AT&D #30. Historical Periodization

“1800-1900: The Frustrations of Progress” is an example of labeling of a historical period. Let’s play with some alternatives by defining a new periodization label. Devise your own label for the same time period.

The 19th century was laden with many advancements in areas encompassing urbanization and industrialization. Along that same note, the impact of those advancements led for empires in Europe and the U.S. to grow and expand into various territories across the globe (either by traditional conquest or annexation). As Armesto’s history book explains it, a new era in world history came about in the form of western dominance in foreign lands.

The reason behind the imperialistic visions was that empires sought to control resources (namely, the business aspect in importing and exporting goods) to support their growing populations, among other reasons. Because there were multiple empires (British, French, Italian, German, American) that all had the same goal, this period in history was marked by fierce imperial competition; effectively places such as Africa and the Pacific were divided into pieces, with each piece controlled by an empire (as noted on pages 848-850).

In addition, a modernizationist theory came about where it supported the idea that western advancements in technology and way of life should be adopted by foreign lands in an effort to create a world system, unified by such efforts (from the “Great Divergence” – an additional reading source). To me, the periodization of the 1800s-1900s as “Imperialism Dominates World Cultures” is an appropriate label, especially as this era shaped by world powers becomes a catalyst for what would later become the World War (Parts I and II), only followed by the Cold War, arguably a continuation of the World War.

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