Map Exercise 16: Fin de Siecle Europe (This exercise includes 11 maps.)
The long nineteenth century gave many Europeans the idea that they were living at an extremely important moment in history. Thanks to the changes created by the Industrial Revolution, the idea of progress—the notion that mankind was steadily moving toward some future perfect order—manifested itself at all levels of European society. It seemed that nothing could stand in the way of progress. By the end of the nineteenth century, Europe witnessed a dramatic expansion of territory. Such a development was perhaps necessary since the Second Industrial Revolution, involving the electrical and chemical industries, had further increased the industrial capacity of Europe. New markets had to be found to siphon off a surplus in production, and as these new markets were located around the globe, a new imperialism was called into existence. It became the mission of Europe to "civilize" the uncivilized nations of the globe in the interests of trade and global domination. Into such a world there developed even stronger competition among nations, competition that would ultimately lead to the Great War of 1914-1918, a war that resulted in the deaths of almost ten million people.
While European nations entered the global market, they were also intent upon securing territorial gains on the continent. It seemed as if the entire globe were nothing more than land that could be carved up by the great powers of Europe. The effects of the new imperialism gave a tremendous boost to the confidence of the Europeans. However, in the twentieth century, the great empires of the nineteenth century would be dismembered as nations around the globe made their bid for independence.
Consider the following questions:
• How did the Great War spell the end of the European idea of progress?
• Why did European nations need to find new markets and new worlds to exploit?
• How had developments in Eastern Europe helped to precipitate a global war?
• What characteristics do all the great powers share?