INDUSTRIALIZATION AND IMPERIALISM, 1750 - 1900

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INDUSTRIALIZATION AND IMPERIALISM, 1750 - 100


The Industrial Revolution


In the second half of the eighteenth century, significant changes in the economy of Western Europe began to transform the region. Collectively the forces of change, which brought about a shift from an agrarian economy to one based on machine manufacture, are called the Industrial Revolution. One scholar, David Landes, has argued that the Industrial Revolution changed mans life more than anything since the discovery of fire. For Landes, the Industrial Revolution was above all technological in its nature and significance; but the changes in technology that it brought about also ushered in massive social, economic, cultural, and political change on a global scale. The sources and scholarly interpretations in this module are intended to provide students with an opportunity to reflect on the causes and consequences of the Industrial Revolution, and on what it may have been like for people to experience it.


The New Imperialism


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The last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed a dramatic growth in the size of European empires. In the years after 1884, the Scramble for Africa produced the partition of an entire continent (with the exceptions of Liberia and Ethiopia). Britain, France, Germany, and Portugal divided the continent, while Leopold II, King of Belgium, ruled the enormous Belgian Congo as his personal possession. This burst of expansionary activity, known as the New Imperialism, was fraught with paradoxes a sense of European superiority over colonized peoples, accompanied by fears of falling behind ones rivals in a struggle for survival; attraction for and revulsion against the exotic flora and fauna and people of the colonies; desires for adventure and the need to domesticate the empire. The often paradoxical imperialist world transformed not only the colonies, but also the home countries or metropoles as empire defined the nation.


Industrialization and Imperialism The Great Exhibition of 1851


The Great Exhibition of 1851 occurred shortly after the social and economic upheavals of 1848. Great Britain, after initial hesitation, eventually supported the idea of an exhibition to show the world their achievements and to silence concerns about social and economic instability. Exhibition organizers promoted a variety of goals for the exhibition including international peace, free trade, and the interchange of technology and culture. Overall, though, the exhibition asserted the essential dominance and superiority of British industry and society. France and other countries also saw the potential for forwarding nationalistic ideas and economic goals through participation in the exhibition. The convergence of industrialization with British imperialism at the Great Exhibition makes the event an intriguing means for investigating these powerful forces along with the accompanying struggles over economic issues, socioeconomic status, racial concerns, gender norms, and nationalism.


Dealing with Change Ideas and Philosophies of the Nineteenth Century


During the nineteenth century, many European intellectuals struggled to construct the ideal society, and how it might be achieved. These thinkers were generally inspired by the success of science and technology in giving humankind an unprecedented measure of control over their natural environment. Georg Hegel, for example, distinguished between natural history and the history of Spirit. To be properly understood, human history, for Hegel, must distinguish between the two. Human history itself became a major focus for nineteenth-century intellectuals striving to develop a basis for understanding human society and behavior. Especially in Germany, disputes over the very nature and purpose of history raged. Throughout the century, some thinkers--including a few like J. S. Mill who were trying to construct an ideal, science-based society--questioned the pretensions to objectivity characteristic of programs for social reform. Instead, they presented the recurring demand for the subjective voices of human feeling evident in the documents here of Dostoyevsky, Schleiermacher, and others.





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