Some of the principle values that came to define thought in the nineteenth century were directly derived from the European Enlightenment. Enlightenment thought, which itself built off of the foundations laid by the scientific revolution of the previous century, emphasized the importance of empirical argumentation and rationalism, all of which would allow for the creation of a future utopian society. These ideas, combined with the massive wealth and new economic opportunities that were taken advantage of by the discovery of the New World, shaped the creation of the nineteenth-century world order.
The paramount development in the 1900s was the discovery of coal in England. This was the event which ultimately precipitated the Industrial Revolution. The older Enlightenment-era confidence in the powers of science and human reason to forge a better world seemed to be materializing in the realm of industry, engineering, and technological innovation. Because of the opportunities opened up by such developments as the steam engine and the mass production of gunpowder weaponry, Europeans were able to export their ideas of cultural and material superiority across the world. Their technical superiority and colonial mindset gave them claim to any and every foreign place that they made contact with. Post-Enlightenment ideals like positivism, evolution, free-market capitalism and, eventually, economic utopianism structured the way Europeans thought of themselves. These views encouraged them to press forward with more development and more sophisticated socio-political organizations. If the foreign territories they came to colonize could not keep pace with this new change, then Europeans believed it their duty to facilitate their cultural evolution, often through violence.
The 19th century world order, then, was based off of this combination of the belief in progress and modernity with a sense of European exceptionalism.