By the end of the nineteenth century, faith in reason, progress, and science was being subverted by a new modernity about the physical universe, the human mind, and in the arts. The anxieties about old certainties were seemingly confirmed by the Great War, which began in 1914.

The Newtonian mechanistic universe was challenged by the discovery of radiation and the randomness of subatomic particles. Max Planck said that energy is radiated in packets, or quanta. Albert Einstein claimed that time and space were relative to the observer, and that matter was a form of energy (E = mc2). Friedrich Nietzsche lauded the instinctive irrational and blamed Christianity for its “slave morality”; Supermen would transcend mass democracy and equality. Henri Bergson said that reality was a “life force,” and Georges Sorel favored violence and the general strike. Sigmund Freud argued that human behavior was governed by the unconscious, that childhood memories were repressed, and that the mind was a battleground between the pleasure-seeking id, the reason of the ego, and the conscience of the superego.

Social Darwinists, arguing that society was also a survival of the fittest, justified laissez-faire government, but it was also used by nationalists and racists as a justification for war and inequality. Science challenged religion, but fundamentalists put their faith in the literal Bible, and Pope Pius IX condemned liberalism and socialism. But others favored social reform based upon religious principles, and Pope Leo XIII criticized both Marxism and capitalism.

In literature, Naturalism exhibited a mechanistic attitude toward human freedom. Symbolists denied objective reality; it was only symbols in the mind. Art Impressionism stressed the changing effects of light in the paintings of Claude Monet. In Post-impressionism, Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh emphasized light but also structure in portraying subjective reality (photography mirrored objective reality). Pablo Picasso’s Cubism reconstructed subjects according to geometric forms and Wassily Kandinsky’s Abstract Expressionism abandoned representational images. In music, mood was stressed in the works of Claude Debussy, and the musical dissonances of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused a riot at its Paris debut.

Many women demanded equal rights, including political equality; British suffragettes broke windows and went on hunger strikes to gain attention. Anti-Semitism revived. In France, Captain Alfred Dreyfus was imprisoned on trumped-up charges, and there were anti-Semitic political parties in Germany and Austria. In Russia, pogroms led many Jews to emigrate. Theodor Herzl claimed that Jews should have their own state in Palestine. British Liberals enacted social welfare legislation. Germany’s Social Democratic Party was opposed by the emperor and right-wing parties. In Russia, socialists turned to revolution; after the 1905 Revolution, Nicholas II accepted a weak Duma. By 1900, the United States was the world’s leading industrial nation.

National rivalry, Social Darwinism, religious and humanitarian concerns, and economic demands of raw materials and overseas markets contributed to the New Imperialism. By 1914, Africa had been colonized. Britain occupied Australia and New Zealand and took over India from the East India Company. France colonized Indochina, and Russia expanded to the Pacific. China was unable to resist Western pressures, and Japan was forced to open its borders but modernized by borrowing from the West. An imperial United States emerged after 1898.

After the unification of Germany, Bismarck formed the Triple Alliance of Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. Russia turned to France, and Britain, fearing Germany’s ambitions, joined them in the Triple Entente. Austrian annexations in the Balkans were resented by Serbia. With Germany backing Austria and Russia supporting Serbia, a spark could set off a conflagration.

