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  • Hi, I’m John Green

  • this is Crash Course World History

  • and today were going to discuss 19th century Imperialism.

  • So, the 19th century certainly didn’t invent the Empire,

  • but it did take it to new heights.

  • By which we means lows.

  • Or possibly heights.

  • I don’t know.

  • I can’t decide.

  • Roll the intro while I think about it...

  • [Intro music]

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  • Yeah, I don’t know.

  • I’m still undecided.

  • Let’s begin with China.

  • When last we checked in,

  • China was a thriving manufacturing power

  • about to be overtaken by Europe but still heavily involved in world trade,

  • especially as an importer of silver from the Spanish Empire.

  • Europeans had to use silver because

  • they didn’t really produce anything else the Chinese wanted.

  • And that state of affairs continued through the 18th century.

  • For example, in 1793,

  • the McCartney mission tried to get better trade conditions with China

  • and was a total failure.

  • Here’s the Qianlong emperor’s well-known response to the British:

  • Hitherto, all European nations, including your

  • own country's barbarian merchants, [yowser]

  • have carried on their trade with our Celestial Empire at Canton.

  • Such has been the procedure for many years,

  • although our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and

  • lacks no product within its own borders.

  • But then Europeans,

  • especially the British,

  • found something that the Chinese would buy:

  • opium.

  • By the 1830s British free trade policy unleashed a flood of opium in China,

  • which threatened China’s favorable balance of trade.

  • It also created a lot of drug addicts.

  • [you think?]

  • And then, in 1839,

  • the Chinese responded to what they saw as these unfair trade practices with

  • a stern letter that they never actually sent. [opium: not a productivity aid]

  • Commissioner Lin Zexu drafted a response

  • that contained a memorable threat to cut off trade inRhubarb, tea and silk

  • all valuable products of ours, without which foreigners could not live.”

  • But even if the British had received

  • this terrifying threat to their precious rhubarb supply,

  • they probably wouldn’t have responded,

  • because selling drugs is super lucrative. [newsflash in any era]

  • So the Chinese made like tea partiers, [tri-corn hats and all?]

  • confiscating a bunch of British opium and chucking it into the sea.

  • [This is sounding like a Hunter S. Thompson hallucination…]

  • And then,

  • the British responded to this by demanding compensation

  • and access to Chinese territory where they could carry out their trade.

  • And then, the Chinese were like,

  • Man, that seems a little bit harsh,”

  • whereupon the British sent in gunships, opening trade with Canton by force.

  • [response: "Yeuup."]

  • Chinese General Yijing made a counterattack in 1842 that included

  • a detailed plan to catapult flaming monkeys onto British ships

  • STAN, IS THAT TRUE?

  • Alright

  • apparently the plans involved strapping fireworks to monkeysbacks

  • and were never carried out. But, still...

  • Slightly off-topic,

  • obviously I don’t want anyone to light monkeys on fire.

  • I’m just saying that flaming monkeys lend themselves to a lot of great band names,

  • like the Sizzling Simians,

  • Burning Bonobos, Immolated Marmoset.

  • [Imolated Marmoset???]

  • Stan,

  • sometimes I feel like I should give up teaching World History

  • and just become a band name generator. That’s my real gift.

  • [Seriously, don't quit your day job.]

  • Anyway,

  • due to lack of monkey fireworks, the Chinese counterattacks were unsuccessful.

  • And they eventually signed the Treaty of Nanjing,

  • which stated that Britain got Hong Kong and five other treaty ports,

  • as well as the equivalent of $2 billion in cash.

  • Also, the Chinese basically gave up all sovereignty to

  • Europeanspheres of influence,”

  • wherein Europeans were subject to their laws, not Chinese laws.

  • In exchange for all of this, China got a hot slice of nothing.

  • You might think the result of this war would be

  • a shift in the balance of trade in Britain’s favor,

  • but that wasn’t immediately the case.

  • In fact, the British were importing so much tea from China

  • that the trade deficit actually rose more than $30 billion.

  • But eventually, after another war

  • (and one of the most destructive civil rebellions in Chinese

  • and possibly world history, the Taiping Rebellion)

  • the situation was reversed and Europeans, especially the British

  • became the dominant economic power in China.

  • Okay, so, but when we think about 19th century imperialism,

  • we usually think about the way that Europe turned Africa from this into this,

  • the so-called Scramble for Africa.

  • Speaking of scrambles and the European colonization of Africa,

  • you know what they say,

  • sometimes to make an omelet, youve gotta break a few eggs.

  • And then sometimes,

  • you break a lot of eggs and you don’t get an omelet.

  • [that's a downer of a saying]

  • Europeans had been involved in Africa since the 16th century when

  • the Portuguese used their cannons to take control of cities on coasts

  • to set up their trading post empire.

  • But in the second half of the 19th century, Europe suddenly

  • and spectacularly succeeded at colonizing basically all of Africa.

  • Why?

  • Well, the biggest reason that Europeans were able to extend their grasp over

  • so much of the world was the same reason they wanted to do so in the first place:

  • industrialization.

  • Nationalism played its part, of course:

  • European states saw it as a real bonus to be able to say that they had colonies,

  • so much so that a children’s rhyme in An ABC for Baby Patriots went:

  • “C is for Colonies, Rightly we boast

  • that of all the great countries, Great Britain has the most.”

  • But it was mostly

  • not to get all Marxist on you or anything

  • about controlling the means of production.

  • Europeans wanted colonies to secure sources of raw materials,

  • especially cotton, copper, iron, and rubber,

  • that were used to fuel their growing industrial economies.

