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Unit 4: Nationalism, Industrialism, and Imperialism

Lesson A: Birth of the Imperial World

Activity 2: Motives for Imperialism

There were a variety of interconnected motivations and justifications for Western imperialism . These reasons included:

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Imperialism was a result of several different interconnected motives. Review the examples of imperialism below to see how many different motives you can identify in each.

Directions: Study the following chart before beginning the next activity.

Location of Imperialism Examples
India and South Asia
  • India provided cotton and dyes for textile production.
  • India was called the "Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire."
  • British rule imposed race-based laws and reinforced the Caste System.
Dutch East Indies and Southeast Asia
  • Coffee and tea were highly sought after products from the Dutch East Indies.
  • Dutch control of the Dutch East Indies helped keep the Netherlands a major country in the world.
  • The Dutch laws in the East Indies denied the natives land and political rights.
Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Sugar, cacao, and other cash crops were sold cheap to Western countries.
  • The United States secured land and sent in military to secure what became known as the Panama Canal.
  • Natives of Latin America and the Caribbean were viewed as cheap labor due to their race.
  • Gold, diamonds, and rubber cultivated in Africa were in high demand.
  • Countries competed with each other to secure the most African possessions during the Berlin Conference.
  • Africans, as members of "tribes," were often depicted in drawings as animals rather than people.

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Classroom Activity


Directions: During the 19th century, there was an increase in newspapers and magazines. This led to increased opportunities for advertisements and cartoons. In this activity, you will work with a partner to examine some 19th century advertisements and cartoons. You will discuss each document and decide which of the three categories of motives for imperialism might be implied by each document. After you examine each document, you will complete the handout and then discuss your findings with the rest of your class.

Download Icon Download Student Resource: Motives for Imperialism (doc).


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