Decline of Spanish Empire

I. Age of Empire

1880-1914: major outburst of European empire building

1875: 10% of Africa controlled by Europeans

1895: 90% under control

By 1914: 4/5 of globe under American or European control

Fueled by industrialization

Justified, normalized by attendant cultural values



Motives for Imperialism

Economic (industrialization): raw materials, markets, strategic positions



Modern, new phenomenon in late 18th, 19th century

“Imagined Community”

Language, territory, culture, history, mythology, customs


Nationalism combined with economic drives and cultural ideologies cultivated a competitive drive for command of globe




II. Social Darwinism

1859, Charles Darwin publishes, On the Origin of Species

Introduces language of “evolution”, “natural selection”, “adaptation”, “progress”

Development of social sciences in 1870s

Erroneously apply Darwin’s theories to contemporary societies in the late 19th century

Natural, scientifically demonstrable, superiority of some groups; justifies inequality at home and imperialism abroad

Herbert Spencer: “Survival of the fittest”

Inferior bound by biology, impossible to fully ameliorate




Racial Science and Eugenics

Arthur de Gobineua: father of racial science

An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1855)

Distinction between “yellow”; “black” and “white”

Race formed culture; whites had superior culture

Whites had traits to govern and develop world

Blacks: weak intellect, “sensual”

Asians: cruel and deceptive

Ironically de Gobineua opposed the imperialism of his era but his theories were seized by those seeking justification

Eugenics in early 20th Century: asserted traits inherited, certain groups inferior, but also society in decline but able to be redeemed through reforms in line with eugenic “truths”

Tarzan and The Fantasies of Eugenics




III. A New Era: Decline of Spanish Empire

Despite reform efforts, Spain outpaced and in decline in industrializing 19th century

Independence movements in its few remaining colonies

Cuba and the United States in 1890s

Forces driving imperialism in U.S. in 1890s

Industrialization and Markets

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