  • And in addition to providing the motive for imperialism,

  • European industrialization also provided the means.

  • Europeans didn’t fail to take over territory in Africa

  • until the late 19th century because they didn’t want to;

  • they failed because they couldn’t.

  • This was mostly due to disease. [Disease: History's Frenemy]

  • Unlike in the Americas,

  • Africans weren’t devastated by diseases like smallpox,

  • because they’d had smallpox for centuries

  • and were just as immune to it as Europeans were.

  • Not only that,

  • but Africa had diseases of its own,

  • including yellow fever, malaria, and sleeping sickness,

  • all of which killed Europeans in staggering numbers.

  • Also, nagana was a disease endemic to Africa that killed horses,

  • which made it difficult for Europeans to take advantage of African grasslands,

  • and also difficult for them to get inland

  • because their horses would die as they tried to carry stuff.

  • Also, while in the 16th century,

  • Europeans did have guns,

  • they were pretty useless, especially without horses,

  • so most fighting was done the old fashioned way,

  • with swords.

  • That worked pretty well in the Americas,

  • unless you were the Incas or the Aztecs,

  • but it didn’t work in Africa

  • because the Africans also had swords and spears and axes.

  • So, as much as they might have wanted to colonize Africa

  • in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,

  • Africa’s mosquitoes, microbes, and people were too much for them.

  • So what made the difference?

  • Technology.

  • First, steam ships made it possible for Europeans to travel inland

  • bringing supplies and personnel via Africa’s navigable rivers.

  • No horses? No problem.

  • Even more important was quinine medicine,

  • sometimes in the form of tonic water

  • mixed into refreshing, quintessentially British gin and tonics.

  • Quinine isn’t as effective as modern anti-malarial medication,

  • and it doesn’t cure the disease,

  • but it does help moderate its effects.

  • But, of course,

  • the most important technology that enabled Europeans to dominate Africa was guns.

  • By the 19th century, European gun technology had improved dramatically,

  • especially with the introduction of the Maxim machine gun,

  • which allowed Europeans to wipe out Africans in battle after battle.

  • Of course, machine guns were effective when wielded by Africans, too

  • but Africans had fewer of them.

  • Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter? [king triumphantly re-throned]

  • And my chair is back! [must've been in shock last week, eh?]

  • An Open Letter to Hiram Maxim.

  • But first,

  • let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today.

  • Oh, it’s Darth Vader.

  • What a great reminder of imperialism.

  • Dear Hiram Maxim,

  • I hate you. [Best Wishes, John Green?]

  • It’s not so much that you invented the Maxim Machine Gun

  • although obviously that’s a little bit problematic,

  • or even that you look like the poor man’s Colonel Sanders. [sick burn]

  • First off, youre a possible bigamist.

  • I have a longstanding opposition to bigamy.

  • [quite a bold proclamation there, pal]

  • Secondly,

  • you were born an American but then became a Brit

  • thereby metaphorically machine gunning our founding fathers.

  • But most importantly,

  • among your many inventions was the successful amusement park ride,

  • the Captive Flying Machine.

  • Mr. Maxim,

  • I hate the Captive Flying Machine.

  • The Captive Flying Machine has resulted

  • in many a girlfriend telling me that I’m a coward.

  • I’m not a coward!

  • I just don’t want to die up there.

  • It’s all your fault, Hiram Maxim.

  • And nobody believes your story about the light bulb.

  • Best Wishes, John Green

  • Alright so, here is something that often gets overlooked:

  • European imperialism involved a lot of fighting and a lot of dying.

  • And when we say that Europe came to dominate Africa,

  • for the most part that domination came through wars,

  • which killed lots of Africans

  • (and also lots of Europeans, although most of them died from disease).

  • It’s very, very important to remember

  • that Africans did not meekly acquiesce to European hegemony:

  • they resisted, often violently,

  • but ultimately they were defeated by a technologically superior enemy.

  • In this respect,

  • they were a lot like the Chinese,

  • and also the Indians,

  • and the Vietnamese and,

  • you get the picture.

  • So, by the end of the 19th century,

  • most of Africa, and much of Asia, had been colonized by European powers.

  • I mean, even Belgium got in on it

  • and they weren’t even a country at the beginning of the 19th century.

  • I mean, Belgium has enjoyed, like,

  • 12 years of sovereignty in the last three millenia.

  • Notable exceptions include Japan --

  • which was happily pursuing its own imperialism

  • Thailand, Iran, and of course Afghanistan.

  • Because no one can conquer Afghanistan.

  • Unless you are

  • wait for it

  • the Mongols. [we missed you, Mongoltage] [Triumphant return #2: best week ever!]

  • Mongoltage

  • It is tempting to imagine Europe ruling their colonies with

  • the proverbial topaz fist,

  • [ouch?]

  • and while there was always the threat of violence,

  • the truth is a lot more complicated.

  • Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • In most cases Europeans ruled their colonies with the help of, and sometimes completely

  • through, intermediaries and collaborators.

  • For example, in the 1890s in India, there were fewer than 1000 British administrators

  • supposedlyrulingover 300 million Indians.

  • The vast majority of British troops at any given time in India

  • more than two thirds

  • were in fact Indians under the command of British officers.

  • Because of their small numbers relative to local populations, most European colonizers

  • resorted to indirect rule, relying on the governments that were already there but exerting

  • control over their leaders.

  • Frederick Lugard, who was Britain’s head honcho in Nigeria for a time, called this

  • rule through and by the natives.”

  • This wor