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Imperialism, War, and Revolution, 1881–1920 529














SERBIA a l k












allies. He achieved both goals through a web of alliances collectively known as the Bismarckian system,

with which he dominated European diplomacy for

twenty years (1871–90). Bismarck’s accomplishment

radically altered European statecraft. Whereas the Metternichian system had kept the peace by a delicate balance of power in which none of the great powers

became too dominant and none felt too threatened, the

Bismarckian system kept peace through the lopsided

superiority of the German alliances and the comparative weakness of France.

French nationalists nonetheless dreamt of the day

of revenge—la revanche—on Germany, the day when

the republic would reclaim “the lost provinces” of Alsace and Lorraine, whose borders were marked on the

maps of French schools in a deep black. Realistic nationalists such as the hero of 1870, Léon Gambetta, understood that Germany had become too powerful to

fight alone. The French must wait for revanche; in Gambetta’s words, they should “[t]hink of it always, speak of

it never.” Despite a war scare in 1875 and a tense period

during the Boulangist nationalism of the late 1880s, no

French government planned a war of revenge.

The first treaty in Bismarck’s alliance system was

the Three Emperors’ League (Dreikaiserbund) of 1873, an

outgrowth of state visits exchanged by William I of

Germany, Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, and

Alexander II of Russia. The Dreikaiserbund represented an

amicable understanding (an entente) among recent rivals who shared a belief in monarchical solidarity.

(France remained the only republic in monarchical Europe.) The king of Italy soon embraced this counterrevolutionary league, siding with Germany despite the

debt Italians owed to the French from their wars of unification. The British remained outside this league, favoring a policy of continental nonalignment that came

to be called splendid isolation.

The development of the Bismarckian system accelerated as a result of warfare in the Balkans in 1875–78,

which convinced Bismarck to seek more formal treaties.

The provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (see map

27.1) rebelled against Turkish rule in 1875, and the

Principality of Serbia intervened to support them.

The Serbs had won autonomous government in their

rebellion of 1817 and had become the center of PanSlavism, an ardent nationalism dedicated to the unity of

the southern Slavs. The insurrection against the Ottoman Empire next spread to Bulgaria in 1876, and the

Turks responded with violent repression known in the

European press as “the Bulgarian horrors.” This enlarged

Balkan war forced the European powers to address a
































Ottoman Empire




200 300 Kilometers


as amended by

Congress of Berlin, 1878


200 Miles



MAP 27.1

The Balkans after the Congress

of Berlin, 1878 —

problem that had come to be called the eastern question. This was the question of the survival of the

Ottoman Empire—still known as “the sick man of Europe”—and the fate of territories under the control of

Constantinople. The eastern question posed the danger

of Austro-Russian conflict because both governments

coveted Ottoman territory in the Balkans. To avoid

such a confrontation, Bismarck adopted the role of “the

honest broker” of the eastern question and presided

over the Congress of Berlin (1878) to end the fighting.

The British endorsed the congress because it served

their policy of preserving the Ottoman Empire rather

than dismantling it. The Berlin settlement placated

Turkish honor by returning some territory lost in the

fighting, and it awarded Balkan territory to both the

Russians (Bessarabia) and the Austrians (BosniaHerzegovina). Bismarck bought French backing with

support for colonial expansion. The Slavic nationalist

movements of the Balkans—both Serbian and Bulgarian—were not satisfied: Serbs won their independence

530 Chapter 27

but Pan-Slavs saw Bosnia lost to Austria; the Bulgarians

won independence but lost much territory promised to

them in a preliminary treaty, the Treaty of San Stefano.

The Balkan crisis of 1875–78 drove Bismarck to negotiate a close military alliance with Austria-Hungary

known as the Dual Alliance (1879), which became the

new cornerstone of his alliance system. The Habsburg

prime minister and foreign minister was a Hungarian,

Count Julius Andrássy, who held no grudge against

Germany for the war of 1866. Secret terms of the Dual

Alliance promised each country military assistance if

they were attacked by Russia and guaranteed neutrality

if either were attacked by any other country. Bismarck

labored simultaneously to retain Russian friendship by

preserving and strengthening the Three Emperors’

League; he understood that “[i]n a world of five powers,

one should strive to be a trois” (on the side with three).

Italy, motivated by a growing colonial rivalry with

France in north Africa, joined the Dual Alliance in

1882, converting the pact into the Triple Alliance. Germany thus acquired explicit security against France, although Bismarck publicly presented the treaty as

merely a bulwark of the monarchical order. To underscore his desire for Russian friendship, Bismarck later

negotiated another Russo-German treaty known as the

Reinsurance Treaty (1887). This document gave a German pledge not to support Austrian aggression against

Russia, and it was accompanied by significant German

investment in Russian industrial development. Both

governments reiterated their devotion to the status quo.

