In the nineteenth century, what profound change(s) did Japan, Africa, India, and the Middle East experience?
Most of these regions shared a more or less common experience: they each became the subjects of attempted European or American domination with varying results. Let us look at each region.
- Japan: Japan had long sought to bar outside influence before 1853, when American naval Commodore Matthew Perry entered Tokyo Bay with a squadron of warships seeking to establish trade and diplomatic relations with Japan. This event helped trigger more contact with the West, and a dispute broke out in Japan between the old, traditional shoguns, who exercised essentially feudal control over the countryside, and those who urged modernization. Perhaps the most important change that occurred in Japanese society, then, was the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which gave power to the Emperor, whose reform-minded advisors helped to implement a plan of modernization.
- Africa: Probably the most significant change that occurred in Africa happened over the second half of the nineteenth century, as the continent was carved up into colonies by the European powers. Great Britain, Belgium, Portugal, France, and finally Germany all had significant holdings on the continent, and they essentially agreed upon the terms of the colonization of the continent at a conference in Berlin in 1884. Almost all African nations would remain colonies until after World War II.
- India: India, too, was a European colony. Most of the colony was controlled from the early eighteenth century onward by Great Britain. For much of the eighteenth century, it had been under the rule of the East India Company, a firm that delegated much of the business of ruling to local leaders. But in the nineteenth century, the British solidified their hold on India. A series of rebellions (known as "mutinies" due to their origins among Indian soldiers) rocked the subcontinent at midcentury, and after they were brutally crushed, the British placed India under direct rule, known as "raj" in India.
- The Middle East: The Middle East is, of course, a very diverse region, making it difficult to generalize about important changes. Much of the region was controlled by the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century, and as the power of this empire, based in Turkey, began to fade, European powers moved in. England and France in particular began to gain interests in the region, though they would not really become major players there until after World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. During the late nineteenth century, nationalist movements began to emerge in the region, some of which have ramifications today.
So all in all, perhaps the most significant changes that occurred in these regions had to do with Western imperialism and its effects.