Growth of Imperialism in 19th Century:
The following factors were responsible for the growth of imperialism in the nineteenth century.
(1) The Industrial Revolution- It resulted in the manufacture of machine-made surplus goods in all the industrially advanced countries of Europe. This forced the industrialists to explore new markets for the sale of their goods. For the safeguard of their invested capital, the capitalists urged their respective governments to establish their colonies in foreign lands. It gave an indirect impetus for the growth of imperialism.
(2) Improvement in Transportation and Communication- New means of transport and communication gave impetus to the imperial countries of Europe to establish their colonies in other countries. Steamships could carry goods between home countries in Europe and the acquired territories in Asia and Africa much faster than old sailing, vessels. With cheap labour, imperialist countries built railroads and inland waterways in conquered areas. On these, they could get raw materials out of the interior of the continents and send their manufactured products into new markets.
(3) Extreme Nationalism- In the latter half of the nineteenth-century nationalism changed itself into extreme nationalism. The sentiments of extreme nationalism provoked some German nationalists and writers to raise the slogan of Imperialism, and as such the other countries also followed them. European countries took great pride in calling their territories Empires. Many nations developed myths of their superiority over other peoples. Each one felt that it, too, must have colonies to add to its prestige and power. Imperialism became the fashion of the age. Writers and speakers in England, France and Germany opened institutions to promote the idea of imperialism and took great pride in calling their territories, empires.
Imperialist countries took over some places in Asia and Africa because of their military or strategic importance. For example- England needed Port of Said, Aden, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cyprus- not to protect England but to protect her conquered lands and trade routes to India from rival nations. At these places, she established naval bases and coaling stations to strengthen her overseas power. Rival nations got similar bases elsewhere acquiring a colony also had a chain reaction. If a country needed a colony, it needed another to protect it and so on.
Overseas possessions were also useful because they added to an imperialist country’s manpower. Some of the people of the colonized countries were taken into the army, often by force, for use in wars of conquest. Others were contracted to work on plantations and mines in some other colonial possession for a specified number of years. The manpower of the colonies was also used in the administration of the colonies at lower levels.
(4) Influence of Civilizing Missions- Some prominent writers of Europe like Jules Ferry of France and Rudyard Kipling of England preached that the so-called superior races of Europe were morally bound for civilizing the inferior races of Africa and Asia. Such ideas urged the European imperialists to expand their empires.
(5) Christain Missionaries- The Christian Missionaries had a mission to baptise the people of other lands and spread Christianity there. Hence they encouraged their governments to establish their colonies in other lands to make their job easy. Usually, Christian missionaries went alone into unknown areas in a spirit of duty. Very often they were followed by profiteering traders and soldiers. Wars often took place to protect the missionaries. All this seemed quite natural to most western people who considered it their nation’s destiny to civilize and Christianize the peoples of Asia and Africa. President M. C. Kinley of the United States summed up the reasons for annexing the Philippines in these words:
“There was nothing left to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift and civilize and Christianize them as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.”
(6) Role of Explorers and Adventurers- According to some historians explorers and adventurers also helped in spreading imperialism. They went into unknown or little known territories and brought back reports that often indicated opportunities for trade and development. On the basis of such reports, a trading post would first be set up; next gradually the explorer home government would arrange to take over “protection” of the entire area around the trading post. Then this government would proceed to claim the entire territory. The work of explorers and adventurers was particularly important in Europe’s taking over of Africa.
(7) Capitalism- The Industrial Revolution gave rise to Capitalism in Europe, which in turn, gave rise to imperialism. In their bid to earn more and more profits, the European capitalists pressed their governments for extending their political domination over the weak and backward countries where they could invest their surplus capital in industries and could ensure cheap raw materials, cheap labourers and good markets of their finished goods.