Difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism – New vs Old Imperialism

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism is that New Imperialism started from the late 19th Century to the early 20th century. In contrast, Old Imperialism started in the 11th century, and its end observed the beginning of New Imperialism. Imperialism is a form of political, cultural, and economic domination of one country over the other. Based on social Darwinism and religious, racial, and developmental justifications, the imperial powers controlled other countries’ governments, economies, languages, religions, and cultures.

Difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism PDF

While both imperialisms, divided by a timeline, were about capturing and capitalizing on overseas resources, there are a few points that differentiate old imperialism vs new imperialism. Old Imperialism saw limited intrusions into the third world; European powers captured most of the third world in the era of New Imperialism. In this article, we will explore the differences between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism in detail.

Difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism

The Difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism is that old imperialism is based on military conquest. In contrast, new imperialism is based on new forms of conquest- instituting protectorates, giving concessions, creating spheres of influence, etc.

New Imperialism vs Old Imperialism

Difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism

Old Imperialism

New Imperialism

Time: 1450-1650 CE

Time: 1870-1914 CE

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 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

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

Ramifications of World War I resulted in the end.

New and Old Imperialism

In the old imperialism, Motives were God, Glory and Gold. Gold means the wealth of the newly discovered countries, comprising precious gold and exquisite commodities. 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.
  • In new imperialism, Metals, vegetable oils, colours, cotton, hemp and other inexpensive resources of the colonies was 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 territories to transfer additional populations.

What is New Imperialism?

New Imperialism defines conquest and colonial rule. This era witnessed unprecedented territorial acquisition. New Imperialism favoured direct military conquests, the establishment of colonies and protectorates, and the consolidation of large empires.

  • New powers like Germany, the USA, Italy, Japan, Belgium, and Russia came in.
  • Britain was the dominant colonial power in New Imperialism.
  • Moreover, imperial powers used economic and technological instruments to make colonies economically dependent as raw material providers and consumers.

What is 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.

  • Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Britain, and France led the chariot of old imperialism.
  • The demise of Feudalism in Europe led 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.


Key Difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism

The key difference between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism is that New Imperialism observed Industrial Revolution in the 1870s, whereas Old Imperialism observed Commercial Revolutions (Mercantile System) from 1096 till the mid-19th century.

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