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Europe 1871-1914

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Crises in the Balkans and the Road to Destruction (1874-1912)

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Study Questions

Describe at least four general motives for empire that inspired Europe to its great imperial successes at the end of the nineteenth century.

Motives for imperial conquest ranged from reasons of economics, geopolitics, nationalism, and liberal philosophy. In the economic arena, empires can provide markets for goods, opportunities for profitable investment, protection from the boom and bust cycle of capitalism, and sources of cheap labor for industrial development. Geopolitics made certain territories important for its location, such as the Suez Canal, while some countries seized regions to prevent other European states from seizing them. Nationalist concerns translated into the national prestige that came as a result of gaining large expanses of territory and seeing the color of your country painting regions throughout Africa and Asia. Liberalism, defined as a dedication to self-improvement and the belief that there were discoverable rules of general conduct everyone could follow, contributed to paternalism and arguments of racial and cultural superiority that pushed Europeans into Africa to "civilize" local populations.

Why do you think Great Britain was able to survive throughout the nineteenth century without the eruption of serious social upheavals and worker revolt?

The political system in Britain was malleable and (relatively) easily adaptable to changing mores in society. Britain's politicians maintained a generally farsighted view and a keen understanding of political change and, therefore, was able to realize that the currents of change toward the end of the nineteenth century was moving toward the worker. Change was able to come to Britain even without a Labour majority in Parliament, suggesting that social upheaval may have been prevented due to the relatively responsive nature of the British political system.

Now that we have discussed the domestic political developments in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, can you identify a general similarity between the societal changes that took place in those states?

It is easy to see that change in all the major state of Europe, save Russia, took place due to the emergence of the masses as a serious force in national politics. In Britain and Germany, the worker began to wield popular and legislative power; in France, the mass media allowed national figures to appeal to the agrarian poor and the workers of Paris; in Austria, every ethnic minority, student groups, radical right leagues, et cetera became a force as the dominance of the bourgeoisie began to fade.

Essay Topics

What geopolitical factors made the European balance of power so unstable prior to the outbreak of World War I?

What challenges to the traditional liberal ideal--free markets, low tariffs, no government interference in the economy and society--was noticed in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary throughout this period?

What is the "White Man's burden" and how did European justify what we would consider racist policies in their imperial ventures?

How did imperialism in Africa and Asia differ? In answering this question, cite specific events in the course of imperialism in Africa and Asia to prove your theory.

Trace an historical line between the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion. In doing so, connect the events to one another in order to show the continuity of the historical story.

How did Ethiopia manage to remain one of the two independent states in Africa when every major power seemed interested in making inroads into that country?

Describe at least three effects of the European imperial venture and try to conclude whether or not the extent of empire was worth some of the negative results.

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