The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw a dramatic increase in imperial colonial expansion which involves a number of nations from Europe and the United States. Such a development contrasts with the earlier period (before 1870) when colonies had been regarded as an unjustified expense, and formal political control of these colonies were unnecessary given the current climate of free trade. This period of sudden reemergence of colonial expansion was to last until the beginning of the First World War, and is termed by historians as the "New Imperialism-.
Several developments in nineteenth century Europe had contributed to the increased intensity of the competition over overseas territories (concentrated mainly in Africa and East and South-East Asia). In this essay, I shall examine and relate these developments to the rise of the New Imperialism from four perspectives, namely economic, political, social and cultural factors.
1. Economic Developments.
As the place of origin of the Industrial Revolution, Britain was given a headstart in industrialization. Britain's naval and maritime superiority also led to her transformation into the world's sole modern industrial power for much of the nineteenth century. Developments in Continental Europe, in which territorial fragmentation kept other potential imperial powers preoccupied with Continental concerns rather than overseas expansion, also helped Britain's cause.
However, the establishment and unification of nation-states in Germany and Italy in the 1870s resolved two of the great territorial issues which had kept Britain's prospective rivals enmeshed in Continental affairs. Newly industrializing powers such as Germany and the United States also posed a threat to British economic predominance. Whereas previously Britain could export its manufactured goods to these newly industrializing nations, industrial developments in these nations has caught up or even surpassed that of Britain after 1870.