Imperialism: Crash Course World History #35

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course World
History, and today we’re gonna discuss 19th century imperialism. So the 19th century certainly
didn’t invent the empire, but it did take it to new heights, by which we mean lows,
or possibly heights, I dunno, I can’t decide, roll the intro while I think about it. [theme music] Yeah, I don’t know, I’m still undecided. Let’s
begin with China! When last we checked in, China was a thriving manufacturing power,
about to be overtaken by Europe, but still heavily involved in world trade, especially
an importer of silver from the Spanish empire. Europeans had to use silver because they didn’t
really produce anything else the Chinese wanted, and that state of affairs continued through
the 18th century. For example, in 1793, the Macartney Mission tried to get better trade
conditions with China and was a total failure. Here’s the Qianlong Emperor’s well known response
to the British: “Hither to all European nations including your own country’s barbarian merchants
have carried on their trade with our celestial empire at Canton. Such has been the procedure
for many years, although our celestial empire possesses all things in prolific abundance
and lacks no product within its own borders.” But then Europeans, especially the British,
found something that the Chinese would buy: opium. By the 1830s, British free trade policy
unleashed a flood of opium in China, which threatened China’s favorable balance of trade.
It also created a lot of drug addicts. And then in 1839 the Chinese responded to
what they saw as these unfair trade practices with…a stern letter that they never actually
sent. Commissioner Lin Zexu drafted a response that contained a memorable threat to “cut
off trade in rhubarb, silk, and tea, all valuable products of ours without which foreigners
could not live.” But even if the British had received this
terrifying threat to their precious rhubarb supply, they probably wouldn’t have responded
because selling drugs is super lucrative. So the Chinese made like tea partiers, confiscating
a bunch of British opium and chucking it into the sea. And then the British responded to
this by demanding compensation, and access to Chinese territory where they could carry
out their trade. And then the Chinese were like, “Man that
seems a little bit harsh,” whereupon the British sent in gunships, opening trade with Canton
by force. Chinese General Yijing made a counter attack
in 1842 that included a detailed plan to catapult flaming monkeys onto British ships. Stan,
is that true? All right, apparently the plans actually involved
strapping fireworks to monkeys’ backs and were never carried out, but still! Slightly off topic: obviously I don’t want
anyone to light monkeys on fire. I’m just saying that flaming monkeys lend themselves
to a lot of great band names, like the Sizzling Simians, Burning Bonobos, Immolated Marmoset…Stan,
sometimes I feel like I should give up teaching world history and just become a band name
generator. That’s my real gift. Anyway, due to lack of monkey fireworks, the
Chinese counterattacks were unsuccessful, and they eventually signed the treaty of Nanjing,
which stated that Britain got Hong Kong and five other treaty ports, as well as the equivalent
of two billion dollars in cash. Also, the Chinese basically gave up all sovereignty
to European spheres of influence, wherein Europeans were subject to their laws, not
Chinese laws. In exchange for all of this, China got a hot
slice of nothing. You might think the result of this war would be a shift in the balance
of trade in Britain’s favor, but that wasn’t immediately the case. In fact, the British
were importing so much tea from China that the trade deficit actually rose more than
30 billion dollars. But eventually after another war and one of
the most destructive civil rebellions in Chinese and possibly world history, the Taiping Rebellion,
the situation was reversed, and Europeans, especially the British, became the dominant
economic power in China. Okay. So but when we think about the 19th
century imperialism, we usually think about the way that Europe turned Africa from this
[map] into this [map], the so-called scramble for Africa. Speaking of scrambles and the
European colonization of Africa, you know what they say–sometimes to make an omelette,
you have to break a few eggs. And sometimes, you break a lot of eggs and you don’t get
an omelette. Europeans have been involved in Africa since
the 16th century, when the Portuguese used their cannons to take control of cities on
coast to set up their trading post empire, but in the second half of the 19th century,
Europe suddenly and spectacularly succeeded at colonizing basically all of Africa. Why? Well, the biggest reason that Europeans were
able to extend their grasp over so much of the world was the same reason they wanted
to do so in the first place: industrialization. Nationalism played its part, of course. European
states saw it as a real bonus to be able say that they had colonies–so much so, that a
children’s rhyme in An ABC for Baby Patriots went, “C is for colonies. Rightly we boast.
That of all great countries Great Britain has the most.” But it was mostly, not to get all Marxist
on you or anything, about controlling the means of production. Europeans wanted colonies
to secure sources of raw materials, especially cotton, copper, iron, and rubber, that were
