The one hundred years between 1850 and 1950 constituted one of the most violent and troubled periods in all of recorded history.
The one hundred years between 1850 and 1950 constituted one of the most violent and troubled periods in all of recorded history. It witnessed the growing reliance of governments on military power to resolve European and colonial disputes, the competition for dominance among ideologically opposing camps, and the loss of millions of lives in wars. Yet, at the same time, this age experienced increased prosperity, enhanced longevity, and the ascendancy of liberal ideals that were focused on eliminating the causes for the distress. In 1857 Britain experienced the Sepoy
Between 1870 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, European nations frequently were involved in colonial disputes and wars while peace was sustained on the European Continent itself. The most active imperial powers were Britain, France, Italy, and, after 1885, Germany, the United States, and Russia. Imperialism gained support in the 1870’s under the leadership of British prime minister Benjamin
The principal colonial rivalries prior to 1900 focused on
The British were also colonial rivals of the
Imperial Holdings in Africa as of 1914
In 1902 the Anglo-Japanese
With the outbreak of World War
Caribbean Theater of the Spanish-American War
Also during the 1920’s a new totalitarian ideology called
The significant military achievements of the imperial era were the successful defense and extension of the British Empire during the Zulu War
British wars against
After the Spanish-American War the United States acquired the
The development of weapons during this imperial period constituted a revolution in armaments. This age witnessed the transformation in personnel from the mounted warriors of the Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) to pilots of German jet fighter planes. It also experienced the radical changes associated with modern
In 1857, Muslim soldiers in India refused to bite pork-greased cartridges that were required for a new rifle. Although Britain suppressed the revolt and established direct control over India, the Sepoy Rebellion exemplified the cultural divide between the European powers and their non-Western colonies.
By the end of the nineteenth century smokeless powder and bolt-action and magazine-repeating mechanisms had been developed and adopted by most major armies. The machine
Combat uniforms evolved during this period from the brightly colored and decorated uniforms of the past into more practical uniforms that concealed the troops from the enemy. Combat in imperial wars resulted in the adaptation of standard uniforms in accord with the local conditions; uniforms were made of varying weights to provide comfort in diverse climates.
The advent of steel and the need for mobility in the field resulted in less and lighter armor for the individual soldier. The most important component was the
Military organization during the era of imperial warfare reflected the movement toward a trained professional officer corps, the importance of strategic and tactical planning, the need for continuous preparedness training, and the value of utilizing science and technology in advancing weaponry. The model of the German General
Because of costs, all of the imperial powers attempted to develop reliable local forces that included natives at the soldier and noncommissioned officer levels; they were led by European officers. Further, in most instances, the organization of the defense of imperial colonies was predicated upon sustaining a supply line to the mother country through which reinforcements could be sent if necessary; a reliable navy was required to support a global empire. Without doubt Britain had the most sophisticated imperial military organization. Not only did Britain have the means to support its dominions and crown colonies in the event of attack, but it also developed plans for the colonies to support Britain in the event of a European or global conflict. This imperial military organization was effective during periods of peace or occasional local conflict, but, with the exception of Britain, for most nations it proved ineffective because of inadequate forces and the precarious nature of the lines of supply.
Central to an understanding of the doctrines, strategy, and tactics employed in imperial warfare is the recognition of four major points. First, colonial wars between European industrialized nations were frequently fought using the same concepts and practices that would have been used in Europe. In most instances, the number of troops was considerably fewer and there were adaptations to the locale and conditions. Nonetheless, colonial encounters such as those at Fashoda were approached using the same conceptual framework.
Second, in situations where native forces or populations were involved, innovations were mandated; guerrilla
Third, it is important to recognize that the political support for imperialism within European and American societies varied greatly during the century from 1850 and 1950. Indeed, as indicated previously, most European and American generations included an active component opposed to
Finally, it is important to recognize that all twentieth century wars have been viewed as national struggles. Although the level of commitment may vary, a general political will to fight is considered a requirement. Thus, in the postimperialist era of the 1960’s, with the absence of such a will, there was an abandonment of
The most significant factor that altered military doctrine, strategy, and tactics was the revolution in
Strategic military theory and practices were elevated to a
National military colleges and
Other influential contemporary sources were Helmuth von
Barthorp, Michael. The Zulu War: Isandhlwana to Ulundi. London: Cassell, 2002. Bayly, Christopher Alan. Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World. New York: Longman, 1989. Black, Jeremy. “1783-1914: Wars of Imperialism.” In Why Wars Happen. New York: New York University Press, 1998. Chaliand, Gérard. Art of War in World History: From Antiquity to the Nuclear Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Creveld, Martin van. Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present. New York: Free Press, 1989. David, Saul. Victoria’s Wars: The Rise of Empire. New York: Viking, 2006. De Quesada, Alejandro. The Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection, 1898-1902. Illustrated by Stephen Walsh. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2007. Dupuy, Trevor N. Evolution of Weapons and Warfare. New York: Da Capo Press, 1990. English, Allan D., ed. Changing Face of War: Learning from History. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998. Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. The Indian Mutiny, 1857-58. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2007. Keegan, John. History of Warfare. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. Killingray, David, and David Omissi, eds. Guardians of Empire: The Armed Forces of the Colonial Powers, c. 1700-1964. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1999. MacKay, Kenneth. Technology in War: The Impact of Science on Weapons Development and Modern Battle. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984. McNeill, William H. The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society Since A.D. 1000. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. Porch, David. History of Warfare: Wars of Empire. New York: Cassell Academic, 2000. _______. “Imperial Wars: From the Seven Years’ War to the First World War.” In The Oxford History of Modern War, edited by Charles Townshend. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Preston, Diana. A Brief History of the Boxer Rebellion: China’s War on Foreigners. London: Robinson, 2002. Silbey, David J. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007. The British Empire in Color. Documentary. History Channel, 2008. The Century of Warfare. Documentary. Time-Life Video, 1994. Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death. Documentary. Périscope Productions, 2003.
The Ottoman Empire
The Mughal Empire
China: The Qing Empire