Historical Term: Imperialism

Imperialism: (deriv. Lat. imperium, power). Acquisition and administration of an empire, often as a part of general commercial and industrial expansion. From the 15th century onwards, Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and Britain began building overseas empires. Modern imperialism, however, probably dates from the 1880s and the scramble for colonies in under-developed Africa. Marxism-Leninism ascribes the survival of capitalism and World War I to this late surge of European imperialism. Italy, Germany and Japan failed to acquire empires in the 19th century due to their late national unification or industrialization; they attempted to do so in the 20th century by war. The USSR had been described as an imperialist power because it had absorbed the formerly independent countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and had sought to dominated neighboring states, not only Warsaw Pact countries but also Afghanistan and China. US involvement in Southeast Asia and Latin America had also resulted in the USA also being termed an imperialist power.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

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