What is the meaning of Imperialism and New Imperialism?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Imperialism refers to the policy of using a country's influence and power to acquire colonies outside of its own borders. This can be done through political manipulation or through military means. Imperialism leads to the exploitation of the colony for the betterment of the imperial power. Typical motives of imperial powers can be economic, military, religious, or ethnocentric. Sometimes this involves the settlement of vast numbers of colonizers in the colonized land.

New Imperialism refers to the wave of colonial expansion that began in the late nineteenth century and continued until World War I. During this period, many European countries, the United States, and Japan snatched up an unprecedented amount of land around the globe. The competition for overseas territories was fierce. New oceangoing vessels, quicker communication, and improved manufacturing technologies meant that the world was even more interconnected than ever before. It was important for the great powers to snatch up more territory before their rivals could. The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 kicked off this period of imperialism by establishing common imperialistic practices among the European powers and literally dividing up the world map between them. By the end of the nineteenth century, nearly all of the African continent was colonized by European powers, and much of Asia was as well. The period of New Imperialism ended with World War I and the restructuring of several European nations. By the end of World War II, most of the colonies had achieved independence, and the age of imperialism was over.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Imperialism is simply a process in which some countries dominate other countries.  They take those countries (sometimes, but not always, actually conquering them and ruling over them) and impose an unequal relationship on them.  In this relationship, the periphery (the dominated country) is made to serve the core (the imperial power).

The term "new imperialism" is used to refer to a wave of mostly European imperialism that happened in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  This wave is said to have been slightly different than the previous period of imperialism in which European countries created empires in the Americas.

For example, the first period had more colonialism (where many people from the "mother country" went to live in a colony) while the new imperialism had more imperialism (where only a few of the Europeans would actually go live in and rule the dominated country).  The new imperialism is said to have been motivated more by a desire for economic benefits (new markets and sources of raw material) than the old.  It is also said to have been motivated more by a desire to "civilize" and Christianize the rest of the world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Are you a teacher? Sign up now