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Online Textbook for History 1112

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This lesson describes and explains the ideology of imperialism and colonialism, why it occurred, and what the short and long-term effects were for both the imperialist nations and the cultures they changed through the colonial process. The time period covered is approximately 1700-1900.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Explain the ideology that led European nations to seek out new lands for colonization and viewed such journeys as progressive, rather than repressive.
  • Describe how members of western civilization viewed the world as a "new" global economy and society, generally dominated by the nations of Europe via the spread of capitalism.
  • Detail the impact that European expansion had on the lands of Africa, Asia, and the Americas during this period of colonialism. 
  • Clarify how global expansion created competition and power struggles amongst the various European nations and describe key conflicts that occurred in the 19th century.
  • Discuss the details of the French Revolution, focusing on the replacement of the monarchy, the tension and dissolution of the Three Estates System, the founding of the National Assembly, the formation of a radical revolutionary front, and the move from a "reign of terror" back towards an elected democracy.
  • Explain Napoleon's rise to power in post-revolutionary France and how the Napoleonic Wars affected the people of Europe, particularly in the areas of law, governance, and geography.
  • Describe the idea of "cultural nationalism" and be able to give details on how this ideology took effect in France, Great Britain, Russia, and eventually Germany and Italy.
  • Discuss the year 1848, the "year of revolutions" and explain the political outcomes of this tumultuous time period.

Terms to Know

  • Absolutism
  • Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations)
  • American Revolution
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Baroque (relating to the arts)
  • Battle of Trafalgar
  • Bourgeoisie
  • Cardinal Richelieu
  • Catherine the Great
  • Colonialism
  • Congress of Vienna
  • Constitutional monarchy
  • Corn Laws
  • Crimean War
  • Declaration of the Rights of Man
  • Dreyfus Affair
  • English Civil War (1642-1646)
  • Enlightened absolutism
  • Estates General
  • Frederick II (Prussia)
  • French Revolution
  • French Utopian Socialism
  • Friedrich Engels
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi
  • Glorious Revolution
  • Great Migration
  • Hegel
  • Imperialism
  • Karl Marx
  • Liberalism (as defined in the PowerPoint)
  • Louis Napoleon
  • Louis XIV (France)
  • Louis XVI (France)


  • Marxian Socialism
  • Mercantilism
  • Metternich
  • Molière (1622–1673)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte
  • National Assembly
  • Nationalism
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • Otto von Bismarck
  • Parliament (general definition)
  • Peace of Utrecht
  • Peter the Great
  • Prussia
  • Quadruple Alliance
  • Reign of Terror
  • Representative democracy
  • Republic
  • Revolution (definition from PowerPoint)
  • Revolutions of 1848
  • Robespierre
  • Sans-culottes
  • Social Darwinism
  • Specie (not species)
  • The Bastille
  • The Communist Manifesto
  • The Directory
  • The Proctectorate (England)
  • The US Constitution (document)
  • The US Declaration of Independence (document)
  • Thermidorian Reaction
  • Versailles
  • Waterloo

Thought Questions

1. Compare and contrast the decline of absolutism (absolute monarchy) and the rise of enlightened absolutism in France, Russia, and England during the 17th and 18th centuries. Be sure to explain the reasons and results for this shift in politics in each geographic area.

2. Discuss the rise of Napoleon to power at the end of the French Revolution, his impact on French politics, and his downfall from power. Give examples from the PowerPoint to support your answer.

3. Does there tend to be a cycle of absolutism to enlightened absolutism to imperialism/colonialism and then revolution? Decide for yourself, and then provide at least three examples of nations that did or did not follow this pattern, as discussed in the PowerPoint. 

Discussion Questions

  1. First, write a brief summary of Absolutism practiced in the following countries/nations. Then, compare (find similarities) and contrast (find differences)  among them in the actual practice of absolutism in the 17th/18th centuries. Look at your Power Point notes for both lessons 1 and 2 to find these answers! 
  2. What are Orwell’s opinions on the British influence in Burma (reading link in syllabus)?
  3. Does Orwell support British imperialism in Burma, or not? Give at least three reasons from the reading to support your answer. (Hint: It could be yes or no—I want to read YOUR interpretation and evidence). 
  4. Read the poem by Rudyard Kipling (link in syllabus). It should be clear he supports imperialism, both in Britain and the US. What are his reasons? Consider economic and cultural issues in your answer.
  5. Summarize, in your own words, Morel’s response to Kipling (Link in syllabus). What are his key arguments against imperialism and colonialism?  
  6. The authors of the English "Bill of Rights" were clearly angered at the mismanagement of James II. What were their grievances? List these briefly. How did they want the government in England to change?
  7. Summarize the key points of the French "Declaration of the Rights of Man." How is the Declaration both similar to and different from the English Bill of Rights? Compare and contrast these two documents. 
  8. In “The Social Contract,” Rousseau uses much language that will become essential to future political revolutions. Briefly explain what he means by ‘state of nature,’ ‘social pact,’ 'individual will' and ‘general will.’ Why did Rousseau’s writing and these terms appeal to political revolutionaries?