Mass Politics in Europe and Imperialism in Africa and Asia for AP European History (page 3)
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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."
Mass Politics in France
Napoleon III had granted his subjects universal manhood suffrage, but the masses did not often recognize the results of democratic elections in the period between 1870 and 1914. France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian war brought an end to Napoleon III's Second Empire. When subsequent elections resulted in a victory for the monarchists, the people of Paris refused to accept the results and set up their own democratic government that came to be known as the Paris Commune. The Commune ruled the city of Paris in February and March of 1871, before being crushed by the French Army.
Monarchists initially controlled the government of the new Third Republic, but they remained divided between factions. By the end of the 1870s, France was governed by a liberal government elected by universal manhood suffrage. However, in the late 1880s, conservative nationalists supported an attempted coup by General George Boulanger. The attempt—which has come to be known as the Boulanger Affair—failed, but it underscored the fragility of French democracy and the volatility of mass politics in France.
Mass Politics in Germany
In the newly united Germany, the constitution of the Second Reich called for universal manhood suffrage. But the masses supported the Kaiser and his Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. In the 1870s, Bismarck appealed to the masses' strong sense of nationalism in an attack on the nation's Catholics. In what has come to be called the Kulturkampf (or war for civilization), Bismarck passed a number of laws restricting the religious freedom of Catholics in Germany. The ultimate result, however, was to revive and strengthen the Catholic political party, known as the Roman Catholic Center Party.
In 1878, Bismarck conceded defeat and repealed much of the anti-Catholic legislation in order to garner Catholic support for his war against socialist parties in Germany. When he was unable to stamp out the socialist parties, he tried to undermine their working-class political base by passing, between 1883 and 1889, a comprehensive system of social insurance. Ultimately, however, the socialist parties remained strong and the aging Bismarck was dismissed by the new monarch, Kaiser William II, in 1890.
Mass Politics in Austria–Hungary
In the dual monarchy of Austria–Hungary, mass politics continued to mean the competition between nationalities for greater autonomy and relative supremacy within the empire. The introduction of universal manhood suffrage in 1907 made Austria–Hungary so difficult to govern that the emperor and his advisors began bypassing the parliament and ruling by decree.
Mass Politics in Russia
In the autocratic police state built by Alexander II of Russia, mass politics took the form of terrorism. Radical groups like The People's Will carried out systematic acts of violent opposition, including the assassination of Alexander II with a bomb in 1881. His successor, Alexander III, countered by waging war on liberalism and democracy. Initiating a program of Russianization, he attempted to standardize language and religion throughout the Russian Empire.
The Scramble for Africa
Two developments spurred an unprecedented "scramble" on the part of the European powers to lay claim to vast areas of the African continent: the British takeover of the Suez Canal in Egypt and Belgium's aggressive expansion into the Congo.
The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, was built by a French company and opened in 1869. In 1875, Great Britain took advantage of the Egyptian ruler's financial distress and purchased a controlling interest in the canal. By the early 1880s, anti-British and French sentiment was building in the Egyptian army. In the summer of 1882, the British launched a preemptive strike, landing troops in Egypt, defeating Egyptian forces, and setting up a virtual occupation of Egypt. Supposedly temporary, the occupation lasted 32 years. Britain's control of Egypt led to further European expansion in Africa in two ways:
- In order to provide greater security for Egypt, Britain expanded further south.
- In return for France's acceptance of British occupation of Egypt, Britain supported French expansion into northwest Africa.
A new competition for imperial control of sub-Saharan Africa was initiated by the expansion of Belgian interests in the Congo. In 1876, King Leopold II of Belgium formed a private company and sent the explorer Henry Stanley to the Congo River Basin to establish trading outposts and sign treaties with local chiefs. Alarmed by the rate at which the Belgians were claiming land in central Africa, the French expanded their claims in western Africa and Bismarck responded with a flurry of claims for Germany in eastern Africa. This sudden burst of activity led to the Berlin Conference of 1885. There, representatives of the European powers established free-trade zones in the Congo River Basin and set up guidelines for the partitioning of Africa. The guidelines essentially set up two principles:
- A European nation needed to establish enough physical presence to control and develop a territory before it could claim it.
- Claimants must treat the African population humanely.
After the conference, European nations completed the scramble for Africa until nearly the entire continent was, nominally at least, under European control. Unfortunately, the principle of humane treatment of Africans was rarely followed.
Dominance in Asia
In the era of the New Imperialism, European powers also exerted control over Asia. Here, however, the general method was to rule through local elites.
India: Ruled by Great Britain
In India, the British dominated, initially through the British East India Company, a private trading company that used its economic and military power to influence local politics. Following the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 (sometimes known as the Sepoy Mutiny), an organized, anti-British uprising led by military units of Indians who formerly served the British, the British government took direct control and restructured the Indian economy to produce and consume products that aided the British economy.
A sense of Indian nationalism began to develop as a response to the more intrusive British influence, resulting in the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. The Congress, though really an organization of Hindu elites, promoted the notion of a free and independent India.
Southeast Asia: Dominated by France
In Southeast Asia, the French emulated the British strategy of ruling through local elites and fostering economic dependence. During the 1880s and early 1890s, France established the Union of Indochina, effectively dominating in the areas that would become Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
China: Increasing European Control
China had been infiltrated by British traders in the 1830s. The British traded opium grown in India to Chinese dealers in exchange for tea, silk, and other goods that were highly prized in Britain. When the Chinese government attempted to end the trade, Britain waged and won the Opium War (1839–1842) and forced the Chinese to sign the Treaty of Nanking. The treaty ceded Hong Kong to Britain, established several tariff-free zones for foreign trade, and exempted foreigners from Chinese law.
The humiliation of the Manchu rulers and the undermining of the Chinese economy that resulted from foreign interference led to the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864). To maintain control, the Manchus became even more dependent on Western support. Chinese nationalism and resistance to foreign influence again manifested itself in the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1900). The combined forces of the European powers were able to suppress the rebellion, but in 1911, a revolution led by Sun Yat-sen succeeded in overthrowing the Manchu dynasty and proclaimed a Chinese republic.
Japan had been forcibly opened to Western trade by an American fleet commanded by Commodore Matthew J. Perry in 1853. The Japanese government signed a number of treaties granting the Western powers effective control of foreign trade. The result was civil war and revolution which culminated in the Meiji Restoration, in which modernizers, determined to preserve Japanese independence, restored power to the emperor and reorganized Japanese society along Western lines. By 1900, Japan was an industrial and military power. In 1904, they quarreled with Russia over influence in China and stunned the world with their victory in the Russo-Japanese War.
The New Imperialism was the result of a complex set of impulses that included economic needs created by industrialization; the traditional desire of European nations to compete with one another; and the need for those political elites to find ways to win the support of a new political force, the masses. Mass politics, the participation of increasingly larger portions of the population in the political process, developed unevenly in Europe, with Britain leading the way and Russia resisting the trend. The New Imperialism resulted in the scramble for Africa, in which the European powers laid claim to the entire continent in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In Asia, the New Imperialism took the form of indirect European control exerted through local elites.
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