Comparing Experiences with and Legacies

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Europe having the combination of political and economic transformations began within the 1400s-1700s era converged between the 18th, 19th and 20th century allowing the west to dominate the rest of the world. This includes China, West African states, Japan and Iran. Western powers dominating these states influenced major changes not only politically and economically but socially, culturally and within military.

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Western imperialism took shape in Africa politically, economically, socially, culturally, and technologically. An event that describes all these factors is The Scramble of Africa. The Scramble of Africa also known as the Partition of Africa was the invasion, occupation colonization of African territory by Euorpeans powers during the period of New Imperialism between 1881 and 1914.

In 1870 barely one tenth of Africa was under European control; by 1914 only about one tenth “ Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Liberia “ was not. There were different motivations for imperialism within Africa. As European countries established themselves on Africa’s land making it open to western exploration, the development of industrialization developed. Western industrial powers wanted new markets for their manufactured goods as well as cheap labor.

Africa was very abundant in natural resources, she was known for rubber, cotton, copper, slaves and other raw materials but these resources put Africa at high bid. These political and economic factors had major downfalls to the African communities. These resources were exploited by European imperial powers, causing a lot of African’s to become laborers in mines or workers on plantation fields picking cotton that were owned by the Europeans. Within How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Rodney Walter wrote The changeover to warlike activities and kidnapping must have affected all branches of economic activity, and agriculture in particular. Occasionally, in certain localities food production was increased to provide supplies for slave ships, but the overall consequences of slaving on agricultural activities in Western, Eastern, and Central Africa were negative.

Western imperialism wasn’t all good, as Rodney stated the African community was affected by slavery itself. Yes, western imperialism introduced new technology such as steamboats, quinine, and changes in weaponry, communication but European countries divided Africa into different sections and no regard of linguist, cultural and religious border of the people who lived there.

Japan and China had different reactions to the changes of Western influences. Both these countries felt they should have a long-distance relationship with the outside world because they didn’t want their own cultures to be changed or influenced by the west in anyway. Both countries wanted to keep their traditional ways because they saw no reason for change. British didn’t agree with China not wanting to open trade ports with them. So, they decided to use opium, grown and processed in India, to cover their persistent trade imbalance with China.

By the 1830s, British, American and other Western merchants had found an enormous, growing, and very profitable market for this highly addictive drug. When China found out that the British were smuggling in drugs and causing harm to their people, the government made opium illegal and banned it. British opposed this decision and not long after, took China to war (The Opium War). Following the war, The Treaty of Nanjing was signed which was considered the first of the unequal treaties, which basically forced China to open more ports and allow outsiders in. Once China opened more ports, they were exposed to westernization.

Japan become more guarded and concerned about Europeans when they got news about incursions in China. Changes started to occur for Japan when Matthew Perry arrived from the east in 1853 forcefully demanding that they open up to more normal relations with the world. They demanded for them to open to trade with the US through an unequal treaty, just like China. But instead Japan didn’t put up a fight like China because they didn’t have enough military strength. This was an advantage for the US, outside influences were coming in and they couldn’t do anything to prevent it.

While Europe and the United States experienced scientific and industrial as well as political revolutions, and adopted expansionist policies, Japan turned inward ”embracing seclusion and, at least at official levels, venerating tradition. Once Japan was forced to open its borders, they recognized the need for technological and military advancement. This is when the Meji Restoration came about. The goal was a rich country, a strong military. This lead Japan to start learning from the west. They abolished the Samurai class, opening opportunities for the lower class to advance and grow, to building modern industries. They studied different military strategies and learned that understanding laws would help them to avoid any more unequal treaties.

Another country that western powers dominated was Iran. When changing the name of Persia to Iran in 1935, this was seen as more modern. Reza Shah was influenced by the west and was very ambitious to make Iran modernized. His plan was to regulate religious rituals, establish a dress code (women were not allowed to wear veils, men were ordered to wear western suits/hats). When Reza passed his son Mohammad Reza Shah replaced his father on the throne. He continued modernizing and improving Iran. The country had great oil, a powerful military, a well-educated elite, and a solid alliance with the US.

Also, the shah’s White Revoultion, intended to promote the country’s modernization, had redistributed land to many of Iran’s impoverished peasants, granted women the right to vote, invested in rural health care and education. Even though modernizing Iran was a success there were still some Iranians that didn’t like nor approve western ways. Like religious leader ulama, they were offended by the state bypassing Islamic schools within education programs. So even though the Shah was supported by the US, he happened to be disliked by his people. This caused the Iranian Revoultion which caused the Iran Hostage Crisis. On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the US embassy in Tehran, taking American hostages. Iranians responded to how they felt about western influence and they weren’t accepting of it.

In conclusion, the era of the 18th, 19th and 20th century was clearly a growing power and domination of the world by the Europeans. Western powers created out of the ordinary wealth, and new western political ideas that lead to centralizing states. I think these new political ideas within Africa, China, Iran and Japan encouraged nationalism which strengthened the industrialized countries but also caused a lot of people to take back control. For instance, the Iranians and African Americans, they voiced how they felt about what they knew was wrong within their countries. Either way I think Western powers both bettered and damaged each one of these countries.

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