The history of the last centuries has been marked by the unprecedented dominance of the Western countries over the rest of the world. If it were not for the industrial revolution, scientific development, and confidence in their superiority, there would be no European colonial empires and globalization waves. The fast reaction to the challenges of the given century explains the reasons why the European invasion in Africa and other regions succeeded.
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During most of the time in world history, the countries conducted a solely agricultural mode of existence. In the mid-XIX century, due to the exploration of the coal resources, the invention of the steam engine in Europe and its export to the North America continent, the role of agriculture gradually declined giving place to a large-scale industrial production, which was constantly improving thanks to scientific and technological developments.
Western Europe, North America, and later Japan became huge “industrial hubs,” which defined the trends and volumes of the world production and trade. Development of trade relations with China and other Oriental countries made possible the export of the most up-to-date industrial technologies.
At the same time, this rapid industrial development of the West increased the divergence between wealthy and poor nations (Frank & Denemark, 2015). There is no doubt that in the agricultural societies, divergence also existed, but in industrial society, it was more clearly perceived due to a greater amount of goods available on the market.
The phenomenon of globalization was both the key factor and the result of the spread of Western dominance. Driven by the business and scientific representatives of the middle class, globalization brought to power big industrial corporations that gradually started to see less developed countries as locations of their environmentally harmful production facilities.
As time passed, European countries demanded more human and natural resources, which motivated them to start the new wave of colonization of Africa and Southeast Asia in the 80-90-s of the XIX century. Political tensions and ambitions of the European states heated those demands. As Mitchell and Dunn (2014) explain, Europeans succeeded because of advancements in medicine helping to cope with malaria, military technology domination, and the Eurocentristic belief in their uniqueness and a higher level of civilization development (685-686).
Some African leaders, such as Tippu Tip in the Congo region or Samori Ture in the Niger region, managed to oppose Western invasion for some time (Mitchell & Dunn, 2014). But this resistance had not lasted long; if there was no place for force, the Europeans would apply cunning and tricky promises.
However, such states as China, Ethiopia, and Thailand managed to save sovereignty. In the case of China, this can be explained by the fact that the West gained more profits by keeping China a trade partner. Ethiopia was lucky enough to ensure its independence from Italy till the 30s of the XX century thanks to successful military campaigns. And Thailand applied the strategy of broad concessions to Britain and France (Mitchell & Dunn, 2014).
Overall, it can be said that Europe succeeded in conquering Africa and some parts of Asia because of the favorable combination of resources and circumstances. The industrial revolution and its spread around the world were made possible by Europe’s strivings to overcome the crisis of agricultural society through technological development and innovations. By making several steps forward, Europe ensured the possibility to dictate its conditions to less developed countries of Africa and powerful but somehow disoriented countries such as China. The beginning of the XXI century, however, will show slightly opposite trends.
Frank, A., & Denemark, R. (2015). Reorienting the 19th century: Global economy in the continuing Asian age. New York, NY: Routledge.
Mitchell, L., & Dunn, R. (2014). Panorama: A world history. Volume 2: From 1300. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.