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Review Chapter 6: Industrialization and Imperialism

The political revolutions that so dramatically changed the face of Europe and the Americas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gave rise to another type of revolution. The Industrial Revolution was equally transformative around the world.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution got its start in England. Villagers in small communities had formerly relied on common lands to feed their flocks. These lands were available to all people to use, thus ensuring that all livestock had enough food to return a profit to its owner. In the eighteenth century, the “enclosure movement” allowed wealthy landowners to purchase large tracts of land and enclose the land with fences or other barriers. Common lands were no longer available for general use. As a result, many small farmers moved to urban centers to find new jobs.

This increase in the available workforce, advances in technologies, capital, and a spirit of entrepreneurship led to a phase of rapid industrialization around the country. One of the first industries to benefit from advances in technologies was the cotton textile industry. New, more efficient spinning machines improved production and increased profit. Other inventions, like James Watt's steam engine, also contributed to

rapid growth by making it easier to move goods and people from one place to another.

Eventually, industrialization took hold in other countries as well. In the United States and continental Europe, railroads played a key role in the spread of industrialization. The same was true in Russia, where railroads connected the East to the West.




Encouraged growth of cities

Increased the economic gap between wealthy and poor nations

Increased the size of the middle class

Increased the rate of colonization

Led to unsafe working conditions

Increased Europe’s economic power

Encouraged the use of child labor

Strengthened and politicized the middle class

Resulted in low wages and long hours

Increased interest in reform movements

Led to poor living conditions in urban tenements

Increased global trading

increased standard of living and decreased costs

Led to closer connections between countries

Industrialization and Government Policy

With the increased prominence of industry came the question of the role government should play in its regulation. Several different theories emerged to answer this question.

Economist Adam Smith championed the laissez-faire approach, which held that government should not interject itself into the market. He believed government should not attempt to regulate industry at all. He argued that the economic system would naturally self-regulate as if an “invisible hand” was guiding it. Smith's theory was the perfect complement to and a major factor in the continued rise of capitalism, which was built on the concept of private ownership of business.

Other theorists held that government should be directly involved in the operation of industry. This view was supported by philosophers such as utilitarian John Stuart Mill and utopian socialist Robert Owen.

On the other end of the spectrum were those who believed that the factors of production naturally belong to the public and should be operated for the common good. This was known as socialism. Philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels introduced a radical form of socialism called communism in The Communist Manifesto. They argued that society was locked in an ongoing struggle between middle class employers (the bourgeoisie) and the working class (the proletariat). They believed the working class would inevitably rise up in response to poor working conditions and take control of the means of production. This, Marx and Engels said, would lead to the development of a proletariat-controlled government and, eventually, a classless society.


As European nations became increasingly industrialized, they found themselves in need of additional raw materials and markets to sell their goods. One solution to both of these problems was imperialism, or territorial acquisitions. At this time many European nations established colonial outposts in different parts of the world. These outposts allowed the nations to control trading rights. Some nations gained control by completely taking over a region's government. Other nations formed protectorates, which gave imperialist nations control while allowing the local government to continue operating. Still others would include regions in a “sphere of influence” over which they could claim exclusive trading rights. Finally, some regions were controlled via private businesses.

One of the first major regions to fall under imperialist control was Africa. Belgium established a strong presence in the Congo under King Leopold II. By the 1880s, the competition for land in Africa had become so fierce that some nations were concerned over the possibility of armed conflict in Europe. To address this issue, the imperialist powers came together in 1884 at the Berlin Conference, also known as the Berlin West Africa Conference, to peacefully divide Africa among themselves. Within thirty years, the entire African continent was under European control.

Another major region of interest was Southeast Asia, given its valuable natural resources. By the early 1800s, the British had established colonial control over India. Although the British made some effort to modernize India, the British occupation of India was met with resistance. Eventually, nationalist organizations such as the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League were established to fight for Indian independence.

