History Discussion


The Century of European Dominance: Dynamic Expansion but fragile balance

As you read through the Section on Europe between 1801 and 1900 note the amazing vitality of the European nation states and how they pushed each other to become more technological, industrial, and mobilized in terms of political integration and national participation (especially with the growth of compulsory military service.

Europe spawned an amazing number of political blueprints (ideologies) from nationalism, to liberalism, to conservatism, to socialism and communism. What were the forces driving such political ferment?

At the same time not the growing competitive nature of the European state system in politics, culture, and economic life and the way in which imperialism functioned as not merely a form of power politics among the elite but also as a form of “sport” for the masses as they cheered the extension of their nations power around the world This is also the age of the rebirth of the Olympic Games by a French aristocrat Baron de Coubertin who hoped to inspire his nation to greater glory by regenerating their bodies and mind (after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71).

By 1914 Japan, Ethiopia, and various nations in the Americas were about the only nations in the world not under formal European control. The world, it seemed, had become a chessboard upon which European powers played a high stakes games.

While technology took unprecedented leaps after 1850 (steel, internal combustion engines, telephones, electricity, and airplanes) note how nations worried fervently they might be falling behind the “leaders.” European nations, especially Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, and Russia were vying for supremacy and forming alliances to further their own national interests.

Yet, in 1914, almost a century had passed since Waterloo and Europe seemed headed for every greater power and prosperity.

Workers, writers, artists, women, and the colonial peoples of the world chaffed under what seemed an oppressive system. Could something better be developed?

If so how? Here we return to the question of why there had been so much intellectual ferment in Europe after the French Revolution.

Would not in many ways WWI be a completion of the goals of 1789 across Europe?

Chapter 21: The High Tide of Imperialism

The text provides an overview that focuses on the overall evolution of imperialism after 1870. Below we shall focus more on the particular empires created by European nation states. Ponder why Germany, which came much later to hunt for overseas empire and had much less territory than Britain or France, was nevertheless able to become the leading industrial power in Europe by 1914. (As far as this latter question, please continue to discuss German’s development in the forum above on the 19th-century European nation state’s development.

Belgium gained such a massive colony in the middle of what Europeans then called the “dark continent,” and Germany had so few colonies relative to its growing military and economic power. Why?

This is the question for this week’s discussion:

What forces allowed the relatively small network European nation states to conquer, occupy, or dominate virtually the entire world by 1914?

Please provide both specific points and their relation t the major factors.