Finally, Bismarck orchestrated a series of secondary

treaties, such as the Mediterranean Agreements (1887),

which involved other governments (including Britain

and Spain) in the defense of the status quo. The network of his treaties became so complex that Bismarck

enjoyed the self-bestowed image of being a juggler

who could keep five balls in the air at once.


The New Imperialism, 1881–1914

The great powers exploited the European peace to annex large empires around the world. In 1871 only 10

percent of Africa had fallen under European control.

Britain held the Cape Colony in South Africa and a few

strips of West Africa. France had seized Algeria in 1830

and had long controlled part of West Africa including

Senegal, while Portugal retained southern colonies dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but

most of the continent remained self-governing. By

1914 Europeans claimed virtually the entire continent,

leaving independent only Liberia (under American influence) and Ethiopia (claimed by Italy but unconquered) (see map 27.2). The new imperialism had also

ended self-government in the Pacific by 1914. There,

the Japanese, who took the Ryuku Islands in 1874 and

Formosa in 1895, and Americans, who took Hawaii in

1898 and part of Samoa in 1899, joined Europeans in

building oceanic empires. Simultaneously, Britain and

Russia expanded in southern Asia, Britain and France

occupied most of Southeast Asia, and all of the industrial powers (including Japan and the United States)

menaced China. Empires were growing so fast that a

leader of British imperialism, Colonial Secretary Joseph

Chamberlain, gloated, “The day of small nations has

long passed away. The day of empires has come.”

Europeans had been claiming empires around the

world for centuries. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal,

Denmark, and the Netherlands all held colonies taken

before the nineteenth century. According to an

estimate made in 1900, the frontiers of Russia had been

advancing into Asia (much as the United States pushed

westward) at the rate of fifty-five square miles per year

since the sixteenth century. In the century between the

1770s and the 1870s, Russia fought six wars against the

Ottoman Empire and four wars against Persia, in the

course of which the czars annexed the Crimea, Georgia, and Armenia, then advanced into south Asia and

prepared to take Afghanistan. Newly unified Italy and

Germany were eager—against Bismarck’s better judgment—to join this club. As Kaiser Wilhelm II said in a

speech of 1901, echoing Bülow’s Weltpolitik, Germans

also expected “our place in the sun.”

Europeans had previously built colonial empires,

sending colonists to live in distant colonies. The new

imperialism of 1881–1914 included little colonialism.

Europeans sent soldiers to explore and conquer, officials to organize and administer, missionaries to teach

and convert, and merchants to develop and trade, but

few families of colonists. When Germany annexed

African colonies in the 1880s, more Germans chose to

emigrate to Paris (the capital of their national enemy)

than to colonize Africa.

Earlier empires had also been based on mercantilist

commerce. Colonies might provide such diverse goods

as pepper, tulip bulbs, opium, or slaves, but they were

expected to strengthen or to enrich the imperial state.

Economic interests still drove imperialism, but the motor had changed. Imperialists now sought markets for

exported manufactures, especially textiles. They

dreamt, in the imagery of one British prime minister, of

the fortunes to be made if every Oriental bought a

woolen nightcap. The rise of trade unions inspired in-

Imperialism, War, and Revolution, 1881–1920 531






Mediterranean Sea








S uaen a l


































































AFRICA Mafeking Pretoria


2250 Kilometers



1500 Miles





Cape of Good Hope

Possessions, 1914







Great Britain


Boer Republic


MAP 27.2

Africa in 1914 —

dustrialists to covet cheaper, more manageable, colonial

labor. Financiers needed to find markets for investing

the capital accumulating from industrial profits. As a

leading French imperialist, Jules Ferry, said, “Colonial

policy is the daughter of industrial policy” (see document 27.1). The new imperialism, however, cannot be

explained entirely by economics. Colonies cost imperial governments sums of money for military, administrative, and developmental expenses that far exceeded

the tax revenues they produced. Many private enterprises also lost money on imperialism. In the early

twentieth century, the five largest banks in Berlin ap-

pealed to the government to stop acquiring colonies

because they were losing ventures. Individual investors

usually lost money in colonial stocks; they frequently

paid neither dividends nor interest and were sold as patriotic investments. Some businesses, and the elites who

controlled them, did make great profits from captive

markets; textile towns and port-cities prospered in this

way and championed imperialism. A few individuals

made staggering fortunes overseas, as Cecil Rhodes did

in the African diamond fields. Rhodes was a struggling

cotton farmer who bought a diamond claim and hired

Africans to work it. When he died, he was considered

532 Chapter 27

[ DOCUMENT 27.1 [

Jules Ferry: French Imperialism (1885)

Jules Ferry (1832–1893) was a wealthy middle-class lawyer

who served as premier of France in the 1880s. He was a moderate

republican and one of the founders of the Third Republic. His

greatest accomplishments came in the creation of the French educational system, but he also became a leading champion of imperialism. The following document is excerpted from one of his

parliamentary speeches.

