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date: 26 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The nature of European imperialism remains very contested. Much of the discussion revolves around notions of empire by rule and ignores both the wider context of Western expansion and the recourse to ‘informal’ influence in large areas of the non-Western world. Here the growth of imperial rivalries in the late nineteenth century is explained in terms of a far-reaching series of geopolitical crises, ignited by processes of political and economic transformation in non-Western states in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia. It is argued, nonetheless, that conventional accounts grossly exaggerate the ‘tooth and claw’ nature of imperialist competition before 1914, which was closely constrained by the requirements of Europe’s own politics. Until, that is, the onset of the Great Depression, and the rise of radical nationalist states in Germany and Japan, created the conditions for unrestricted imperialist warfare on a global scale, with catastrophic results.

Keywords: Imperialism, nationalism, imperial expansion, colonial empires, British Empire

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