Mass Politics in Europe and Imperialism in Africa and Asia for AP European History
The review questions for this study guide can be found at:
In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the European powers shifted from indirect commercial influence to active conquest and the establishment of direct political control of foreign lands around the globe, particularly in Africa and Asia. This imperial expansion of European influence and control is known as the New Imperialism.
Causes of the New Imperialism
The causes of the New Imperialism are a matter of debate among historians, but all explanations contain the following elements to some degree:
- the need for new raw materials in the expanding industrial economy of Europe
- the need for new markets to sell European manufactured goods and to invest newly created capital
- the technological innovations in weaponry and transportation that encouraged European military adventurism
- the rampant nationalism of the nineteenth century that unified European nations and gave them a sense of historical destiny
- the traditional identity of the European political elites who competed for fame and glory through conquest
- the need for competing European political elites to win the support of the newly politicized and enfranchised masses
The Development of Mass Politics
Mass politics was the participation, in increasingly aggressive yet unstable ways, of the masses in the governing of European nations. The development of mass politics took different forms in different nations, as described in the following sections.
Mass Politics in Great Britain
In 1860, Britain had already experienced mass politics. The threat of violence from the masses had provided the pressure that enabled the Liberals to force through the Great Reform Bill of 1832, enfranchising most of the adult, male middle class. But in the decades that followed, the Liberals seemed satisfied with limited reform. The rise of Chartism (1837–1842) demonstrated the degree to which the lower-middle and working classes desired further reform. Chartists organized massive demonstrations in favor of the People's Charter, a petition that called for:
- universal manhood suffrage
- annual Parliaments
- voting by secret ballot
- equal electoral districts
- abolition of property qualifications for Members of Parliament
- payment of Members of Parliament
If enacted into law, the People's Charter would have had the effect of creating a completely democratic House of Commons, but Parliament rejected the Charter on numerous occasions.
In 1867, the new leader of the Conservative (or Tory) Party, Benjamin Disraeli, convinced his party that further reform was inevitable, and engineered the passage of the Reform Bill of 1867. The bill doubled the number of people eligible to vote and extended the vote to the lower middle class for the first time. Additionally, the Conservatives passed a number of laws regulating working hours and conditions, and the sanitary conditions of working-class housing.
In 1884, the Liberals under William Gladstone again took the lead, engineering the passage of the Reform Bill of 1884. This bill included the following reforms:
- It extended the right to vote further down the social ladder, thereby enfranchising two-thirds of all adult males.
- It made primary education available to all.
- It made military and civil service more democratic.
The result of this move towards mass politics was competition between the Liberals and Conservatives for the newly created votes. In 1879, Gladstone embarked on the first modern political campaign, which came to be known as the Midlothian Campaign, riding the railway to small towns throughout his district to give speeches and win votes. Disraeli and the Conservatives countered with a three-pronged platform of "Church, Monarchy, and Empire."
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