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Imperialism and World War I Essay

Having ruled for 63 years, Queen Victoria was considered the longest reigning monarch in British history. She assumed position in the 20th of June 1837 and from then on reigned until May 1st of 1876. This period, therefore, earned the name Victorian age. Queen Victoria headed not only the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland. She also ruled the colonies of her vast empire which including parts of Asia, Africa and North America.

The British Empire was built up for three decades and in the third century, included almost one-third of the countries in the world. Since Queen Victoria became the monarch of the empire at the time Britain was at its highest in terms of economic and imperial expansion, she intended to make her empire the exemplar to other domains.

In her time, due to the economic forces brought about by the industrial revolution, there was a need for acquisition of more lands. The desire for the greater or the greatest economic advantage urged European powers to extend their territories. More territories meant more power. Territories are sources of raw materials needed for the manufacture of products for export. They, too, are seen as potential markets and trade partners of the ruling country. Having colonies overseas was very important that imperialism should be carried on.

Imperialism involves the political, economical, and social domination of lands. European powers had several reasons for imperialism. First, they needed territories to gain political and economic power. Second, they needed sources of raw materials and markets. There was the search for spices, sugar, rubber, tea and gold from different territories (The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 2008). Third, they felt the need for them to propagate Christianity to the world.

Imperialism during Queen Victoria’s time was the new imperialism which was primarily driven by the Industrial Revolution which had the greatest economic influence at that time. This was parallel to the old imperialism that was driven by mercantilism.

In 1900, the British Empire had territories extending to five continents. Their territories have expanded and there was much competition among European countries. An example of this would be the competition for the acquisition of lands in Africa. This had caused rivalry among European countries like Britain and France which they have settled later on. Soon after, conflict arose in the northern part of Africa; Germany was against Britain and France. Conflicts brought about by imperialism are said to have set the stage for the First World War.

Considered the most destructive war in European history, World War I lasted for four years involving 32 countries worldwide. The war began in August 1914 and was triggered by the assassination of the then Archduke of Austria, Francis Ferdinand. Causes of the war are said to be complex, interrelated, and are rooted deeply in history.

Some of the apparent reasons of the war include militarism which involves the construction of a powerful military army; nationalism which involves the strong devotion and loyalty to one’s country; capitalism which is motivated by profit and desire for economic power; and imperialism which is the domination of lands to gain economic and political power. There are other reasons that up until now have not yet been determined. After the war, there were great financial losses and the number of fatalities was high. European countries began to weaken.


The Norton Anthology of English Literature. The Victorian Age.  8. Retrieved March 27, 2009, from http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/victorian/welcome.htm

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