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Imperialism: British Empire and Small Islands Essay Sample

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Imperialism: British Empire and Small Islands Essay Sample

During the late nineteenth century, many countries insisted on adopting imperialism and expanding all over the world. There were many reasons, some of which included economic needs and others which were based around social Darwinism. Out of all the nations that decided to take on imperialism, two in particular stood out to me: Britain and Japan.

The main reason for imperialist expansion was likely the economic needs for a country who wanted to achieve great power. Both Britain and Japan are great examples because of their geographical layouts as small islands without much land to work with; there is little to no possibility for them to become world powers without expanding. As small islands, Japan and Britain do not have the natural resources to fuel their growth; Japan in particular could not produce much petroleum, which was a fast growing energy source. Gaining colonies also opened up new markets for its imperial homelands, which contributes to their economic and military powers.

Europeans and the British in particular also had a sense for social Darwinism. The British and some other European countries felt that they were socially superior to their colonies, and future colonial interests. Because of this social Darwinism, they felt that it was their job to colonize, civilize and industrialize other “lesser” countries to modernize them. They felt that it was their role and obligation to rule, colonize, and bring the rest of the world up to their level as a favor to the world.

Japan on the other hand, started as a feudal, unindustrialized colony that needed to modernize quickly. This modernization started with the Meiji Restoration, which began with the fall of the Tokigawa Shoginate, a revolution from the top of the social ladder which lead to a change in power, although the imperial monarchy survived. Japan was pressured to unify and change or else they would fall to the greater European powers. To do this, Japan sent an embassy to travel the world (Europe and the United States in particular) for three years to gain wisdom on how to modernize themselves. After quickly educating themselves, creating a democracy and urbanizing, Japan realized that it had very minimal foreign influences and set out to find foreign markets. Japan then set forth to colonize all the smaller powers around it, starting with the annexation of Taiwan. Next it went to take over parts of north-eastern China, having demolishing Russia’s fleet from the Black Sea, annexing Korea, establishing Manchukuo after invading Manchuria, and finally provoking the Chinese into a war. Japan imperialized to become a dominant force in the world.

Imperialism played a big role in decided the great powers of the late nineteenth century. It created economic and military giants out of what would be weak and small islands such as Great Britain and Japan. The main motivation was likely economic and military power while the Europeans also believed it was their duty to modernize and rule the rest of the world, Japan however, just wanted to expand its borders. Both Social Darwinism and economic needs drove many countries in the late nineteenth century to imperialism and power.

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