  1. Explain the context in which nationalistic and imperialistic sentiments developed in Europe from 1815 to 1914.
    1. European states struggled to maintain international stability in an age of nationalism and revolutions.
      1. The breakdown of the Concert of Europe opened the door for movements of national unification in Italy and Germany as well as liberal reforms elsewhere.
      2. The unification of Italy and Germany transformed the European balance of power and led to efforts to construct a new diplomatic order.
    2. A variety of motives and methods led to the intensification of European global control andincreased tensions among the Great Powers.
      1. Industrial and technological developments (e.g., the second industrial revolution) facilitated European control of global empires.
    3. European ideas and culture expressed a tension between objectivity and scientific realism on one hand, and subjectivity and individual expression on the other.
      1. Following the revolutions of 1848, Europe turned toward a realist and materialist worldview.
  2. Explain the motivations that led to European imperialism in the period from 1815 to 1914.
    1. European nations were driven by economic, political, and cultural motivations in their new imperial ventures in Asia and Africa.
      1. European national rivalries and strategic concerns fostered imperial expansion and competition for colonies.
      2. The search for raw materials and markets for manufactured goods, as well as strategic and nationalistic considerations, drove Europeans to colonize Africa and Asia, even as European colonies in the Americas broke free politically, if not economically.
      3. European imperialists justified overseas expansion and rule by claiming cultural and racial superiority.
  3. Explain how science and other intellectual disciplines developed and changed throughout the period from 1815 to 1914.
    1. Positivism, or the philosophy that science alone provides knowledge, emphasized the rational and scientific analysis of nature and human affairs.
    2. In the later 19th century, a new relativism in values and the loss of confidence in the objectivity of knowledge led to modernism in intellectual and cultural life.
      1. Philosophy largely moved from rational interpretations of nature and human society to an emphasis on irrationality and impulse, a view that contributed to the belief that con ict and struggle led to progress.
        • Illustrative Examples of Philosophers who emphasized the irrational: Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Sorel, Henri Bergson
      2. Freudian psychology offered a new account of human nature that emphasized the role of the irrational and the struggle between the conscious and subconscious.
      3. Developments in the natural sciences, such as quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity, undermined the primacy of Newtonian physics as an objective description of nature.
        • Illustrative Examples of Scientists who undermined Newtonian physics: Max Planck
  4. Explain how European imperialism affected both European and non- European societies.
    1. Imperial endeavors significantly affected society, diplomacy, and culture in Europe and created resistance to foreign control abroad.
      1. Imperialism created diplomatic tensions among European states that strained alliance systems.
        • Illustrative Examples of Diplomatic tensions:
      2. Imperial encounters with non-European peoples influenced the styles and subject matter of artists and writers and provoked debate over the acquisition of colonies.
        • Illustrative Examples of Participants in the imperialism debate:: Pan-German League, J. A. Hobson s and Vladimir Lenin s anti-imperialism, Congo Reform Association
      3. Especially as non-Europeans became educated in Western values, they challenged European imperialism through nationalist movements and by modernizing local economies and societies.
        • Illustrative Examples of Responses to European imperialism: Indian Congress Party, Zulu Resistance, India s Sepoy Mutiny, China s Boxer Rebellion, Japan s Meiji Restoration
  5. Explain the continuities and changes in European artistic expression from 1815 to 1914.
    1. Realist and materialist themes and attitudes in uenced art and literature as painters and writers depicted the lives of ordinary people and drew attention to social problems.
    2. Modern art, including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Cubism, moved beyond the representational to the subjective, abstract, and expressive and often provoked audiences that believed that art should re ect shared and idealized values, including beauty and patriotism.
      • Illustrative Examples of Realist artists and authors: Honoré de Balzac, Honoré Daumier, Charles Dickens, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Gustave Courbet, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-François Millet, Leo Tolstoy, Émile Zola, Thomas Hardy
      • Illustrative Examples of Modern artists: Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh
  6. Explain how the events of the first half of the 20th century challenged existing social, cultural, and intellectual understandings.
    1. The widely held belief in progress characteristic of much of 19th-century thought began to break down before World War I.

Reading 1: Pages 723-729

Intellectual and Cultural Developments:
     Developments in the Sciences: The Emergence of a New Physics
     Toward a New Understanding of the Irrational
     Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis
     The Impact of Darwin
     The Attack on Christianity

Reading 2: Pages 729-735

Intellectual and Cultural Developments:
     The Culture of Modernity: Literature
     Modernism in the Arts
     Modernism in Music

Reading 3: Pages 735-739

Politics: New Directions and New Uncertainties:
     The Movement for Women’s Rights
     Jews in the European Nation-State

Reading 4: Pages 739-745

Politics: New Directions and New Uncertainties:
     The Transformation of Liberalism: Great Britain and Italy
     France: Travails of the Third Republic
     Growing Tensions in Germany
     Austria-Hungary: The Problem of the Nationalities
     Industrialization and Revolution in Imperial Russia
     The Rise of the United States [optional]
     The Growth of Canada [optional]

Reading 5: Pages 745-750

The New Imperialism:
     Causes of the New Imperialism
     The Scramble for Africa

Reading 6: Pages 750-758

The New Imperialism:
     Imperialism in Asia
     Responses to Imperialism
     Results of the New Imperialism
International Rivalry and the Coming of War:
     The Bismarckian System
     New Directions and New Crises