismarck then formed the new nation of Germany and Bismarck became its first "Chancellor" (nicknamed the "Iron Chancellor"). 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 beginning in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s felt a racial superiority and sought conquest (survival-of-the-fittest) to force other races into submission.

Laissez-faire, or Regulation?

The “laissez-faire” economists 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 planning or regulation could.

Classical Economics

Inspired by Adam Smith, classical economics is the economic theory emphasizing self-interest along with the operation of basic economic principles. For example, classical economics predicts full employment if the government does not interfere by requiring minimum wage laws or other imposing 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. We next describe several of the more important “classical economists.”

David Ricardo (1772-1823), was a pessimistic British economist most famous for developing the theory of “comparative advantage” to support more trade between nations. He explained that it might be advantageous for England to produce cloth and Portugal to produce wine, and to trade to obtain what each lacks, even though Portugal might have produced both wine and cloth at a lower cost than England could. This would be true, for example, if Portugal is particularly good at producing wine, perhaps because of its climate or expertise; Portugal and England would be better off if Portugal spent all its time and money producing wine for both nations. (This insight is similar to the concept of “do what you do best”).

Unfortunately, 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 to argue for government control and 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,” because Malthus felt that the failure and collapse of the economy are inevitable. Malthus insisted that population increases by the geometric ratio but that the means of subsistence increases by only the arithmetic ratio, and thus population would outgrow the food supply and many would 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” 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.

Mill 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.[1] In another book On Liberty, Mill advocated that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised[2] community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others,” which is also contrary to most Christian views.


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.

This led to the notion of “socialism” for everyone, not just self-contained communities. 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.


Two German thinkers, 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.


An Englishman, Charles Darwin (1809-1882), developed the theory of evolution. Darwin’s own family considered him to be a disgrace before he devised his theory. His father wanted him to become a doctor (Charles failed at that). Then his father sought for Charles to become an Anglican parson (pastor), but Darwin abandoned Christianity. He was unable to 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 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 never found any transitional forms (fossils reflecting evolution between species), and he said his theory would fail if no transitional forms were found. None has 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! Darwin’s theory conflicts with the Flood, with the fact that all mutations are harmful, with the fact that species have been going extinct rather than being generated, and with the fact that everything tends to become more disordered and scattered over time. Darwin’s theory is based only on functionality, without any recognition of artistic design in the world, as displayed by colorful autumn foliage and many other beautiful aspects of nature.

But fraud and politics helped promote the theory of evolution in the early 1900s. The Piltdown Man was a fake fossil combination that was falsely taught in public schools for 40 years as the "missing link" between man and apes. England promoted the theory of evolution because Darwin was English, and is even buried next to Isaac Newton. Germany also promoted the theory, and the Darwinists engaged in racial cleansing and experimentation to “perfect” the Aryan race under Adolf Hitler.

The link between Darwinism, atheism and politics grew strong in the late 1800s. 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 form 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.

England was the strongest nation in the world at the time of Darwin, but its embrace of evolution, atheism and socialism weakened it dramatically. The United States, where most reject Darwinism, rose from being a relatively weak country at the time of Darwin to become by far the strongest nation in the world 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. Collective bargaining usually works like this: the workers demand a raise in their salaries, or the workers will go on strike. Collective bargaining by auto workers in Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s, demanding higher wages, had a crippling effect on the American auto industry.

The abolition movement, which was motivated mostly by Christianity, wiped out slavery and slave trade in much of the world by 1888.

Other social reforms in the late 1800s included “free” public education in Western Europe, Japan and the United States (it is doubtful that public schools qualify as a “reform”); rehabilitation for prisoners; and child labor laws to control working conditions for children.

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.

Home Rule

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 having the same vote as representatives of much bigger districts. The British Parliament then redistricted the cities to reflect their growing populations.

By 1838 the Chartist movement demanded that Parliament extend suffrage to all men, with use of 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 a figurehead, which is all it is today. The power of the British Parliament increased, and much of that power went to the elected lower house (the House of Commons) rather than to the upper, unelected House of Lords.

In what is Ireland today, the great potato famine of the 1840s killed many and caused massive immigration to the United States. The Irish did 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 (self-government) there was little the Irish people could do to stop it.

Canada achieved effective independence (as a Dominion within the British Empire) in 1867, but remained within the British empire (Newfoundland was a British territory and did not join Canada until 1949). Australia, which was originally settled by prisoners from England, did not obtain home rule for its separate colonies until the 1850s; it obtained independence as a united Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. New Zealand also won home rule in the 1850s and Dominion status (effective independence) in 1907.

In France, its Third Republic ruled from 1870 until the German Occupation in 1940.

Technology and Science

Capitalism and freedom 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, while Nikola Tesla patented a wireless radio transmitter.[3] 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 then saved her son’s life with his new vaccine. (After Pasteur died, the boy later served as a watchman for Pasteur’s tomb.) 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.” Pasteur felt that if he could know everything, then he could attain the invincible faith of peasant women in northwest France: “Could I but know all I would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman!”

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 20th century, and he formulated the most famous unsolved hypothesis that remains in mathematics today.

The devout Christian James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was a Scottish[4] physicist who advanced the fields of electricity and magnetism, also known as electromagnetism. His insights, published as A Treatise on Electricity & Magnetism, became known as the four "Maxwell's Equations" and are taught to advanced high school and college students today as the basic laws of electromagnetism.

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.


Nationalism was a concept that began in the early 1800s, after Romanticism laid the cultural groundwork.[5] 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, where only loose connections had existed before (recall that Germany and Italy became nations much later than France and England).

