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How is the Industrial Revolution linked to imperialism?

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Quick Answer

The technological advances of the Industrial Revolution caused an increased need for raw materials that encouraged the rise of European imperialism. The colonies also provided captive markets for manufactured goods.

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The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the early 18th century, a time when European imperialism in the New World and around the coasts of Africa and Asia was already well underway. However, the Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the nature of colonialism. It had previously focused primarily on trade in Africa and Asia and gold and agriculture in the New World. The Industrial Revolution vastly increased productivity in industrialized areas, leading to a need for more raw materials to keep up with technological capacity. As a result, Great Britain needed a source for raw materials, such as cotton to keep its textile mills running. The need for cotton was part of the reason for British takeovers in India, Egypt and other areas.

The Industrial Revolution also made Europeans more capable of conquering large parts of the world. European improvements in weapons made unindustrialized nations easier to defeat in battle. Steamboats and railroads made Europeans more capable of projecting power to far-flung colonies, which permitted the European powers to control larger areas. Improvements in transportation also gave Europeans better access to distant markets, giving them a place to sell the manufactured goods that they made with their new technology.

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