Purpose: Questions of change versus continuity are among the constants that historians face. It helps us appreciate, in a very real sense, what is new and what is not in any period. Such a set of questions is especially important for periods presented as major breaks in history. The emergence of the “new” imperialism after 1875 is one of those periods. Empire is, as we have seen, not only not new but one of the oldest forms of political organization in human history. A range of factors, however, made the late-nineteenth century empires distinct from their earlier counterparts. Task: Compare and contrast the “old” and the “new” imperialism. Those empires established at the end of the fifteenth century were toppled in the wave of tumult that followed the Atlantic Revolutions. To what extent did the new empires established in the last third of the nineteenth century in Africa, Asia, and South America represent change and continuity? Another way to put it: What was different and what was not? Drawing on Unit 6 and earlier units, select at least two empires (one “new” and one “old”) and address the following questions: What were the motives for imperial expansion? What sorts of technologies did empires use to extend their rule? How did imperial elites administer their empires?
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