used to fuel their growing industrial economies. And in addition to providing the motive for
imperialism, European industrialization also provided the means. Europeans didn’t fail
to take over territory in Africa until the late 19th century because they didn’t want to; they failed
because they couldn’t. This was mostly due to disease. Unlike in the Americas, Africans weren’t devastated
by diseases like smallpox because they’d had smallpox for centuries and were just as immune
to it as Europeans were. Not only that, but Africa had diseases of its own, including
yellow fever, malaria, and sleeping sickness, all of which killed Europeans in staggering
numbers. Also, nagana was a disease endemic to Africa
that killed horses, which made it difficult for Europeans to take advantage of African
grasslands, and also difficult for them to get inland, because their horses would die
as they tried to carry stuff. Also, while in the 16th century Europeans
did have guns, they were pretty useless, especially without horses. So most fighting was done
the old-fashioned way, with swords. That worked pretty well in the Americas, unless you were
the Incas or the Aztecs, but it didn’t work in Africa, because the Africans also had swords.
And spears, and axes. So as much as they might have wanted to colonize
Africa in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, Africa’s mosquitoes, microbes, and people
were too much for them. So what made the difference? Technology. First, steam ships made it possible for Europeans
to travel inland, bringing supplies and personnel via Africa’s navigable rivers. No horses?
No problem. Even more important was quinine medicine,
sometimes in the form of tonic water, mixed into refreshing quintessentially British gin
and tonics. Quinine isn’t as effective as modern antimalarial medication, and it doesn’t
cure the disease, but it does help moderate its effects. But of course the most important technology
that enabled Europeans to dominate Africa was guns. By the 19th century, European gun
technology had improved dramatically, especially with the introduction of the Maxim machine
gun, which allowed Europeans to wipe out Africans in battle after battle. Of course, machine
guns were effective when wielded by Africans, too, but Africans had fewer of them. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? And my
chair is back! An open letter to Hiram Maxim. But first, let’s
see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, it’s Darth Vader! What a great
reminder of imperialism. Dear Hiram Maxim, I hate you. It’s not so
much that you invented the Maxim machine gun, although obviously that’s a little bit problematic,
or even that you look like the poor man’s Colonel Sanders. First off, you’re a possible
bigamist. I have a long standing opposition to bigamy. Secondly, you were born an American
but became a Brit, thereby metaphorically machine gunning our founding fathers. But
most importantly, among your many inventions was the successful amusement park ride, the
Captive Flying Machine. Mr. Maxim, I hate the Captive Flying Machine. The Captive Flying
Machine has resulted in many a girlfriend telling me that I’m a coward. I’m not a coward,
I just don’t want to die up there! It’s all your fault, Hiram Maxim, and nobody
believes your story about the light bulb. Best wishes, John Green. All right. So, here is something that often
gets overlooked. European imperialism involved a lot of fighting and a lot of dying. And
when we say that Europe came to dominate Africa, for the most part that domination came through
wars, which killed lots of Africans and also lots of Europeans, although most of them died
from disease. It’s very, very important to remember that Africans did not meekly acquiesce
to European hegemony: they resisted, often violently, but ultimately they were defeated
by a technologically superior enemy. In this respect, they were a lot like the
Chinese, and also the Indians, and the Vietnamese, and — you get the picture. So by the end of the 19th century, most of
Africa and much of Asia had been colonized by European powers. I mean, even Belgium got in on it,
and they weren’t even a country at the beginning of the 19th century. I mean, Belgium has enjoyed
like, 12 years of sovereignty in the last 3 millennia. Notable exceptions include Japan, which was
happily pursuing its own imperialism, Thailand, Iran, and of course Afghanistan. Because no
one can conquer Afghanistan, unless you are — wait for it — the Mongols.
[Mongoltage] It’s tempting to imagine Europe ruling their
colonies with the proverbial topaz fist, and while there was always the threat of violence, the truth is a
lot more complicated. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. In most cases, Europeans ruled their colonies
with the help of, and sometimes completely through, intermediaries and collaborators.
For example, in the 1890s in India, there were fewer than 1,000 British administrators
supposedly ruling over 300 million Indians. The vast majority of British troops at any
given time in India, more than two-thirds, were in fact Indians under the command of
British officers. Because of their small numbers relative to local
populations, most European colonizers resorted to indirect rule, relying on governments that were
already there but exerting control over their leaders. Frederick Lugard, who was Britain’s head honcho
