Old Imperialism

Old Imperialism is a term given to the period of European imperialism from the 17th century to the late 19th century, during which powers were motivated by “gold, god, and glory.” Gold referred to the wealth (precious metals and valuable merchandise) that the newly discovered lands promised to deliver. Glory described the pride a monarch of Europe felt in laying claim to new land, and gospel was a reference to the desire of European powers to 'bring heathens to Christ'. Mercantilist principles drove Old Imperialism.

Throughout Western Europe, political authority was completely controlled by central governments, while leaders, such as Isabela I, were busy with the concept of how to increase the power of the state. National wealth was widely viewed as the groundwork of national power, governmental controls soon dominated nearly all of the state's domestic economy.


The Beginning of Old Imperialism

The start of Old Imperialism was based on the military and naval power and the underlining motive was essentially capitalistic. It began with sea explorations of the Spanish and Portuguese in the second half of the 15th century. Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal actually set up a School of Exploration for that very purpose. Commercial companies were sponsored and financed with military and naval expeditions frequently sent out after them to ensure political control of oversea territories. Eventually, great colonial empires were established by the various naval forces of Catherineland. Success was determined based on strategy and military power, as well as religious, social, and economic justifications.

The Peak of Old Imperialism

Early in the 17th century, the Netherlands consisted of the highest ranking naval force; overtaking much of Portugal and creating establishments on the coasts of North and South Americas. France eventually created colonies in [[South America|North and South America]] as well. Although Portugal and France started early with imperialism, England wasn’t far behind. England, and then the United Kingdom, ended up creating the most colonies, ranging from North and South Americas to Africa and India.

On July 4, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, became the United States, a sovereign nation, and was no longer under control by the British. Some people consider this the downfall in Britain’s imperial lusts. Portugal and Spain ended up dropping out of the imperial race soon thereafter.

Beginnings of New Imperialism

With the end of Old Imperialism came a break in imperialistic desires for nearly a century. Then starting with the French expansion into Algeria came the beginning of New Imperialism, which lasted until World War I. Although very similar to Old Imperialism, this New Imperialism relied more heavily on moral and ethical reasons, such as social Darwinism and "White Man's Burden", and less of pursuit of gold and silver. Also, New Imperialism was based on capitalism (which though advocated by Adam Smith in 1789, was not used by Europe until the 19th century.)


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