AT&D #30. Historical Periodization

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“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.

The 19th century was laden with many advancements in areas such as 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 to various territories across the globe (either by traditional conquest or annexation). As the 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 (including the business/trade aspect) 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 competition; effectively places such as Africa and the Pacific were divided into pieces, with each piece controlled by an empire (p. 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” -additional reading). To me, the periodization of the 1800s-1900s as “Imperialism Dominates World Cultures” is as relevant and appropriate as ever, especially since this era becomes a catalyst for what would later become the World War/Cold War.

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