in Nigeria for a time, called this “rule through and by the natives.” This worked particularly
well with British administrators, who were primarily middle class men but had aristocratic
pretensions, and were often pleased to associate with the highest echelons of Indian or African
society. Now, this isn’t to say that indigenous rulers
were simply puppets. Often, they retained real power. This was certainly true in India,
where more than a third of the territory was ruled by Indian princes. The French protectorates
of Morocco and Tunisia were ruled by Arab monarchs, and the French also ruled through
native kings in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. For the most part, Europeans could almost
always rely on their superior military technology to coerce local rulers into doing what the
Europeans wanted. And they could replace native officials with Europeans if they had to. But
in general, they preferred to rule indirectly. It was easier and cheaper. Also, less malaria.
Thanks, Thought Bubble. So while we can’t know why all native princes
who ruled in the context of European imperialism put up with it, we can make some pretty good
guesses. First of all, they were still rulers. They got to keep their prestige and their
fancy hats, and to some extent their power. Many were also able to gain advantages through
their service, like access to European education for themselves and for their children. Mahatma
Gandhi, for instance, was the son of an Indian high official, which made it possible for
him to study law in England. And we can’t overlook the sheer practicality
of it. The alternative was to resist, and that usually didn’t work out well. I’m reminded
of the famous couplet, “Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not.” But even with this enormous technological
advantage, it wasn’t always easy. For example, it took 25 years, from 1845 to 1870, for the
British to fully defeat the Maori on New Zealand because the Maori were kick-ass fighters who
had mastered musketry and defensive warfare. And I will remind you, it is not cursing if
you’re talking about donkeys. In fact, it took them being outnumbered three-to-one
with the arrival of 750,000 settlers for the Maori to finally capitulate. And I will remind you that the
rule against splitting infinitives is not an actual rule. Those of you more familiar with U.S. history
might notice a parallel between the Maori and some of the Native American tribes, like the
Apaches and the Lakota, a good reminder that the United States did some imperial expansion of its own
as part of its nationalizing project in the 19th century. But back to Africa. Sometimes African rulers
were so good at adapting European technology that they were able to successfully resist
imperialism. Ethiopia’s Menelik II defeated the Italians in battle, securing not just
independence but an empire of his own. But embracing European-style modernization
could also be problematic, as Khedive Ismail of Egypt found out during his rule in the
late 19th century. He celebrated his imperial success by commissioning an opera, Giuseppe
Verdi’s Aida, for the opening of the Cairo Opera House in 1871. Giuseppe Verdi, by the
way — no relation to John Green. And Ismail had ambitions of extending Egypt’s
control up the Nile, west toward Lake Chad. But to do that, he needed money, and that’s
where he got into trouble. His borrowing bankrupted Egypt and led to Britain’s taking control
over the country’s finances and its shares in the Suez Canal that Ismail had built, with
French engineers and French capital, in 1869. The British sent in 1,300 bureaucrats to fix
Egypt’s finances, an invasion of red tape that led to a nationalist uprising, which
brought on a full-scale British intervention after 1881 in order to protect British interests. This business imperialism, as it is sometimes
known, is really at the heart of the imperialistic impulse. Industrialized nations push economic
integration upon developing nations, and then extract value from those developing nations,
just as you would from a mine or a field you owned. And here we see political history and economic
history coming together again. As western corporations grew in the latter part of the
19th century, their influence grew as well, both in their home countries and in the lands
where they were investing. But ultimately, whether the colonizer is a
business enterprise or a political one, the complicated legacy of imperialism survives.
It’s why your bananas are cheap, why your call centers are Indian, why your chocolate comes
from Africa, and why everything else comes from China. These imperialistic adventures may have only
lasted a century, but it was the century in which the world as we know it today began
to take shape. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson, the show is written by my high school history
teacher Raoul Meyer and myself, and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. Oh, our intern! I’m
sorry, Meredith the Intern. Our intern is Meredith Danko. Last week’s Phrase of the Week was “homogeneous
mythologized unitary polity.” Thank you for that suggestion. If you want to guess this
week’s Phrase of the Week or suggest future ones, you can do so in comments, where you
can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course. Remember,
you can get this shirt, the Mongol shirt, or our poster at Speaking of which, as
we say in my hometown, “Don’t Forget to be Awesome.”