The Congress of Vienna had left the independent city-states of Italy under Austrian control in the north and under Spanish control in the south, and had established Germany as a weak confederation of 39 states. But nationalism in the 19th century (1800s) changed all this.


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; the rulers of the various Italian 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 named 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 army (composed entirely of volunteers) 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 to the union 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 parliament and a “Customs Union,” which resembled a national market system. King Wilhelm I of Prussia selected Otto von Bismarck to be Prime Minister in 1862. Fiercely patriotic to his native Prussia, Bismarck believed in “Realpolitik” (translation: “reality politics”) and sought to unify Germany under Prussian control. He believed the only way this could be done was by creating a war with a foreign adversary, which would have the effect of unifying the German people against the common enemy.

Bismarck’s motto by which he waged this war was “by blood and iron.” Lacking Parliament’s approval, Bismarck forced the northern states to join the Northern German Confederation. When the southern states would not also join, Bismarck tricked France into declaring the Franco-Prussian War, which Prussia won. This accomplished Bismarck’s goal of creating southern Germany, which was now willing to accept Prussian rule. Then, in 1871, the North and South were united into the new German Empire, the “Second Reich,” and Wilhelm was made “kaiser” (A German word for “Caesar” or emperor, used primarily between 1871 to 1918). Hence Germany became a nation.


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.”[6] 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 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 had its own government and was an independent country, but was 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 for defeating 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 within Africa 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 discovery of quinine, which can be used for both the prevention of and treatment of malaria, made European activity in Africa possible.

Aided by all of the above, the Scotsman explorer and missionary David Livingstone 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 white stranger 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.

Belgium King Leopold II exploited this region of Africa 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 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 successfully resisted Italian control in 1896) and Liberia were divided and taken by European nations.

The nation of South Africa has valuable minerals and an 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, when democracy brought representative government to the African ethnic groups. Since then violence has plagued this country, and many educated citizens have left it.

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 improved, and Christianity flourished. 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 and his son Isma’il (both discussed above), 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 1997. 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 Taiping 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.

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 (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 (later destroyed 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 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, who 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 obtained 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.

Japan took over Korea and annexed it 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. Many Koreans and Chinese are resentful of Japan to this day.

So Japan was initially a target of imperialism but eventually 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 in Central and South America, 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. Almost half of the wealth in Mexico 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, but 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 (military 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 (like grapes) 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 additional areas in the Western Hemisphere. Britain quickly agreed and the other European countries stopped new colonization also, while keeping some existing colonies. 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 in the 1970s, even though Americans paid for its construction. 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.

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 in 2006 the president of Venezuela (Hugo Chavez) called President Bush the “devil” in a speech given before the United Nations.

British India

British India in the 1800s

In India, the story is 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 (founded in 1526) weakened in the early 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 imported additional materials from India: indigo, coffee, tea, jute and even opium (now an illegal drug).

To be fair, the British also brought immense improvements in India, building roads, railroads, hospitals, schools, and improving the overall infrastructure and sanitation. The British also encouraged Christian missionaries in India, although they had only limited success in converting Indians from Hinduism and Islam, both of which remain more popular than Christianity there. The British also brought the English language to India, where it is spoken widely today. Britain conferred enormous benefits on India, and there is a friendly relationship between the two countries to this day, including sporting games of cricket.

Christianity predates the British Empire in India by a long way. The Oriental Orthodox religion was established in Kerala, a state in southwest India, very early in the history of Christianity, by Thomas the Apostle ("Doubting Thomas"). The Portuguese, who established trading posts in western India in the 15th Century, introduced Roman Catholicism. Nowadays, about 5% of Indians are Christian, mostly in the southern states, and the majority of these are Catholic. Christianity continues to be the most common religion in Kerala. Outside Kerala, most Christians belong to the poorest, most downtrodden castes, but some have achieved distinction as politicians, academics and sportsmen. Christianity runs many hospitals and schools in India, especially in the South, second only to the Gandhian movement.

British rule in India lasted for a 200-year period known as the Raj (1757-1947). Inevitable 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.

There were peaceful calls for independence for India dating back from 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 whether the practice was ever widespread. In the late 1800s, the nationalist Indian National Congress demanded independence; so did the Muslim League in the early 1900s.

But all attempts at independence for India failed throughout the 1800s due to religious divisions. The Hindus and Muslims could never agree, and the Sikhs, a military offshoot of the Hindus that used force to resist Islam, remained loyal to the British. Not until after World War II did India obtain independence.

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 was imperialistic by acquiring 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. That gave Siam (Thailand) the best of both worlds: western technology (hospitals, railroads, communications, etc.) without losing 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 there to work in trading posts and manage 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.

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 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. The businesses overthrew Queen Liliuokalani, a native Hawaiian, and in 1898 Hawaii was annexed to the United States as a territory. It became our 50th state in 1959. A spot in Hawaii has the most rainfall in the entire United States (averaging more than one inch of rainfall every day).


  1. John Stuart Mill admitted that he was in love with a woman who was married to another man, and that this influenced his departure from Christian morality.
  2. Note that the British spelling is "civilised", while the American spelling of the word is "civilized".
  3. But in 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Marconi's patent and held in favor of Nikola Tesla, who claimed he first developed radio technology.[1]
  4. Recall how Scottish people like to draw a distinction between them and the English, even though both are British.
  5. Romanticism was an artistic and literary style in the late 1700s that emphasized emotion and upheaval.