World Reaction to European Expansion between 1700 and 1900

In the 18th century, there was an increased urge in Europe to venture abroad, to discover, explore lands that as yet remained unknown. Part of the need to go beyond the boundaries of Europe was rooted in the industrial revolution that had begun to take place at the time. Machines such as the steam engine were being built and this greatly facilitated transportation. There was also improved ocean going vessels which facilitated for the European explorers venturing further away from home.

The creation of cotton mills meant that European nations had to look abroad more extensively so as to expand markets. The Industrial revolution and the response of the world In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe was the world power to reckon with. The industrial revolution started in Great Britain and it was facilitated by several factors. One is that Britain had large deposits of coal and adequate supply of water that was needed to run the machines such as steam engines. Britain also had the plus of deposits of iron ore that was needed to make this machinery and tools.

She had an internal water system that facilitated the transportation of people and goods as well as a good ports and harbors that facilitated international trade. To cap it all up, she had a sound banking system which meant that projects could be financed and an established government that provided the foundation for a thriving business environment (Brown, 1991). There were several and diverse implications for industrialization and the European expansion, which, predates even the industrial revolution (Ringrose, 1998).

The revolution was just a means to hasten European occupation of distant lands abroad. Even in the earlier centuries, Britain had made frays into Asia as she sought trade routes that would enable her to access the abundant riches of China’s silk. The Spaniards were at the same time trying to find their way into Latin America where they expediently eliminated the native Indians and replaced them with African slaves. This was Europe’s story, replicated by the French, Dutch and Portuguese in different parts of the world. For Africa, India and Australia, the European expansion meant colonization.

While in earlier times European nations had had only a singular interest in Africa, that of being a ready source of slaves who were at the time considered a price commodity, industrialization brought a change because Africa was now seen as a source for raw materials needed in European factories as well as a ready market for the finished products. The Berlin conference of 1814 saw to the scramble and partition of Africa among European colonial powers with the largest shares going to the strongest, then Great Britain (Aldcroft & Rodger, 1984).

Not only was Europe seen as the world’s centre for trade and commerce, but it was also perceived to be the intellectual headquarters of the civilized world. From the mid 18th century when the age of enlightenment had truly began to take hold, there were physical as well as intellectual and moral revolutions going on concurrently. Philosophers and other great thinkers in all fields called for the denunciation of tenets that preciously had been taken for granted and without question, as they said that reason has to reign supreme.

Institutions that had once upon a time been regarded as being beyond reproach such as the church and the nobility were all subjected to intense scrutiny that at times found them wanting. Here is where the seeds of activism first germinated. From this would later arise the spirits of capitalism, feminism, civil rights movements and calls to nationalism in which the whole world would follow suite (Brown, 1991). However there were negative ramifications from the European invasion that was so all-encompassing.

The most obvious is that there was the creation of a class where the Europeans were cast in the light of being superior to the natives. The natives themselves had to be subdued and shown their rightful place. This often resulted in the native’s loss of freedom and inhumane treatments against him. The natives were often cast out of their own lands if the Europeans were interested in the natural resources that abounded there. The natives were then pushed into restricted marginalized areas where their movements could be monitored. They became prisoners within their own homelands (Ringrose, 1998).

Another negative impact was the abolishment of existing political and legal systems that had been established by the natives to be replaced by the Europeans own which they felt was superior and hence much better. There was the intent destruction of cultural practices that had been in place for centuries because the Europeans had found them to be barbaric or uncivilized (Eltis, 1987). European expansion resulted in the colonization of several countries of the world that lasted for over a century or more, in some regions of the world (Aldcroft & Rodger, 1984).

Of course the industrial revolution brought about better standards of living for all, but the way in which European nations tried to assert their influence by taking forceful control of the geographical regions of the world from which they felt they would most benefits with impunity, was more barbaric than the hedonistic tribal practices that they condemned so strongly. It is only because the European nations were much stronger than those they sought to conquer that they were able to get away with the actions that they carried out in the 19th century periods.

However, just because they got away with it does not mean they do not deserve to be chastised for planting the seeds of economic and racial inequality whose ghosts still haunt our world to date. Conclusion There was an unprecedented rate of change that took place in the two hundred year p between the 18th and 20th centuries that had never before been seen in history. This change took on all the aspects of people’s lifestyles; from how they produced their food, how they got their work done, how they travelled and even how they perceived the world. Though this change had its roots in Europe, its impact was felt throughout the world.

From the colonized states of Africa, Asia and Australia, to the great American shores, the influence of European nations was pervasive. Europe as a continent was a fore runner in shaping how the rest of the world would do its commerce, conduct their governments and affairs of state and even to some extent their religious inclinations. The shift in world powers might have placed control in different hands but the impact that Europe had in its heday, is one that is still being felt and seen, and will continue to be felt and seen for many generations yet.

Cited works David Eltis, Economic growth and the ending of the transatlantic slave trade Oxford University Press US, 1987 David R. Ringrose, Spain, Europe, and the “Spanish miracle”, 1700-1900, Cambridge University Press, 1998 Derek Howard Aldcroft & Richard Rodger, Bibliography of European economic and social history, Manchester University Press ND, 1984 Richard Brown, Society and Economy in Modern Britain 1700-1850 Routledge, New York 1991

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