In the nineteenth century Britain emerged as a parliamentary democracy. The Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867 accomplished revolutionary changes without violence. The cabinet controlled Parliament; representation was increased through the extension of suffrage and the reform of electoral districts. In the stable political atmosphere of England, the two-party system grew. Disraeli and Gladstone, leaders of Conservatives and Liberals respectively, dominated politics in this age of reform.
Modern Empires and Imperialism
By 1914 it was quite clear that many non-European peoples, including the colonies of exploitation, were beginning to reject claims of white supremacy. The concept of nationalism, new outside of Europe and the Americas, had continued to spread. In the early twentieth century it was most evident in Japan and, to some extent, China, Egypt, and India.
One more empire was being formed during the decades before World War I, the only modern empire to be created by a non-European people. Even during their long, self-imposed isolation the Japanese had maintained an interest in Western developments.
While the industrial powers of Europe were expanding overseas, the United States acquired by purchase and conquest the remainder of its Manifest Destiny—a dominion from sea to sea that was “to bring the blessings of liberty” to the entire continent. The United States believed it had a moral obligation to expand in order to extend the area of freedom against monarchical or dictatorial governments.
Italy got very little out of the partition of Africa. Tunis, which Italy coveted, went instead to France. Italy’s major effort centered on the lands at the southern end of the Red Sea, but after the defeat by the Abyssinians in 1896, Italy had to be content with a few thousand square miles, most of it desert, in Eritrea and Somaliland.
During the nineteenth century France acquired a colonial empire second in area only to that of the British. France, despite frequent revolutionary changes in government, maintained an imperialist policy that added some 50 million people and close to 3.5 million square miles to the lands under the French flag. This empire was concentrated in North, West, and Equatorial Africa, and in Indochina.