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EUROPE: A GLOBAL POWER

The 19th century was a revolutionary period for European history and a time of great transformation in all spheres of life. Human and civil rights, democracy and nationalism, industrialisation and free market systems, all ushered in a period of change and chance.

By the end of the century Europe had reached the peak of its global power. Social and national tensions as well as international rivalries festered however - all exploding in conflict at the beginning of the 20th century.

 

 

Entrance to Europe a global power - third floor

POLITICAL CHANGE

The 19th century – an age of revolutions! Taking inspiration from the French Revolution of 1789, people across Europe challenged aristocratic ruling classes and fought for the development of civil and human rights, democracy and national independence.

Nationalism emerged as a revolutionary claim promising citizens more involvement in democracy, but it was exclusive, imagining a world of national territories inhabited by ethnically similar people. Some visionary Europeans, however, hoped for the unity of the continent beyond national allegiances.

MARKETS AND PEOPLE

Steam, smoke, factories, noise – all announced the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. To different degrees manufacturing then spread across Europe turning the continent into the world centre of industrialisation, finance and commerce. New technical innovations initiated industrial progress with steam power driving the development of heavy industry. Methods of production were totally transformed and large factories with thousands of workers mass produced industrial and consumer goods.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Speed, dynamism and a belief in progress defined Europe at the end of the 19th century. Railways, electricity, cinema, photography and new theories in science and medicine affirmed Europe’s leading role in this technological coming of age. A time of optimism beckoned.

The arrival of the age of railways demonstrated Europe’s advance as an assured technological world leader. Industrialisation expanded and long-distance travel became possible across all social classes.

IMPERIALISM

The 19th century witnessed a globally dominant Europe. Empires expanded, colonies amassed – all pushed energetically forward by the Industrial Revolution. Colonies provided the raw materials and luxury commodities to meet rising consumer demand, in return promising vast markets for European products. Abuse and inequality were excused as a necessary part of ‘civilising’ savage peoples. The gradual ending of slavery was followed by new forms of intolerance and racism.

By 1914 European countries ruled about 30 % of the world’s population. Europe had been involved in overseas exploration and trade for centuries, but the benefits of the Industrial Revolution enabled Europe to tighten its grip on other continents.