The World at the Beginning of the 20th Century - Imperialism, Capitalism and Socialism. 23/25

Essay by wolflikemeHigh School, 11th gradeA+, February 2007

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The world at the beginning of the twentieth century was characterised by tension between tradition and transformation. New ideas about social order were arising that challenged what people had previously believed in and used. Imperialism bought about major conflicts during the early part of the century, and the dominant and accepted values of capitalism were being pushed out of the way for the development of new socialist ideals.


Imperialism is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language as "The policy of extending a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations." Motives for imperialism included economic gain, overshadowing your rivals and also the "white man's burden" - to "cultivate" areas that were considered uncivilised. Imperialism has been used throughout history to gain dominance, however it was extremely important in the early 20th century, and believed by many historians, such as Vladimir Lenin, to be the major cause of World War I.

Imperialism was a major factor during the late 19th and early 20th century, as empires sought to make themselves powerful, especially throughout Europe. In the 20th century, society was generally capitalistic - i.e. the pursuing of profit and the accentuation of the rights of the individual. Imperialism was important in such a society, as explained by the following quote:

"Imperialism is a stream that will never run dry, as it is vital to world capitalism."

Imperialism gave capitalism a platform, as it allowed the economically powerful countries to exploit the resources of the less powerful countries. This meant they could take advantage of cheap labour, and therefore gain a profit. The more land you had obtained through imperialism, the bigger it allowed your economy to grow. Through imperialism, empires set out to control world markets and...