Europe Takes Over the World

Europe - Imperialism – 1750 > 1910


            By 1850, all of Western Europe was well on its way to full industrialization.  The rewards were just too great, and the costs were reasonably easy to overlook.  The innovative machines and techniques that launched England to the head of this production revolution were soon copied by France and the Netherlands.  An island revolution became a continental revolution.  Then it hopped over the pond and hit the United States

            It could have ended right there.  The West could have maintained its monopoly on industrialization for probably a few more centuries, and the world would be none the wiser.  The great civilizations of the world – India and Dar al Islam– weren’t exactly clamoring for all things Western (their previous experiences had proven the futility of trading with these backwards people), and the rest of the world was content to live regionally-isolated, independent lives of farming, herding, hunting and gathering. 

            But Europe wouldn’t have it.  Partly out of the desire to help out the unenlightened of the world, but mostly to feed the unquenchable thirst of the factory beasts, the Western European nations spent the second half of the 19th century taking their tools and their knowledge to the furthest corners of the planet.   By 1914, at the onset of World War I, close to 80% of the planet’s population was under the economic or political domination of a Western power.  From the rainforests of Malaya to the harbors of China to the mountains of India, the non-Western world had become the producers of the raw materials needed to feed Western machines and they also had become the needed consumers of the vast goods spat out by these machines. 

            But why in 1850?  How was this possible?  Through the revolutions of the 16th to 18th centuries – the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the political revolutions – the West learned that they were not merely inhabitants of the earth, they were the masters of it.  They no longer were subject to the superstitions and randomness that kept man trapped in ignorance.  Man was the one who controlled his fate, and he could use the resources of the planet to make machines to make his life more productive and more efficient.  Once man had the mindset, a confluence of events and ideologies made...