The last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century, and the years before the First World War of the twentieth, saw a rapid expansion by the major European powers and by the USA of colonial territorial holdings across the globe. Britain increased its already wide influence by over a further 4 million square miles, mainly in Africa and into Burma; France by over 3.5 million square miles; Germany by over 1 million, and so on. America acquired over 100,000 square miles, largely in Asia. The impulse towards this rampant and often bloody colonization was largely commercial, but also complicatedly political: the need to open new markets for trade, and also the need to obtain more raw materials on the one hand; the need to prevent other nations acquiring potentially valuable goods and resources on the other. Out of this imperial impulse, as several contemporary commentators cited in various parts of this book realized, arose the tangled web of alliances and forces which led to the catastrophic and accelerated breakdown of international relations which brought about the First World War in 1914.
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