Primary Source Archives
Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and digitized literature that provide researchers with firsthand articles from 19th century journals and 19th century primary sources to drive research at your university.
Examine the history of the world in the nineteenth century, which was a period marked by imperialism, globalization, and industrialization. Great Britain already helmed a formidable empire at the beginning of the century, but the defeat of its rival, France, in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) launched Great Britain into a period of peace and prosperity, which allowed it to expand its empire even further. Driving Britain’s colonization efforts in Asia and Africa was the economic growth made possible by the Industrial Revolution, which had begun in the eighteenth century. The British Empire was so dominant that this period of time is often known as the Victorian era, named for the long-reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1837 and ruled until her death in 1901.
The Industrial Revolution that had begun in the middle of the eighteenth century brought about the need for a ready supply of raw materials for European factories as well as new markets for these goods. To that end, the European powers engaged in what is known as the “Scramble for Africa,” each vying to establish domination over this vast area. By 1914, only two African nations were outside European control: Ethiopia and Liberia. This same drive for economic dominance similarly affected Asia, where Europe—no longer satisfied with just maintaining trading posts in the region—exerted colonial control. Even the relatively new nation of the United States joined in when it became a colonial power in its own right by winning the Spanish-American War (1898), despite the ravages of the American Civil War (1861–1865) in its recent past. Meanwhile, the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East resulted in Egypt declaring its independence from the Ottomans in 1838, although the European powers intervened to bring Egypt back into the fold, in the interest of maintaining a certain order in the region.
One exception to this era of increasing imperialism is Latin America. With France and Spain both consumed by the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the people of Latin America took the opportunity to declare their independence from their colonial masters in a series of revolutions between 1810 and 1822. Backed by the United States, which pledged in the Monroe Doctrine (1823) to oppose European interference in Latin America, the newly formed countries in Latin America set about the difficult process of nation building.
Europe was also subject to a series of revolutions in 1848, as increased urbanization, literacy, and the economic power of a growing middle class caused activists to advocate for democratic reform, equal rights, and the end of religious discrimination. An important outcome of this political unrest was the advancement of socialism on the continent—particularly in Germany and Russia.
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