Our colonial policy . . . rests upon our economic principles and interests, on our humanitarian visions of order,

and on political considerations. . . .

[Interruptions by hecklers: “Yes, 20,000 corpses!” and

“Ten thousand families in mourning!”]

Why have colonies from an economic standpoint? . . .

[C]olonies are, for wealthy countries, an advantageous investment. France, which has exported a great amount of

capital abroad, must consider this aspect of the colonial

question. There is, however, another point, even more important: . . . For countries like France, devoted to exports

by the nature of their industry, the colonial question is a

question of markets. . . .

the richest man on earth. His power was so enormous

that a colony was named for him (Rhodesia, today

Zimbabwe), and his fortune was so immense that it endowed the famous Rhodes scholarships to Oxford. Not

surprisingly, Rhodes was an ardent imperialist who

lamented that he could not annex the stars. Even the

fantasy of striking it as rich as Rhodes, however, cannot

fully explain why governments ran deficits to pay for


The new imperialism must also be understood in

terms of nationalism, militarism, and racism (see illustration 27.1). Imperialist politicians insisted that empire

was the measure of a nation’s greatness. Nationalist organizations, such as the Pan-German League, pressed

their government to take more territory. It would

“awaken and foster the sense of racial and cultural kinship” of Germans to know that their country occupied a

city on the coast of China. Journalists, teachers, and

scholars promoted similar attitudes about the greatness

of empire. As a Cambridge historian wrote in 1883,

“[T]here is something intrinsically glorious in an empire

‘upon which the sun never sets.’ ” Even Cecil Rhodes in-

Gentlemen, there is a second point, a second set of

ideas, that I must also raise: the humanitarian and civilizing side of imperialism. The honorable Camille Pelletan

[another deputy] scoffs at this point. . . . He asks, “What is

this civilization that one imposes with cannon shells?” . . .

One must answer that superior races have rights with regard to the inferior races. They have rights because they

have duties. They have the duty to civilize the inferior

races. . . . Can anyone deny that it was good fortune for

the people of equatorial Africa to fall under the protection

of France and Britain?

. . . I add that French colonial policy . . . is inspired by

another truth which you must reflect upon: a navy such as

ours cannot survive with the shelters, defenses, supply

bases. Just look at the map of the world. . . . No warship,

no matter how perfectly organized, can carry more than a

fourteen day supply of coal, and a warship short of coal is

only a derelict on the high seas.

Journal officiel de la rộpublique franỗaise. Debates of July 28, 1885.

Trans. Steven C. Hause. Paris: Imprimerie des journaux officiels.

sisted that his motives began with his nationalism. “I

contend,” he wrote, “that we [the British] are the first

race in the world, and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race. I believe it to

be my duty to God, my Queen, and my Country to

paint the whole map of Africa red [the color typically

used to depict British colonies], red from the Cape to


Militarism was also a significant factor in imperialism. The conquest of distant lands required larger

armies and bigger budgets. Decoration, promotion, and

territory were more easily won against preindustrial

armies. Lord Kitchener became famous for commanding the outnumbered army that conquered the Sudan in

1896–98. Kitchener’s army of twenty-five thousand defeated an army of fifty thousand because they were

equipped with Maxim (machine) guns, which enabled

them to kill large numbers of Sudanese with relative

ease; at the decisive battle of Omdurman, Kitchener’s

forces suffered five hundred casualties and killed more

than fifteen thousand Sudanese—“giving them a good

dusting” in Kitchener’s words. Thus, while the nine-

Imperialism, War, and Revolution, 1881–1920 533

Illustration 27.1

— Imperialism. The German satirical review Simplicissimus

published this commentary in 1904: German imperialism is

seen to be an extension of German militarism, whereas British

imperialism is seen to be an extension of British capitalism.

(The captions read, “This is the way the German colonizes.

This is the way the Englishman colonizes.” The sign on the

tree says, “It is forbidden to dump trash or snow here.”) Other

drawings in the series depicted French soldiers making love to

native women and a Belgian roasting an African over an open

fire and preparing to eat him.

534 Chapter 27

teenth century appears to be an age of peace for Britain

when viewed in a European context, it was an epoch of

constant warfare when viewed in a global context.

