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Dutch, British and Russian Colonies in Asia: European Imperialism and Its Consequences

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  • 0:08 New Imperialism
  • 1:03 Dutch Imperialism
  • 1:37 The Great Game
  • 2:05 Russo-Japanese War
  • 2:37 Imperialism in China
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore Europe's New Imperialism, which swept across Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will highlight the Dutch East India Company, the Great Game, the Russo-Japanese War, and the Opium Wars.

New Imperialism

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the wealth and technology of Europe greatly increased. With these new resources jingling in their pockets, the powerhouses of Europe were itching to increase their powers and extend their boundaries. With this, they turned their eyes toward Asia.

Prior to the 19th century, Europe's holdings in Asia had mostly been limited to holding trading posts on the continent. Content to make money from these commercial outlets, Europe usually didn't impose direct rule upon Asia. However, as the 19th century progressed, Europe grew discontent with this setup, and a shift in Asian relations occurred. Known as New Imperialism, Europeans began to seek formal political control over foreign and overseas areas. As the old saying goes, 'they had been given an inch and they wanted a mile.'

Dutch Imperialism

As European merchants, troops, and even missionaries began flooding into Asia and other parts of the globe, this New Imperialism took hold and the political landscape of Asia was jostled in its wake. Swept up in New Imperialism, the Dutch claimed Indonesia and sent hundreds of thousands of Europeans into Asian lands. Although many of these people succumbed to disease or high-tailed it back to Europe, the Dutch influence in Indonesia is still present today. The Dutch were even able to trade in Japan, a feat no other European power was able to accomplish until the mid-19th century.

The Great Game

With New Imperialism came conflict between nations, which played out on Asian soil. For example, Russia and Britain became embroiled in a bloody battle for Central and South Asia, known as the Great Game. However, Central Asia was not the end goal. In reality, both European powerhouses knew to control Central Asia was to have a gateway to areas like Iran, Afghanistan and India. Those were the real prizes.

Russo-Japanese War

Unfortunately for Russia, they had to forfeit their Great Game with Britain due to conflict with Japan. Trying to push the borders of their empire a bit too far, the Russians set their sights on Manchuria and Korea. Having no intentions of letting Russia have these areas, Japan attacked the Russian navy in 1904. This conflict lasted over a year and was known as the Russo-Japanese War. It was significant because it saw Russia defeated and forced to give up its imperialist dreams in the Far East.

Imperialism in China

With New Imperialism sweeping the land, China also felt the impact. For instance, due to many unfair treaties, some parts of China saw Europeans immune from Chinese law. Therefore, they could not be tried in Chinese courts. This caused abuses to occur all over and frequently. These unfair treaties also led to things like the mid-19th century Opium Wars. As the name implies, this conflict saw Britain and China at war over the forced importation of opium into China. Sadly for the Chinese, the British were victorious.

However, China's headaches didn't end there. By the close of the 19th century, Germany, Russia, Japan, and even the U.S. had forced China into opening up their trade markets. As China's trade became dominated by outside forces, they lost sovereignty in areas like Port Arthur, the Shantung Peninsula, Manchuria, and most famously, Hong Kong.

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