The British also controlled Singapore, a major trading city located just off the Malay Peninsula, as well as Malaysia and Burma, which is known today as Myanmar. During the time the British controlled these regions, they encouraged Chinese workers to migrate there. This practice eventually led to a Chinese majority that still persists to this day.

Britain was not the only nation to establish imperialist control in Southeast Asia, however. By the nineteenth century, Indonesia was controlled by the Dutch, who established plantations and opened trading posts. The French controlled Vietnam, calling the region French Indochina. France's trading policies in the region were unpopular with the Vietnamese and eventually played an important role in fueling resistance.

Imperialism in China and Japan

As the imperialist nations of Europe were building vast foreign empires, China and Japan were attempting to isolate themselves from foreign influence. This proved a difficult challenge for both countries.

China's isolationist policies were first threatened by the British, who realized that they could profit from the opium trade. Widespread Chinese opium addiction led to two military conflicts that the British eventually won, the First Opium War (1839-42) and the Second Opium War (1856-60). British victory allowed England to control the port of Hong Kong. Within a few years, a number of other major nations were also given trading rights in China. In time, these countries capitalized on China's internal weaknesses to establish spheres of influence in China. Many of the Chinese were unhappy with this arrangement. Political disorder was rampant and uprisings occurred. Perhaps the most notable of these uprisings was the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, in which a Chinese secret society known as the Boxers laid siege to Beijing before being swiftly defeated by American, European, and Japanese forces.

During the same period, Japan struggled to remain isolated by keeping its ports closed to foreign trade. This changed in 1853, when American Commodore Matthew Perry entered Edo Harbor in the city now known as Tokyo and forced the issue. When the Meiji government took over Japan in 1868, it began a period of modernization that strengthened the government and military and encouraged rapid industrialization. This, in turn, led to a period of Japanese imperialism and expansion into Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and Korea.

Review Questions

1. The beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England primarily resulted from

A. widespread overpopulation

B. increased trade

C. national prosperity

D. agricultural innovation

E. abundance of resources

2. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 was a meeting of European imperialist powers designed to peacefully negotiate

A. terms of trade with China

B. control over the African continent

C. disputes over ports in Southeast Asia

D. rights to former Ottoman territories

E. international trading policies in Europe

3. The Boxer Rebellion of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a response to the

A. forced opening of Japanese ports

B. oppressive rule of the British in India

C. foreign intrusion into China

D. economic distress caused by the French in Vietnam

E. dominance of the Dutch in Indonesia

4. Economist Adam Smith's laissez-faire theory supported the notion that governments should

A. refrain from interfering with private business

B. exercise direct control over private business

C. regulate private business only in times of crisis

D. maintain a set of minimal business regulations

E. regulate only domestic businesses

5. Economic imperialism was different from other forms of colonial dominance in that the

A. colonial territory was entirely dependent on the imperial power

B. imperialist power directly controlled the government of the colonial territory

C. region under imperialist influence was controlled by private businesses

D. imperialist power held exclusive trading rights over a region

E. colonial territory was allowed to operate its own independent government

Answer Explanations

1. D. The Industrial Revolution in England began primarily as the result of agricultural innovation. By the 1700s, the enclosure movement had changed the face of agriculture in England and caused many smaller landowners to sell their farms and move to urban areas.

2. B. The Berlin Conference allowed Europe's major imperialist powers to reach an agreement over how they would control the African continent.

3. C. The Boxer Rebellion was a Chinese revolt against foreign influence. By the late nineteenth century, China's policy of isolationism had been abused by the foreign imperialists who wanted to do business there. In 1899 a secret society of political activists called the Boxers led a revolt that culminated in the siege of Beijing in 1900.

4. A. Smith's laissez-faire theory stated that governments should refrain from interfering with private business. Smith argued that governments should not attempt to influence the natural laws of supply and demand or regulate industry. The popularity of this theory helped to encourage the rise of capitalism.

5. C. Economic imperialism was unique from other forms of colonial dominance because it involved controlling a region via private business.

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