In addition to economic and political explanations

of imperialism, Western cultural attitudes are also important. These range from religion and humanitarianism to social Darwinism and racism. Christian

missionaries formed the vanguard of imperialist intervention in Africa and Asia. They were successful in

some regions: Nigeria and Madagascar, for example, are

both more than 40 percent Christian today. In other regions, people resisted Christianity as an imperialist intervention; as one Indian put it, “Buddha came into our

world on an elephant; Christ came into our world on a

cannonball.” Missionaries also taught Western attitudes

and behavior, such as denouncing the depravity of

seminudity in tropical climates. Textile manufacturers

were not alone in concluding that “[b]usiness follows

the Bible.” Europeans also justified imperialism by

speaking of humanitarianism. Some used crude stereotypes about abolishing cannibalism or moralistic arguments about ending polygamy; others took pride in the

campaign to end the slave trade, which Europeans had

done so much to develop. More educated arguments

cited the abolition of practices such as Suttee in India

(the tradition by which a widow threw herself on her

husband’s funeral pyre) or the benefits of Western


Humanitarian justifications for imperialism were often cloaked in terms such as the French doctrine of la

mission civilatrice or the title of Rudyard Kipling’s poem

“The White Man’s Burden” (1899). Such terms suggested the social Darwinian argument that Western civilization was demonstrably superior to others, and this

led to the simple corollaries that (1) in Jules Ferry’s

words, “superior races have rights with regard to inferior races” and (2) they had a duty to help “backwards”

peoples. Kipling, for example, urged advanced states:

“Fill full the mouth of Famine/And bid the sickness

cease.” Even humanitarianism thus contained an element of the racism common in imperialism. Europeans

had often viewed colonial peoples as heathens or savages. Late nineteenth-century social Darwinism worsened such stereotypes with the pseudoscientific notion

that all races were locked in a struggle for survival, a

struggle to be won by the fittest. Imperialists cheerfully

concluded that their own nation would win this struggle. A president of the United States spoke of his desire

to help his “little brown brothers” (the people of the

Philippines). A czar of Russia joked about going to

war with “little yellow monkeys” (the Japanese, who

promptly defeated the Russians). By the early twentieth

century, Western racism was so unchallenged that a

major zoo exhibited an African in a cage alongside


The Scramble for Africa

Historians often cite the French occupation of Tunis in

1881 as the beginning of the new imperialism. French

pride had been hurt by the events of 1870–71, and it

had received another blow in 1875 when the British

purchased control of the Suez Canal (built by the

French in the 1860s) from the khedive of Egypt. Bismarck used the distrust generated by the Suez issue to

reawaken Anglo-French rivalry. At the Congress of

Berlin in 1878, he encouraged the French to claim Tunis, and the congress approved. Jules Ferry, who became premier of France in 1880, used the excuse of

raids by Tunisian tribes into Algeria to proclaim a

French protectorate over Tunis—an act that promptly

benefited Bismarck by driving the Italians into the

Triple Alliance. The British responded by using nationalist riots as an excuse to extend their control of Egypt

in 1882. They bombarded Alexandria, occupied Cairo,

and placed Egypt under the thumb of a British consul.

Nationalist rebellion moved south to the Sudan in

1883. It acquired a religious fervor from an Islamic

leader known as the Mahdi (messiah); the mahdists defeated several British garrisons, notably the forces of

General Gordon at Khartoum (1885), and sustained an

autonomous government until Kitchener’s victory at

Omdurman a decade later.

Anglo-French imperialism in North Africa provoked a race among European governments, known as

“the scramble for Africa,” to claim colonies in subSaharan Africa. In the five years between 1882 and

1887, Europeans claimed more than two million square

miles of Africa. (The United States today totals less

than 3.7 million square miles.) In 1884 alone, Germany

took more than 500,000 square miles as German Southwest Africa (today Namibia), Cameroon, and Togo;

two years later, they added nearly 400,000 square miles

as German East Africa (today Tanzania). The largest

single claim, nearly a million square miles of central

Africa known as the Congo, was taken by King

Leopold II of Belgium in 1885. Leopold then founded a

company that brutally exploited the Congo as a gigantic rubber plantation, under the ironic name of the

Congo Free State. But even land grabs that huge could

not compete with the British and French empires; by

1914 Great Britain and France each controlled approximately five million square miles of Africa.

Imperialism, War, and Revolution, 1881–1920 535

The scramble for Africa had repercussions in European diplomacy, chiefly the reopening of the colonial

rivalry between Britain and France. After General

Kitchener’s victory at Omdurman, his troops confronted a small French exploratory mission, the Marchand mission, which had camped on the upper Nile at

the Sudanese town of Fashoda. Kitchener and Marchand both claimed Fashoda, but the size of Kitchener’s

forces obliged the French to leave. The Fashoda crisis

showed that France remained vulnerable in 1898.

In the following months, however, the vulnerability

of British diplomatic isolation was exposed by Britain’s

involvement in the Boer War (1899–1902). The Boers,

white settlers of mixed Dutch and Huguenot descent,

had created a republic, the Transvaal, in Bantu territory

north of the Britain’s Cape Colony in South Africa. The

British annexed the Transvaal in 1877, but a revolt in

1880–81 earned the Boers autonomy under the strong

leadership of President Paul Kruger. Tensions remained

high, however, especially after the discovery of vast deposits of gold in the Transvaal. An Anglo-Boer war

broke out in 1899. The Boers won initial victories, besieged the British at Mafeking and Ladysmith, and

earned international sympathy, especially after the

British placed 120,000 Boer women and children in

concentration camps (the first use of this term) to limit

support for Boer guerrillas and twenty thousand died,

chiefly from disease. Massive British reinforcements under General Kitchener reversed the course of the war in

1900, lifting the siege of Mafeking, capturing the Boer

capital of Pretoria, and again annexing the Transvaal.

The Boer leaders continued resistance in two years of

guerrilla fighting before accepting the British victory in

the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902.

The Boer War was the largest imperial war in

Africa, but it should not distract attention from the

wars of African resistance to imperialism. The British

annexation of the Transvaal, for example, led them into

the Zulu War of 1879, which showed that a poorly

equipped African army could defeat Europeans. The

Ashanti tribes of West Africa, in what is now Ghana,

resisted the British in four wars during the nineteenth

century, three of them fought between 1873 and 1896.

The Ashanti, too, won battles against the British. The

French likewise experienced defeats in fighting two Dahomeyan wars (in today’s Benin); the Mandingo tribes

(in today’s Ivory Coast) resisted French occupation of

the interior for thirteen years (1885–98) making a great

hero of their chief, Samory. The Hereros (Bantu tribes

of southwest Africa) and the Hottentots withstood the

German army for nearly six years (1903–08). They did

not capitulate until the Germans had reduced the

Herero population from eighty thousand to fifteen

thousand. The Ethiopians threw out European invaders;

Emperor Menelik II resisted an Italian occupation in

1896, and his forces annihilated an Italian army in the

massive battle (more than 100,000 combatants) of


Europeans eventually won most imperial wars. The

advantage of modern armament is sufficient explanation, as Kitchener demonstrated in the bloody engagement on the plains of Omdurman. In the blunt words of

one poet, “Whatever happens we have got/The Maxim

Gun, and they have not.” Europeans also held a numerical advantage whenever they chose to use it; defeats

usually summoned reinforcements that Africans could

not match, as the Bantus, the Zulus, and the Boers

learned. The Italian army was outnumbered by eighty

thousand to twenty thousand at Adowa. If Italy had

wanted Ethiopia badly enough to obtain a four-to-one

advantage (the Italian army and militia of the 1890s

numbered nearly three million men), they, too, might

have won. Europeans also succeeded in imperial conquests because of biological and medical advantages.

Westerners had an advantage in nutrition that translated into larger, healthier armies, and invaders carrying

smallpox, whooping cough, or the measles sometimes

carried a biological weapon better than gunpowder.

Conversely, African diseases (especially malaria) had

long blocked European penetration of the continent.

When the French occupied Tunis in 1881, malaria took

twenty-five times as many soldiers as combat did. Europeans knew that quinine, derived from the bark of the

cinchona tree, prevented malaria, and scientists isolated

the chemical in 1820, but not until the late nineteenth

century did they synthesize quinine in adequate quantities to provide an inexpensive daily dose for large

armies. Such scientific conquests made possible the military conquest of Africa.

Imperialism in Asia and the ‘Opening of China’

Europeans began their conquests in Asia in the early

sixteenth century. By the late nineteenth century (see

map 27.3), Britain dominated most of south Asia (today’s India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh) and

Australasia (Australia and New Zealand). They had begun to expand into Southeast Asia, annexing much of

Burma (now Myanmar) in 1853. This led them into

competition with the French who landed troops in Annam (Vietnam) in 1858. Most of the East Indies had

been claimed by the Dutch (the Dutch East Indies,

536 Chapter 27




o lg



T r ans– S iber i

a n Ra i lro


Sea of











la y


M ts.












g R.






Sea of





R . Beijing












pian Sea














Bombay Yanaon Bay of

















Guam (U.S.)











Caroline Islands











1500 Kilometers








1000 Miles

Great Britain


United States





Sphere of influence




Chinese border, 1850



MAP 27.3

Asia in 1914 —

today Indonesia) or the Spanish (the Philippines) for

centuries. China and Japan had largely resisted Western

penetration, except for toeholds such as Hong Kong,

which the British leased in 1841.

