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Day 23 – Q 3.How far can industrial revolution be held responsible for the imperialistic ambitions of Europe? Critically examine.

3. How far can industrial revolution be held responsible for the imperialistic ambitions of Europe? Critically examine. 

यूरोप की साम्राज्यवादी महत्वाकांक्षाओं के लिए औद्योगिक क्रांति को कितनी दूर तक जिम्मेदार ठहराया जा सकता है? समालोचनात्मक जांच करें।


The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending a country’s rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas.


Although imperialism began some centuries before Industrial Revolution(IR), IR lead to ‘new Imperialism’. It was a period of colonial expansion by European powers, the United Sates, and the Empire of Japan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

After Industrial Revolution more aggressive and extensive form of imperialism began. The industrial revolution created the need for Europe to take over more colonies around the world. Now apart from national greatness, measured by number of colonies, there was an additional push to conquer new territories – 

  • Raw materials – because the Industrial Revolution increased the production capacity of Western states astronomically, there was an enormous hunger for raw materials to satisfy demands. 
  • European power eyed Africa, which was rich in oil, ivory, rubber, wood, cotton, cocoa beans, copper, gold, iron, cobalt, diamonds, etc.
  • The American Civil War created a shortage of cotton supply. This prompted the main purchasers of cotton, Britain and France, to turn to Egyptian cotton. 
  • Demand for labors – With hundreds of thousands of workers finding employment in textile mills, there was not enough labor to plow, seed, prune, and harvest the cotton. The cotton industry needed a new source of raw material supply and labor. The Western countries looked at western Africa, India, and China for that.
  • Market – The colonies gave the Western powers a ready-made market for their goods, at the colonized people were left with little to no legal recourse to produce their own finished products. Asia’s textile markets were vast, and winning them was the grand prize for European imperialism. India, in particular, became a huge market. 
  • Capability enhancement – Industrial Revolution, Europeans had an advantage in the quality of their weapons and military training. The Western powers used their superior weapons like The Maxim gun and powerful iron warships to conquer much of the world, especially lands in Africa and Asia. In 1800, Europe controlled 35 percent of the world’s land surface; by 1914, they controlled 84 percent.
  • Advancement in Medicine – allowed Europeans to better survive malaria and yellow fever. Africa, especially the western regions, was known as the ‘White Man’s Grave’ and years earlier only one in ten men could survive. With the new medicine to combat malaria, European explorers could venture much deeper into Africa, and therefore make more accurate maps for future Europeans arriving on the continent.
  • Infrastructure development – like steam-powered trains and ships, telegraph, opening of Suez Canal gave Europe the power to efficiently maintain and profit from so many colonies around the world.

However here were other reasons as well for – 

  • Decline of the great empires in Asia and Africa.
  • Feeling of racial superiority – Because of growing racism, or the belief that one race was superior to another because they were more technologically advanced, many Europeans and Americans felt they had the right to dominate people of other races.
  • Philosophical bias – Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement wrote John Stuart Mill, the great philosopher of human freedom in On Liberty


Without the innovations of the Industrial Revolution, the Imperialistic powers would not be able to penetrate deeply in the colonial countries. Their access would be limited to the ports.

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