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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