95 comments on “Imperialism: Crash Course World History #35”

  1. Ethan K says:

    this is epic xx swag whos watching this in 1972?

  2. Kade Zammit says:

    who watching in 56 ad?

  3. Candy Perez says:


  4. Jovan Weiß says:


  5. First Last says:

    Imperialism is justified. The mighty have a right to conquer the inferior.

  6. BK All day says:

    I got a test in 30 min bitches

  7. Arthy says:

    I hear that the opium was actually grown in India

  8. Phifer Davis says:

    Anyone else doing the stupid web quest on this?

  9. Krombopulos T says:

    All empire rise and fall. Im waiting for the British to fall. they are a country of thieves and murderers. They are the world's enemy

  10. C. Onyeukwu Onwukwe Jr. says:

    It seems that some humanoids simply have more desires than others and cannot sustain themselves in and of their anthropological native homes.

  11. John Smith says:

    Thank you for writing 'Looking for Alaska'! 🙂

  12. Finley says:

    hite globe

  13. Jos Fryer says:

    Its Mao-ree, not May-ori

  14. oOWhMOo * says:

    Whoa somebody had a lot of coffee that morning

  15. Unknown User says:

    0:53,i flipped out when i saw the mouth moving

  16. RHYS BANGEMAN says:


  17. Korede Aderele says:

    it's crazy how many parallels there are between the original colonial imperialism phase and contemporary neo-imperialism

  18. Bluryach says:

    spare coochie?

  19. Ajei Tanglao says:


  20. Ice Wallow Come Chico says:

    Well Lui Calibre is on fire and then KABOYA!

  21. MintyMentoes says:

    The spanish captions are great

  22. Mr. Onay says:

    Imperialism isnt bad

  23. Tyler Liddle says:

    Its pronounced 'Mowri' not 'May-ori'… great vid tho

  24. VibinlikeKodak - says:

    American Imperialism led to a better world. Change My Mind.

  25. Lawrence Nodarse says:

    Giuseppe is not John in English. It's Joseph. The Italian name for John is Giovanni.

  26. noodel says:

    i like pickl

  27. Mikachi Yamazaki says:

    Why did european empires colonized asia and africa?

  28. nato says:

    Whose here from profe

  29. BOUNTYHUNTER 7567 says:

    Suck it China America’s tea party actually worked

  30. Virtue Void says:


  31. Merve Fidan says:

    oh god he is talking too fast

  32. WOWCruiser says:

    Very ashamed of being Chinese… One day we will make white people pay!!! 😡

  33. Aurum TheBrave says:

    So much enthusiasm, I love it!

  34. Andrew Gutmann says:

    11:14 whispers They never got Ethiopia.

  35. no 1 says:

    8:08 the Sikhs conquered Afghanistan also

  36. Zack Sutherland says:

    may-ori , XD

  37. Alexander Jacob says:

    "You will accept these millions of kilos of opium. You will pay for it. And you will like it. I'll be taking Hong Kong as well thank you very much. Enjoy your drug addicted society lads, tallyhoe".
    ~ England

  38. Ryan Sanderson says:

    Colonial wars where just sneezing on each other

  39. Chan lee says:


  40. Harshul Bhatia says:

    Britain And Spain Like Making Colonies

  41. Jamie Crook says:

    I can't get past your pronunciation of Maori… maybe consider finding out before doing your videos lol … You say Maori like "moldy" but its rolling of the R …. … the rest I couldn't take in because of this lol

  42. chibi khaleesi says:

    "access to European education" also another social conditioning that makes the East think that Western education must be so much b3tT3rRrR.

  43. goosey says:

    Thank you John green1 very cool video about the imperisalism that im learning bout in class right now! hahahaa haha

  44. luciferangelica says:

    bigamy, or at least polyamory, is pretty cool. all you kids should try it… when you're older

  45. John wayne says:

    Could you possibly speak a little quicker

  46. Gabriel F. Céspedes says:

    You know….Europeans were dicks back in the days, imagine if África colonized Europe……. wonder if it would still be called Africa.

  47. GraY Hat says:

    just watched with 0.75 speed its the most funny thing ever

  48. Susie White says:

    Damn that globe spin was so smooth

  49. Gamze says:

    Remind me to use the phrase, “Heirim Maxim is known for his invention of the Maxim machine gun, as well as a successful amusement park ride, The Captive Flying Machine. One is a horrific death machine. The other is a gun.” in a history paper at some point.

  50. Uncle Nuts says:

    Look what it did to Africa…..