The new imperialism refreshed the European appetite for Asia. Between 1882 and 1884 the French subjugated the region of modern Vietnam, and their

expedition continued until Cambodia (1887) and Laos

(1893) were combined with Annam to form French

Indo-China. This prompted the British to complete

their annexation of Burma (1886) and to reach south

for the Malay States (today Malaysia), which became a

British-run federation in 1896. By the turn of the century, only Siam (Thailand) remained independent in

Imperialism, War, and Revolution, 1881–1920 537

the entire subcontinent, and Siamese freedom depended upon Anglo-French inability to compromise.

Most of Southeast Asia had been under the loose

suzerainty of the Manchu dynasty of China, and the

European conquests of 1882–96 exposed the vulnerability of that regime. Japan’s easy military victory in the

Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95—the result of a decade

of rivalry over Korea, which Japan seized in 1894—underscored that lesson. The Treaty of Shimonoseki

ended that war, with China granting independence to

Korea and ceding the province of Kwantung (west of

Korea) and the island of Formosa (Taiwan) to Japan.

Europeans could not resist exploiting the infirmity

of the Chinese Empire. Their initial intervention, however, was against the Japanese, who were obliged to return Kwantung to China. Then, in 1896, the Russians

extracted a treaty allowing them to build the TransSiberian Railway across the Chinese province of

Manchuria to the port of Vladivostok. Shortly thereafter, the Russians simply occupied Manchuria. In early

1897 the Germans followed the Japanese and Russians

into China by occupying the northern port city of

Kiaochow after two German missionaries had been

killed in that region. These events launched another

imperialist scramble, this time known as “the opening

of China.” Unlike their outright annexation of land in

Africa, European governments used the genteel device

of pressing the Manchu government to sign ninetynine-year “leases” to “treaty ports” along the coast of

China. During 1898 the Germans extracted a lease to

Kiaochow, the Russians to the Liaodong peninsula and

Port Arthur, the French to Kwangchow in the south

(near to Indo-China), and the British to both Wei-HaiWei in the north and Kowloon (near Hong Kong) in

the south.

While Europeans were extracting leases to Chinese

territory, another war shifted imperialist attention further east, to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The

Spanish-American War of 1898—chiefly fought in the

Caribbean, following a Cuban insurrection against

Spanish rule in 1895—completed the collapse of the

Spanish colonial empire. The victorious United States,

which had won an important naval victory against the

Spanish at Manila, claimed the Philippine archipelago

(the largest Spanish colony) and fought a three-year

war (1899–1901) to subdue Filipino nationalists. The

United States chose to follow European imperialism

and established an American government for the islands. This stimulated a race to claim the remaining islands of the Pacific. Germany and the United States,

both eager for bases to support global fleets, led this

rush. Between 1899 and 1914 Germany claimed dozens

of north Pacific islands (such as the Mariana Islands,

the Caroline Islands, and the Marshall Islands, which

would become famous battlegrounds of World War II).

The United States took Hawaii (1898), Guam (1898),

and Wake Island (1900), while joining Germany and

Britain in dividing the Samoan Islands (1899). By 1914

no self-governing atoll survived in the Pacific.

The Asian resistance to Western imperialism, like

the African resistance, was repeatedly expressed with

arms. The opening of China in 1898 precipitated a turbulent period in Chinese history that included an

uprising against foreigners, the Boxer Rebellion

(1900–01). The Boxers, the European name for a paramilitary organization of Chinese nationalists who

hoped to expel all foreigners from China, began the uprising by attacking Christian missionaries and their

converts. Violence spread to Beijing, culminating in the

murder of the German ambassador and a siege of Western legations. A multinational expedition put down the

Boxer Rebellion and conducted punitive missions into

provincial China.

Japan provided the most successful opposition to

European imperialism in Asia. European intervention

against the Japanese in 1895, followed by provocations

such as the Russian occupation of Manchuria, lease to

Port Arthur, and penetration of Korea led to the RussoJapanese War of 1904–1905. The Japanese attacked

Port Arthur in February 1904, trapping the entire Russian Pacific fleet except for the ships icebound at Vladivostok. A few weeks later, the Japanese army landed in

Korea, advanced into Manchuria, and defeated the

Russian army. In the spring of 1905, a Russian European

fleet reached the Orient only to be destroyed (thirtythree of forty-five ships were sunk) in the battle of

Tsushima Strait between Japan and Korea.

Resistance to European imperialism went beyond

the Indo-Chinese wars of the 1880s, the Boxer uprising

of 1900, and the Japanese victory of 1904–05. Wellorganized nationalist movements appeared in the early

twentieth century. In 1908, for example, a group of

moderate nationalists wrote a constitution for the

Indian National Congress (later, the Congress Party),

calmly stating their objective of winning selfgovernment by constitutional means. The African

National Congress (ANC) of South Africa originated at

a similar meeting in 1912. Many of the nationalists

who would lead the twentieth-century resistance to

Western imperialism emigrated to Europe where they

received formal and informal educations in dealing with

European governments. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of

Vietnamese armed resistance to French, Japanese, and

American imperialism, lived in France as a young man;

538 Chapter 27

there he joined in the foundation of the French Communist Party. Perhaps the most impressive resistance to

imperialism was begun by an Indian lawyer, Mohandas

Gandhi. Gandhi began his career as a lawyer defending

Indian laborers in South Africa in 1889. There he developed a policy of nonviolent resistance known by the

Sanskrit word Satyagraha. Despite harassment, beatings,

and imprisonment, Gandhi stood with the moral force

of Satyagraha and gained a global reputation. When the

frustrated British deported him to India, Gandhi

brought passive resistance to Indian nationalism.


The Diplomatic Revolution,


Imperial rivalries strained the Bismarckian system in Europe, but his network of alliances survived until Kaiser

Wilhelm II sent Bismarck into retirement in 1890. The

young emperor followed the advice of one of Bismarck’s

rivals, Baron Fritz von Holstein, to revise the Bismarckian system because Bismarck’s promises to Russia risked

losing the close alliance with Austria. Despite repeated

Russian requests, the kaiser therefore decided not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887, and it lapsed three

months after the dismissal of Bismarck. Instead, Wilhelm expanded the Triple Alliance in 1891, giving

larger promises of support to Austria-Hungary and

Italy. The consequence of the lapsing of Reinsurance

Treaty was Franco-Russian friendship. One year after

Bismarck’s departure, a French fleet paid a symbolic

visit to the Russian port of Kronstadt (near St. Petersburg) and Franco-Russian negotiations began; French

pledges of loans to help industrialize Russia quickly led

to the August Convention of 1891, an informal guarantee of cooperation. Avid French diplomacy expanded

this into a military treaty, the Franco-Russian Alliance

of 1894. Through this pact, the czar pledged to use the

full Russian army against Germany, if Germany invaded

France; the reciprocal French promise gave Russia security against Austria and Germany. To be ready for war,

both sides also pledged to mobilize their armies as

soon as any member of the Triple Alliance began


The 1890s witnessed a further weakening of the

German position as a result of deteriorating AngloGerman relations. The rise of Germany as an industrial

power caused a rivalry for markets and aroused hostile

public opinion in both countries. The jingoistic press

contributed significantly to the worsening relations.

The trade rivalry made the British question their tradi-

tion of free trade, and newspapers were soon denouncing goods “Made in Germany.” German imperialism

and German sympathy for the Boers (the kaiser sent a

notorious telegram of encouragement to President

Kruger in 1896) worsened relations further. German

colonies contributed to the emergence of a larger problem: the German decision to build a great navy.

Through the efforts of Admiral von Tirpitz, Germany

adopted an ambitious Naval Law in 1898 and expanded

that construction program with a second Naval Law in

1900. The British, who had long counted upon “ruling

the waves” as their insurance against invasion, had

adopted a vigorous naval building policy in 1889

known as “the two-power standard”; that is, they would

build a navy equal to the combined forces of any two

rivals. This policy, in combination with the German

naval laws, led Europe to a dangerous arms race.

When the Fashoda crisis rekindled Anglo-French

colonial disputes in 1898, some British statesmen, led

by Joseph Chamberlain, argued that the government

must abandon splendid isolation and enter the European alliance system. Chamberlain suggested resolving

Anglo-German differences and negotiating an AngloGerman alliance, but his unofficial talks with minor

diplomats in 1898–1901 failed to persuade either Prime

Minister Salisbury or Chancellor von Bülow, and they

were flatly rejected by the kaiser. The French foreign

minister who yielded to Britain in the Fashoda crisis,

Théophile Delcassé, responded by seizing the opportunity to open Anglo-French negotiations over their generations of colonial differences. By skillfully expanding

colonial negotiations, Delcassé became the architect of

a diplomatic revolution that ended British isolation and

the hegemony of the Triple Alliance. His greatest accomplishment was an Anglo-French agreement of 1904

known as the Entente Cordiale (cordial understanding).

The entente was not a military treaty comparable to the

Triple Alliance or the Franco-Russian Alliance. It simply

resolved colonial disputes: France recognized British

preeminence in Egypt, and Britain accepted the French

position in Morocco. Starting with this quid pro quo, the

two governments were able to end squabbles around

the globe.

