Why was there imperial expansion?: European countries began to use their advanced economies, armies and technology to take over territories with no state organisation. Between 1870 and 1914, they created colonial empires, mainly in Africa and Asia.

  • ECONOMIC INTERESTS: Industrialised European countries were in search of new markets where they could sell their surplus products. They also wanted to obtain raw materials (coal, iron, cotton, rubber, etc.) and colonial products (sugar, chocolate, tea, etc.) at the best possible prices. Lastly, they wanted to invest their excess capital in places outside Europe where cheap labour brought them increased profits.
  • A GROWING POPULATION: The economic changes of the 19 century led to a huge rise in Europe’s population, which by 1900 had reached 450 million. This demographic growth caused overpopulation, especially in rural areas, which encouraged people to emigrate to colonies on other continents. Migration provided a solution for the metropole (the occupying state), since it could avoid social problems like unemployment, strikes, etc.
  • AVALRY BETWEN THE OVERS: imperial expansion also occurred because the industrial powers wanted to expand their areas of influence to increase their political power and hinder their competitors’ expansion. After the unifications of Italy and Germany, which stabilised European borders, European countries could only increase their political power by occupying other continents. Creating colonial empires was a way to demonstrate their influence in international diplomacy. This led to a race is control new territories before rival powers did. The main European political leaders considered colonial expansion a necessity, since it formed the strategic basis of their military power and impeded their rivals’ expansion.
  • THE MYTH OF THE MASTER RACE: The root causes of imperialism are impossible to understand without examining them in the context of racist and nationalistic attitudes of the time. The idea of a white master race, whose intelligence and industriousness gave it the right to impose itself on other races, was presented as scientific fact in almost all European countries. Philosophers, scientists, writers and politicians subscribed to this idea and convinced much of the population of its legitimacy. They also imposed the idea that this justifiable domination could be exerted by any means, including war. It was considered a way of reasserting the power and cultural superiority of each country. As a result, people started to believe that Evropeans had a duly to spread their culture and Civilisation among peoples who were considered inferior.

The Bourbon restoration (1874-1902):

  • The Canovist system: The new monarchy adopted the Canovist system, a political system created by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo. It established a system that allowed political parties to alternate in power and promised political and social stability. One of the first objectives was the pacification of Spain. This put an end to the Carlist war in 1876, and in 1878, the Pact of Zanjon ended the Cuban Ten Years’ War. To guarantee stability in the new regime, the Constitution of 1876 was drafted. It proposed a constitutional monarchy, assigned shared power to the Cortes and the king, established bicameral Cortes (Congress and Senate), gave broad powers to the monarch (who named the government), and declared a confessional state. The Constitution of 1876 was moderate with an extensive Bill of Rights and forms of suffrage. However, it was open enough to allow either the conservatives or the liberals to rule, without the need to modify it. To put an end to the military pronunciamentos, the army was made subordinate to civil power.
  • Bipartisanship and the turno pacifico: Under the new bipartisan system, two political parties were created to share power in the government: the Conservative Party, led by Cánovas, and the Liberal Party, led by Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. Both parties were in favour of the monarchy, the Constitution, private ownership and a centralised, unitary state. However, the conservatives supported maintenance of the existing social order and favoured the confessional state (a state with an official religion), while the liberals were more secular and supported comprehensive social reforms. The two parties alternated in power using a system called the turno pacifico (peaceful alternation). The parties marginalised by the system (the Carlists, democrats, republicans and socialists) could only aspire to have minority representation in parliament. During the regency of Maria Christina (1885- 1902), the system of alternating power was consolidated through the Pact of Pardo, and in 1890, the liberals introduced universal male suffrage.
  • Caciquismo and electoral fraud: The alternation of power between conservatives and liberals was secured by caciquismo, a form of social coercion in rural areas in which individuals controlled an electoral constituency through their economic power. The caciques were both conservatives and liberals. They were powerful local figures who manipulated election results through all kinds of vote-rigging: altering official records, buying votes, threatening voters, etc.
  • The crisis of 1898: In 1895, Spain found itself faced with a nationalist movement in Cuba as a result of poor Spanish administration regarding political reforms, autonomy and control of the economy. The nationalist movement had the support of the United States, which suffered from heavy taxes that impeded its trade with Cuba. In 1898, after the sinking of the US battleship Maine in Havana, the USA declared war on Spain. By the time the War of Cuban Independence had ended and the Treaty of Paris was signed (1898), Spain had lost all of its remaining colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines). The crisis of 1898 provoked feelings of frustration and pessimism in Spain. Regenerationist movements emerged, calling for a real democratic state and the end of caciquismo and corruption.

