How did the Industrial Revolution contribute to imperialism?

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Industrialization was actually very closely tied with imperialism and the acquisition of empire. For one thing, it was a key motivating factor for empire. Industrial Economies require both raw materials as well as markets to sell finished goods. Colonies and imperial expansion ultimately fulfilled both of those requirements, allowing the industrial nation to exploit the natural resources of other parts of the world and create new markets for it to trade with.

Secondly, the transformation from a pre-industrial agrarian economy toward an industrial economy created dramatic effects in terms of technology, economic strength, military strength, and so on. It was not by accident that the golden age of imperialism really only began in the 19th century. If you were to look back into the earlier Age of Exploration and of the colonization of the Americas, you would see that the European countries of that era were largely unable to assert power over the already established empires of Asia and the Middle East. (Even in the case of the East India Company's eventual conquest of India, it must be noted that the Company's expansion did not really start to accelerate until the second half of the 18th century.) As technology and communications advanced, western military technology and military capabilities also became more and more powerful. This opened up a power imbalance of which the imperial powers were able to take advantage.

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The Industrial Revolution contributed to imperialism in a number of ways. The most important was that it created a demand among American and European businessmen, and consequently politicians, for new markets. As manufacturing and industry became more and more efficient, people began to fear the possibility of overproduction, which would lead to price collapses and ultimately economic recession. So the United States sought to expand its influence in places like China (through the so-called Open Door policy) in order to guarantee access to markets. American industrialists also sought the cheap natural resources and in many cases labor that could be found around the world, and prevailed on the US government to use the military to protect their investments, especially in Latin America. Finally, the Industrial Revolution added to the imbalance in wealth and technology between western societies and the rest of the world, and this imbalance served as both a cause and an ideological justification for imperialism.

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