World Trade and Empires in Europe

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Time Line


1840 First Opium War
1848 France annexes Algeria
1850 Britain gains control over India
1852 Boers (Dutch) establish South African Republic
1854 Boers establish Orange Free State
1856 Second Opium War
1857 Sepoy Mutiny in India
1880 France establishes protectorate in Congo
1882 Britain establishes protectorate in Egypt
1884 Nations meet at Berlin and agree on division of Africa
1886 British take Burma
1887 France conquers Indochina (Vietnam)
1898 Britain conquers the Sudan


World Trade and Empires in Europe

The nineteenth century was an age of imperialism—an age in which European nations expended a great deal of energy and money expanding their empires. Their motives were threefold. First, they expected economic profits from their colonies, many of which were rich in the natural resources and raw materials— including human beings—necessary to keep the European factories going. Second, no nation wanted to grant supremacy to the others; as long as one nation was establishing overseas colonies, other nations would follow suit simply to maintain a balance of power. Third, Christian churches that had steadily been losing power and influence in Europe saw colonization of Africa and Asia as a splendid opportunity for missionary work. Fourth, the sense of racial superiority that characterized Europeans made them feel it was their responsibility to impose their culture on peoples they regarded as uncivilized or inferior.

The opening of the Suez Canal connected the Mediterranean and Red Seas and thus provided a much shorter and more efficient shipping route between Europe and Asia. It also provided a means of communication and troop transport.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

World Trade and Empires in Europe Practice Test

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