European migrants in the 19th century:

  • THE POPULATION EXPLOSION IN EUROPE: Throughout the 19 century, agricultural reforms, industrialisation and advances in medicine and hygiene (e.g. vaccines and drugs) had caused a huge reduction in the death rate in Europe. However, the birth rate did not decline at the same pace until the start of the 20th century. The gap between the birth and death rates caused population explosion, first in industrialised countries and then across the whole continent. The European population doubled and a portion of this population migrated to other continents.
  • TRANSOCEANIC JOURNEYS: Migration was made possible by new means of transport, especially Iransoceanic steamships. Travel times decreased dramatically. At the start of the 194 century, the journey from Europe to the Americas took a month, but by the start of the 20h century, the same journey took just over five days. Thousands of people from all social classes sailed on the ships. Some passengers were assigned to the upper cabins, which had bunges and restaurants, but most travelled in holds. These were the cheapest tickets, but cost them most of their savings.
  • POOR MIGRANTS AND COLONIAL ELITES: The people who left Europe did not all belong to the same social class. The majority were poor peasants, people without a trade and middle-class people in search of better opportunities. There was a difference between migrants from countries with large colonies such as Britain, who settled in the new lands as farmers or became part of the colonial administration, and those from countries without colonies (e.g). Poland, Italy, etc.), whose conditions in the new lands were worse and many of whom became ordinary wage earners.

Europe at the end of the war

  • An economic and demographic disaster: The war caused the deaths of around ten million soldiers and was responsible for a large number of civilian casualties due to malnutrition and disease. This high death toll, together with the low number of births during the war, caused widespread demographic decline. From an economic point of view, the First World War meant the permanent loss of European hegemony, The conflict left the warring nations impoverished. European industry reduced in size by 40%, and agriculture by 30%. All European countries were in debt. They had to issue government bonds and take out war loans with other countries, particularly the United States. In contrast, the United States was the great beneficiary of the war) and its economy became the most powerful in the world. Its gross domestic product doubled in the war years and the dollar replaced the pound sterling as the main currency used in international transactions.
  • The organisation of peace: In January 1919, a conference was held in aris to establish the terms for peace. The Treaty of Versailles imposed the terms of peace with Germany, while other treaties were signed with Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Together, they broke up Europe’s empires and drew new borders. US President Woodrow Wilson presented a manifesto (Wilson’s 14 points) based on his vision for peace and a desire to not seek revenge. At Wilson’s suggestion, the League of Nations (LN) was created to guarantee peace and cooperation between states. However, the project failed because Germany, along with the other defeated nations and the USSR were initially excluded! In addition, the US senate voted not to join. Ultimately, the League of Nations and the USA had no influence on international politics.
  • New problems, new conflicts: Instead of bringing stability, the peace conference created new disputes. The Germans considered the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles a humiliation, which increased their sense of nationalism and the desire for future revenge. Italy’s frustration at not receiving the land they had requested also led to increased nationalism On the other hand, the Russian Revolution of 1917 had produced a tense situation in Europe, The Bolshevik revolution encouraged revolutionary forces elsewhere in Europe, leading to uprisings in Germany and Hungary. These were suppressed, but provided evidence of a new conflict between capitalism and communism.
  • THE PEACE TREATIES: A NEW EUROPEAN MAP: The result of the First World War, the peace treaties and the Russian Revolution changed the map of Europe. The biggest change was the end of the great empires and the formation of new nations on the principle that each nation could form an independent state. However, the borders of many of the new states did not correspond to nationalities. Some states, such as Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia, included large minorities of other nationalities. Morever, the alliance between Poland and Romania protected them against the USSR.