China Market

by Mitch on July 29, 2012 0 Comments

View of Fuzhou (Foochow), China, one of the first ports in China opened to outside trade following the First Opium War of 1839–1842.

The concept of the China Market first developed in the mid-19th century with the British, who sought to maintain open trade relations with China in the aftermath of the First Opium War (1839– 1842). For the remainder of the 19th century, the allure of the China Market ostensibly promised a huge and ready-made market for Western-made goods in China. This drove imperial interests in the area, in particular those of the British, Japanese, Russians, Germans, French, and Portuguese. Even before the Spanish-American War, the United States had been involved in that market. With the war, however, it became a significant power in Asia with its annexation of Guam and the Philippines. One of the reasons advanced for securing the Philippine Islands was their proximity to China ...

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The Scramble for Africa: 1890-1914

by Mitch on July 28, 2012 0 Comments

THE BRITISH SQUARE. British infantry in square formation repel an attack by Sudanese warriors at the battle of Abu Klea, 17 January 1885. A British column of more than a thousand men was attacked while attempting to relieve the besieged General Gordon in Khartoum. Massed British rifle fire proved too much for the Sudanese, who suffered more than a thousand casualties in an encounter that lasted not much more than 15 minutes.

Germany did not actively pursue overseas empire until the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The construction of a German high seas fleet, and the commitment of military power beyond the European continent, was considered a distraction by the former chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. The Iron Chancellor did permit the establishment of footholds on the African continent, but he refused to divert Germany's attention and foreign policy to imperial rivalries. Wilhelm's global policy, Weltpolitik, altered the equation ...

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by Mitch on July 20, 2012 0 Comments

The history of colonialism is also the history of war. Armed combat took place between invading colonizers and indigenous people, from the Spanish invasion of central America, to the British expansion into the Australian continent, to Germans in the Congo. It also took place between competing colonial powers, often involving local people as well. The wars between the French and British in North America through the eighteenth century, for example, were consistently about securing territory on that continent. Especially from the middle of the nineteenth century, the technologies of firearms, and what historians sometimes call the arms gap, decided outcomes.


The arms gap sometimes enabled the massacre of local people by colonizers, with or without government consent. For example, the mass killing of the Kenyan Mau Mau rebels and civilians by the British after 1952 took the force it did partly because of technology available. But it was not always ...

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by Mitch on July 16, 2012 0 Comments

Japanese Soldiers at the Great Wall of China, 1933. Beginning in the 1930s, Japan began to occupy territories on the Asian continent, first Manchuria and then other parts of China. In this photograph, Japanese soldiers plant the flag of Japan on the first gate of the Great Wall in Shanhaiguan near Qinhuangdao in eastern China.


The term occupation generally refers to the temporary stationing of troops by a victorious military force in the territory and possessions of a defeated state. The purpose is to pressure the occupied state into meeting the occupier’s postwar demands. Once the stated goals are met the occupying military will repatriate (return to its country of origin) and the occupied territory will regain its sovereignty. In this sense, occupation resembles trusteeship, a post–World War I strategy that temporarily entrusted the territory of the defeated Axis powers to the victorious Allies, with the goal of ...

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by Mitch on July 14, 2012 0 Comments

Japan’s emergence from the Sino-Japanese War (1894– 1895) as an East Asian power forced the Western nations to reassess and safeguard their interests in the region, especially in Qing-dynasty China (1644–1912). Russia quickly mobilized the Triple Intervention (with France and Germany) to forestall Japan’s possession of Liaodong Peninsula in southern Manchuria as a ceded colony and secured China’s agreement in 1896 to extend the Trans- Siberian Railway through Manchuria to Vladivostok. The lure of financial gain also fueled fierce competition in floating the three major loans (one Franco-Russian and two Anglo-German) for Beijing’s indemnity payments to Japan. All this, and more, presaged the escalation of foreign rivalries in postwar China that peaked in the “scramble for concessions” from 1897 to 1899.


The frantic race began when Germany acquired compensations for two German priests who had been murdered in Juye, Shandong Province, in November 1897: the ...

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Anglo-Zanzibar War

by Mitch on July 10, 2012 0 Comments

August 27, 1896

The Anglo-Zanzibar holds the distinction of being the shortest war in history, clocking in at 38 minutes.

When Khalid bin Barghash, the new Sultan of Zanzibar came to power in 1896, he wanted the country to be free from British control. One requirement by the British was for the new Sultan to seek permission for enthronement from a British consul. Barghash refused, which the British did not take lightly. They offered him a choice: leave the palace by his own free will or be removed forcefully.

When the appointed time came to make his decision, the Sultan responded by barricading himself within the palace and scrambling a defense force. Five British military vessels were in the harbor outside the palace and opened fire once the deal had expired.

Three Zanzibari ships were sunk, shore defenses were destroyed, and a handful of defending soldiers were killed. Although the ...

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by Mitch on July 7, 2012 0 Comments

Even as late as the Boer War at the end of the nineteenth century, the British Army found itself relying upon long-range naval guns to supplement the light field artillery normally used in colonial warfare. A battery of six naval 12-pounder guns in direct support and another battery of eight naval 12-pounder guns and two 4.7-inch naval guns to support the flanking mounted troops or in reserve.


British forces in the Second Boer War were initially outgunned by the long range Boer artillery. Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible first improvised timber static siege mountings for two 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns from the Cape Town coastal defences, to counter the Boers' "Long Tom" gun during the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899–1900.


Captain Scott then improvised a travelling carriage for 4.7 inch guns removed from their usual static coastal or ship mountings to provide the army with ...

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Naval Strategy, U.S.

by Mitch on July 6, 2012 0 Comments

The U.S. Navy armored cruiser New York, flasghip of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson’s North Atlantic Squadron. (Photographic History of the Spanish- American War, 1898)

Beginning in the mid-1880s, the U.S. Navy had undergone a dramatic transformation. Although still small by European standards, the navy began receiving modern steam-driven steel ships armed with modern breech-loading rifled ordnance. The intellectual underpinnings of U.S. naval strategic thought came principally from the writings of naval historian and strategist Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. In his landmark work The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 (1890), he postulated that world power rested on sea power. He eschewed the traditional U.S. Navy strategy of a guerre de course (war against commerce) in favor of a battle fleet capable of winning control of the sea. Such a task could only be accomplished by battleships operating in squadrons. To support the ...

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Book Review: Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa.

by Mitch on July 3, 2012 0 Comments

Jason Stearns. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. New York: PublicAffairs, 2012. 417 pp. $16.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-61039-107-8.

Reviewed by Matthew G. Stanard (Berry College)
Published on H-Empire (June, 2012)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

"Where elephants fight the grass is trampled"

For many who grew up during the Cold War, the competition between capitalism and communism seemed to determine the unfolding of history. Then 1989 happened, and communism collapsed spectacularly. Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the end of history, that is, the end of ideological competition and the triumph of Western liberal democracy.[1] Of course history did not end, ideological battles continued, and the decade that followed witnessed a dizzying array of complex developments. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait and was expelled. Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime collapsed in Ethiopia and Eritrea gained its independence, which ...

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