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What were the motives for 19th century European imperialism?

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Nineteenth century European imperialism was caused by a number of factors. Some of these—such as economic incentives—were not new. Others—such as Social Darwinism—had not yet been used as a justification for imperialism.

The West sought trading privileges in China and elsewhere in Asia. The British even smuggled opium into China against that government's wishes. China tried to stop foreign imperialism, but it was defeated in the Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century.

European leaders sought to enhance their nations' prestige. For example, the French king seized Algeria in 1830 for this reason. He also hoped that the seizure of Algeria would buttress his own position as king of France.

In 1869, the Suez Canal was opened. This greatly reduced travel and shipping time between Europe and Asia. It also gave the British an incentive to gradually take over Egypt.

The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 permitted and encouraged European colonization of Africa. This became known as the...

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gsenviro | Student

The most common motives for 19th century European imperialism are:

  1. Quest for more power: The most powerful military will have the most colonies and hence a quest for power broke out between european powers.
  2. Quest for raw material to propel their industries: Industrialization was rapidly taking place and to fuel this rapid growth raw material was needed, which was not available in europe.
  3. Quest for new markets to sell their increased production: Rapid industrialization led to higher production of goods, which needed new markets for their consumption and colonies served as an ideal ground for that.
  4. Political considerations: Each powerful country wanted its say in world economics and policy matters and a higher number of colonies simply exerted that power.
  5. Religious motives: Many christians believed people of other countries esp. in Africa and Asia to be religiously inferior and deeply believed it to be their duty to force a european way of education, life and religion on these regions.