Difference Between New and Old Imperialism

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 17, 2022, 8:12

Imperialism is a form of political, cultural, and economic domination of one country over the other. Based on the principle of social Darwinism and religious, racial, and developmental justifications, the imperial powers controlled the government, economy, language, religion, and culture of other countries.

While both imperialisms, divided by a timeline, were about capturing and capitalizing on overseas resources, there is a significant Difference Between New and Old Imperialism.

In the era of Old Imperialism, except for Spain in the Americas and Portugal in Brazil, European powers did not frequently acquire land through military conquests. They preferred instead to establish a network of trading ports.

However, conquest and colonial rule defined New Imperialism. This era witnessed unprecedented territorial acquisition.

Moreover, imperial powers used economic and technological instruments to make colonies economically dependent as raw material providers and consumers.

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Difference Between New and Old Imperialism

Here are the key Difference Between New and Old Imperialism:

Old Imperialism

New Imperialism

Time: 1450-1650 CE

Time: 1870-1914 CE

Motives were God, Glory and Gold:

  • Gold means the wealth of the newly discovered countries, comprising precious gold and exquisite commodities
  • Secondly, glory refers to a European king's delight in seizing new territory
  • Finally, God refers to the aims of the European powers and missionaries to convert heathens to Christ
  • Metals, vegetable oils, colours, cotton, hemp and other inexpensive resources of the colonies were the main focus
  • The colonies functioned as wholesale marketplaces for manufactured commodities
  • The period witnessed large-scale military installations and supplies
  • Also, the colonies acted as extended territory to transfer additional population

Missionary activities by Roman Catholics

Protestants joined humanitarian activities

Focus areas were coastal Africa, coastal Asia and Latin America

Focus shifted to the scramble for Africa, South and South-East Asia

Use of primitive technologies- expedition vessels, compasses, writing materials, canons, muskets, etc

The technological advances of the post-industrial revolution facilitated trade and efficient administration

More focused on crony capitalism/mercantilism

Started bringing social and education reforms to the colonies

Centralized control and command system- ruled large geographical areas

More decentralized and indirect rule

Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Britain, and France led the chariot of old imperialism

New powers like Germany, the USA, Italy, Japan, Belgium, and Russia came in. Britain was the dominant colonial power

Based on military conquest

Based on new forms of conquest- instituting protectorates, giving concessions, creating spheres of influence, etc

Ended due to the repercussions of the Napoleanic wars, nationalist movements in colonies, and the rising cost of maintaining the colonies

Ramifications of World War I resulted in the end

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The demise of Feudalism in Europe gave way to the rise of mercantilism or crony capitalism. Based on the principles of distant trade, the European powers cooperated with the local rulers instead of acquiring territories in the third world. They established trading ports, and the era of old imperialism witnessed flourishing international trade.

On the other hand, New Imperialism favoured direct military conquests, the establishment of colonies and protectorates, and the consolidation of large empires. While Old Imperialism saw limited intrusions into the third world, European powers captured most of the third world in the era of new imperialism.

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FAQs on the Difference Between New and Old Imperialism

Q1. What is the technological Difference Between New and Old Imperialism?

The technological Difference Between New and Old Imperialism is as follows -

The European powers lacked firepower, communication, and mobility- the essential factors to stabilize the interior regions of the colonies during Old Imperialism.

On the other hand, during New Imperialism, the industrial revolution facilitated the manufacture of modern weaponry, steam engine, and better communication systems like the telegraph.

Q2. What is the Difference Between New and Old Imperialism regarding the participating imperial powers?

The Difference Between New and Old Imperialism regarding the participating imperial powers is that the industrial revolution facilitated the production of steel, power, oil, chemicals, weapons, etc., welcoming newcomers like Japan, the US, and Germany to the scramble for colonies, whereas New Imperialism was not limited to the old imperial powers.

Q3. How did the Difference Between New and Old Imperialism facilitate the international division of labour?

The Difference Between New and Old Imperialism facilitating the international division of labour is as follows:

While mercantilism drove Old Imperialism, it was limited to acquiring goods from the third world and selling it in the home country with a colossal profit margin.

However, New Imperialism, based on capitalistic tendencies, facilitated the global division of labour. Here, the core countries (colonial powers) exploited cheap raw materials of the periphery (colonies). The latter remained the producer of raw materials, while the core flourished at the expense of the colonies.

Q4. What is the Difference Between New and Old Imperialism in terms of international peace?

The Difference Between New and Old Imperialism in terms of international peace is that the era of Old Imperialism witnessed localized conflicts and military conquest involving native causalities, whereas New Imperialism saw wars among imperial powers- for example, Russo-Japanese War, Boer War, Spanish-American War, etc.