Modern European empires came about because of the desire for the wealth to be had from overseas trading and markets. European countries that acquired empires did not plan these conquests. Europe was trading with Asia and other parts of the world long before modern empires arose. The success of early trading and the need to expand their markets led the powers of Europe to find the means to secure overseas lands for their exclusive use. Also the fierce competition between European countries for trade and world markets led to the securing of overseas interests which led to empires.
Economic expansion played a key part in the building of European empires. "An empire is a system of interaction between two political entities. One is dominant and exerts political control over internal and external policy, the other is weak. " Imperialism is the desire to control colonies or dependencies and imperialism is how empires are formed. European countries had to have the power to dominate other societies. Attributes that European countries had to encourage imperialism and empire were a centralised government, differentiated economies and a shared political loyalty.
Military strength was vital too, both on land and on the sea. qualities, but they also had to have the drive to acquire an empire. Control of a vast empire fed into national pride. Colonialism was the policy used to expand a country's influence and power. When a foreign power rules another group of people (usually separated from them by an ocean) a colony is formed. The ruling power usually sent its own people to govern. This was allowed to happen by virtue of the ruling country's advanced state of technology and more complex society. Europe was lured into the outside orld through the prospect of trade.
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Colonies provided many economic benefits such as sources of raw materials, markets for surplus goods, new goods that could be traded to other countries (such as diamonds, gold and spices) and investment opportunities. There were other reasons for expansion such as security considerations and spreading religion, but it was the huge economic benefits that fueled the fire of imperialism. The Portuguese and the Spanish began their quest for empire in the fifteenth century and they were closely followed by the British and the Dutch in the seventeenth century.
This desire for expansion was known as capitalism, the drive to search for overseas profits, raw materials and markets. Once trade was established, the struggle for power and control of trade between European countries led to the expansion and protection of overseas interests. This protection and expansion led to the creation of empires. The Iberian empires of Spain and Portugal both set out to trade with Asia for exotic goods such as silks and spices. Notions of empires and conquests did not come until after trade was established and successful.
Portugal began trading along the west African coast hile in search for a trade route to the rich markets of Asia. In 1498, Vasco da Gama found that route rounding the Cape of Good Hope and sailing to India. The Portuguese had successfully established a monopoly of trade in Asia. Pedro Alvares Cabral sailed in 1498. He was supposed to follow da Gama, but got lost and ended up in Brazil in 1500. Soldiers and settlers were sent to these lands to help solidify Portugal's hold on the valuable territories.
Portugal had colonies in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Principe, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and China By the middle of the 1500's. They were threatened by the Spanish arriving close by in the Philippines in 1565. () Bases and administrative centres were set up in Ambonia and Tidore and Portugal had a strong hold on India in Bengal. Portugal gained enormous wealth from these lands. They obtained gold and participated in the slave trade from Africa. They also got gold and diamonds from Brazil. The spice trade from Asia was very lucrative.
Portuguese planters in these lands contributed also to the overall wealth of the country. Portugal overextended itself, however, and was invaded successfully by Spain in 1580. England, the Netherlands and France were able to steal away parts of the empire during this time. After regaining its independence, Portugal never really rose to its former glory. It was constantly under attack by Spain for many years. It did hold onto many of its colonies until the mid 1970's, but the people of those colonies did not allow Portugal to take all of their wealth as it had done before.
Spain had also set out to trade in Asia, but they were sidetracked by Columbus' discovery in 1492. Columbus was trying to bypass the monopoly Portugal had over trade in the East. Instead he enabled Spain to build an empire which included Mexico, Central America, most of the West Indies, the Southwestern portion of what is now the United States and the western part of South America. The Spanish exploited the Caribbean and the Americas for economic advantage. The Spanish Empire also included Portugal, present day Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and the Philippines.
Spanish colonies were set up to keep control of trade and resources after threats from the Dutch and the English. Also colonies were set up to support the home economy. Many wars and poor management led to the decline of Spain's control of this vast empire. Much land and military resources were lost when Spain came out on the losing side of several wars. Many of the people in the colonies revolted against harsh Spanish rule. Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico were the last of Spain's valuable holdings to go after their defeat in the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Economic interests for Spain were at the head of expansion. Gold, silver and precious stones were seen as the "treasure" of the Spanish Empire. Both Portugal and Spain initially set out to trade and profit from Asia nd only advanced towards empire when their economic After 1600, northern European countries began trading overseas regularly and started to develop economic interests that led to empires. The English and the Dutch saw how lucrative Spanish and Portuguese colonies were and they developed aspirations of their own.
The Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company emerged in the early seventeenth century as major powers to take trade away from Portugal and Spain. The English and the Dutch used their dominant naval forces to remove Spain and The English gained power in India over the Portuguese. They acquired Madras and Bengal. The English were only interested in trading with the East, not in colonising the area. They made agreements with the rulers of India for favorable trading conditions. When the Mongul rulers of India began to lose power, then the English East India Company stepped in and took over to protect its economic interests.
England did settle extensively its colonies in North America and parts of Africa. England, weakened also by many wars, lost or gave independence to most of its empire. The Dutch by virtue of their superior navy were able to create a tremendously extensive empire in the East. The Dutch captured the fort on Ambonia from the Portuguese and the Portuguese ended up losing their stronghold, Malacca. The Dutch East India Company set up headquarters in Batavia (which is now called Jakarta) in Indonesia. They had exclusive trading rights with Japan and also controlled Ceylon and the southern tip of Africa.
They colonized New Netherland which is New York today. The Dutch fought many wars and were finally defeated by the English in 1784. Ten years later they were invaded by the French. Most of their possessions were confiscated during this time. rivals in trade so they had to establish footholds in rder to preserve their trading. The Dutch had settlements in Batavia and control of trade in the far east. The English acquired Madras and Bengal. England ended up ruling over India to protect profitable trade, not for glory or sovereignty.
There was no movement of population into India and only after a century and a half did anything besides trade play a part in relations with India. These footholds resulted in empires, but they were conceived in order to maintain economic advantage in the east. European empires hold their roots in early trade and the search for overseas markets. John Cuningham, an conomist, suggests that evolution of empire is due to " gradual extension of commerce [and] advent to trading companies coupled with the desire to enrich power and prestige of the mother country.
I agree with this statement because of the origin of trade that European empires had. European countries began expansion in search of riches like gold and diamonds, trade like spices and silk, and land to grow valuable crops like coffee. They only resorted to control when their economic enterprises were in danger. Empires developed as a means of economic expansion to enable European countries to maintain their profits, raw materials and markets.
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