    Then look what it did to Hong Kong

  51. Michael Cole says:


  52. Luma M says:

    Obrigada pela legenda portugues (br) <3

  53. JahRandom says:

    Give me Immolated Marmoset immediately.

  54. andrea chan says:

    I wish Britain didn’t get Hong Kong because when I came to the US from Hong Kong I had to learn grammar all over again.

  55. Paul A. says:

    I just realized, when America tossed British tea in the sea, the British went to war and lost.

    But when the Chinese dumped British opium into the sea, the British went to war and won.


  56. Hakeemollah Karimi (407hakkari) says:

    Afghanistan: those European dogs couldn't conquer us when they were above us and below us! When they came from the West and the East! When they had attacked from the South and the North! When they had established puppet leaders for a year or two, only to find the whole population was their enemy! The colonialists sought to invade a country which had had its fair share of that in the past! The red on the flag of Afghanistan stands for the blood of the Afghans who fought for their country, but it may as well stand for the blood of the people who died trying to conquer it, which was far more numerous!

  57. skye mcdonald says:

    AP world history test in 2 days so you KNOW im watching every single crash course vid

  58. Ariela Strombeck says:

    John Green: you know what they say 'sometimes to make an omelet you gotta break a few eggs… and then sometimes you break a lot of eggs, and you don't get an omelet'
    Me: that is called scrambled eggs

  59. Roy Zhu says:

    You'll do fine on the WHAP test. Now get some sleep 🙂

  60. Charlie Pagan says:

    Hey John thanks for this series, it's been a big help over the last two years and I feel really well prepared for the AP tomorrow thanks to your help.

  61. Cameron Bowden says:

    Good luck to all the APWH students on your test today! (Mr. Halums class waz here!)

  62. Brian O'Neil says:

    If your biggest takeaway from this video is certain mispronunciations, you're missing the point.

  63. Cooper Dawley says:

    i just realized you have the podcast with your brother dear hank and john i listen to it everyday

  64. Kristin Koellmer says:

    pause at 0:57

  65. icyaudi says:

    here because i got a 28% on my imperialism unit test and idk if i should do test corrections that only let me get up to a 70% or retake for up to 100%….. i got a c+ in the class now

  66. TNT blaster says:

    Don't leave crash course 😰😢

  67. Sam Smith says:

    People seem to forget Britain as a country was bankrupt when it did this…So yeah…whether it’s right or wrong to sell drugs when your out of options or not I’ll leave up to you but it makes way more sense knowing that

  68. James Perkins says:

    A Mongoltage, the proverbial topaz fist, and a donkey joke?

    We’re back in ancient history!

  69. Mustafa alzobaidy says:

    England was so evil probably the most evil nation in history even more the nazi germany

  70. Cristina says:

    Can you at least master some of the basics? Starting with the pronunciation of Maori? That made me want to cut my ear off, Van Gogh-style!

  71. Anish Paudel says:

    Nepal was never colonized buy anyone till date. Perhaps it was the harsh mountains along with Powerful gurkha soldiers. It still enjoys its glory unparalled

  72. TZE GOH says:

    I see he conveniently omitted how Kennedy’s wealth was from being Americas drug dealer to China .

  73. Nova says:

    They had guns. But they weren't the guns we had today.

  74. Mikaill Jarvis says:

    What does imperialism mean I still don't know after watch this video

  75. Francois Johannson says:

    The mongols where quite 19th century minded

  76. Bill Boyd says:

    If imperialism is so bad why don't countries revert to the status-quo ante once it ends? The only one i can think of is who even attemped it was Cambodia, and that went so well! Perhaps the benefits out weigh the costs and everyone won! In which case imperialism should be celebrated not derided!

  77. jermell frazier says:

    Europe concured becouse they were a very war like people .they never knew peac they only knew to war and kill as the means of survival. the nations of Europe were always at war with each other and so with the invention of the gun they brought war and killed all that they came into contact with…the rest of the world was just too naive to know what was coming

  78. Lucario 1640 says:

    John Green i don't wanna be harsh, but let's be honest: The mongols are the true star of the show

  79. John Buchinger says:

    The thing that makes this show almost useless is the crash course refuses to omit things. There is no need for all the facts. This show is pealing to the generation of the speaker, not students who need consolidated conceptual explanations. . Kids are not going to think this show is relay funny. They will be glad its not the text book but the comedy is based on a half a decade old comedy cliches It is ineffective pandering history designed to make adults think its cool an din order for them to show it too kids who will only be more confused with the quick cuts and culturally monolithic dialogue.

  80. