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History of Imperialism Lesson Plans


During the 19th and early 20th centuries, European powers set out to develop global empires and their efforts were largely successful. European nations carved up large chunks of Asia and almost all of Africa, separating the land among themselves. The colonies these nations set up persisted until the second half of the 20th century. Imperialism reorganized international politics and had a major impact on the development of the global south.

Student Activities for Imperialism Include:




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Age of Imperialism

After the discovery of the New World, many countries sent colonists and traders to the Americas for economic ventures. Many profited from the new resources available and sought to find new ways to bring wealth and glory to themselves or to their country. As transportation technology improved, global exploration opened up new lands and new possibilities.

The Age of Imperialism was an era when several European countries attempted to expand their reach by conquering and annexing other lands or nations, primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The expansion of territory usually increased access to resources, labor, and goods, which meant more money and power for the central imperial state. With more advanced weaponry, these industrialized nations, such as Britain and France, were able to subdue other countries who had not yet been exposed to rifles, cannons, or eventually, machine guns. Increased communication capabilities, including railroad travel and telegraphs, allowed the seats of empires to connect with their colonies.

The activities in this lesson plan focus on different aspects of European imperialism in China, Africa, and India, as well as both the motivations for and reactions to imperialism. They are designed so students can demonstrate an in-depth understanding of European imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Questions for the History of Imperialism

  1. What were the motivations for imperialism? How did imperialism meet the needs of 19th-century Europeans?
  2. How did Europeans justify their desire to construct global empires?
  3. How did local people in China, Africa, and India respond to imperialism?
  4. What role did opium play in China’s relationship with Britain?
  5. How did India become vulnerable enough to become part of the British Empire?
  6. How were Europeans able to dominate large portions of Africa in such a short period of time?

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