The German reaction to the Entente Cordiale was

to provoke an international crisis over Morocco in

1905. Germany, which had a growing commercial interest in Morocco, had been excluded from talks on the

subject, although Delcassé had conducted subsequent

negotiations on Morocco to acquire the support of

Spain (by giving up the Moroccan coast opposite

Spain) and of Italy (by backing an Italian claim to

Tripoli). The Moroccan Crisis (later called the first Mo-

Imperialism, War, and Revolution, 1881–1920 539

roccan Crisis) resulted from a state visit by Kaiser Wilhelm II to Tangier, Morocco, where he made a strong

speech in defense of Moroccan independence. When

Delcassé proposed that some territorial concession be

made to Germany to recognize the French position in

Morocco, the kaiser refused. This confrontation led, at

the invitation of the sultan of Morocco, to an international conference at Algeciras (Spain) in 1906, where

Delcassé’s diplomacy succeeded again, although he was

driven from office in France by fears that he was dangerously provoking Germany. The crisis strengthened

the Entente Cordiale and prompted closer AngloFrench military conversations; and when a vote was

taken at Algeciras, only Austria supported Germany.

The survival of the entente cordiale convinced the Reichstag to adopt a third Naval Law in 1906, but that in

turn frightened the British enough to negotiate their

territorial disputes with Russia in south Asia (Persia and

Afghanistan). The Russians recognized the need for

this in the aftermath of their defeat in 1905; the resultant Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 divided Persia into

spheres of influence and exchanged a Russian agreement to stay out of Afghanistan in return for British

support for Russian naval access to the Mediterranean.

This entente combined with the Entente Cordiale to

create the Triple Entente. The Triple Entente did not

include the explicit military provisions of the Triple Alliance, but Britain, France, and Russia soon entered into

talks to plan military cooperation. Whereas French

diplomats once worried about their isolation by Bismarck, the diplomatic revolution made Germans speak

angrily of their Einkreisung (encirclement) by hostile



The Eastern Question

and the Road to War

This division of Europe into two competing alliances

meant that virtually any local crisis could precipitate a

general war. Europe held several grave local problems,

but the worst remained the eastern question. Bismarck’s

Congress of Berlin in 1878 had not settled this issue, it

had merely temporized by placating the great powers;

it did nothing to resolve Balkan nationalist claims or to

settle the internal problems of the Ottoman Empire.

Fighting resumed in the Balkans in the 1880s and had

become severe in 1885 when Bulgarian nationalists in

East Rumelia sought unity with Bulgaria, and Serbia

went to war to prevent the creation of a large Bulgaria

on its frontier. Fighting broke out twice in the 1890s,

then two more times in the early twentieth century before the next major crisis, known as the Balkan crisis of

1908. The crisis began with a long-simmering rebellion

of westernizers inside the Ottoman Empire, known as

the Young Turk rebellion; the victorious Young Turks

won numerous concessions from the Sultan and exposed the weakness of the government in Constantinople to resist changes.

Almost constant crises wracked the Balkans from

1908 to 1914. Austria-Hungary, which had established

a claim to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, took advantage of the Ottoman crisis to annex the two

provinces in 1908. This act outraged Pan-Slav nationalists in Serbia who had long seen Serbia as “the Piedmont of the Balkans” and anticipated a merger with

Bosnia in a union of the southern Slavs (the Yugo Slavs

in the Serbian language). After the annexation, Slavic

nationalists turned increasingly to revolutionary societies, such as the Black Hand, to achieve unity. The

1911 statutes of the Black Hand stated the danger

bluntly: “This organization prefers terrorist action to intellectual propaganda.” The Habsburg monarchy was

soon to discover that this was not an idle threat. None

of the European powers was pleased by the annexation

of Bosnia, but none intervened to prevent it.

The continuing weakness of the Ottoman Empire,

militancy of Balkan nationalism, and reluctance of the

great powers to intervene led to a succession of crises.

In 1911 a second Moroccan crisis occurred, in which

Germany sent the gunboat Panther to Morocco to protect German interests and the French conceded territory in central Africa to resolve the dispute. In 1912 a

war broke out in North Africa, in which Italy invaded

Tripoli to acquire their compensation for French gains

in Morocco. Later that year, open warfare began in the

Balkans when Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and

Greece joined to attack the Ottoman Empire and detach some of the few remaining Turkish provinces in

Europe; the Italians soon joined this First Balkan War

(1912–13) by invading the Dodecanese Islands off the

coast of Turkey. After the Turks had conceded territory

to all of the belligerents, they quarreled among themselves; several states fought Bulgaria in the Second

Balkan War (1913) to redivide the spoils, but nationalist

ambitions were still unsatisfied.


Militarism and the European Arms Race

Imperial competition, alliance system rivalries, and the

Balkan crises were all happening in an age of militarism.

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