In the latter half of the nineteenth century a surge of imperialism swept out of Europe and caused much of Africa and Asia to be colonized and subdued.
Three periods in the modern era witnessed the creation of vast empires, primarily colonial. Between the 15th century and the middle of the 18th, England, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain built empires in the Americas, India, and the East Indies. For almost a century thereafter, relative calm in empire building reigned as the result of a strong reaction against imperialism. Then the decades between the middle of the 19th century and World War I were again characterized by intense imperialistic policies.
Russia, Italy, Germany, the United States, and Japan were added as newcomers among the imperialistic states and indirect, especially financial, control became a preferred form of imperialism. For a decade after World War I the great expectations for a better world inspired by the League of Nations put the problem of imperialism once more in abeyance.
Then Japan renewed its empire building with an attack in 1931 upon China, and under the leadership of the totalitarian states, Japan, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, a new period of imperialism was inaugurated in the 1930s and 1940s.
In their modern form, arguments about the causes and value of imperialism can be classified into four main groups. The first group contains economic arguments and often turns around the question of whether or not imperialism pays. Those who argue that it does point to the human and material resources and the outlets for goods, investment capital, and surplus population provided by an empire. Their J.A. Hobson, often admit that imperialism may benefit a small, favoured group but never the nation as a whole. Marxist theorists interpret imperialism as a late...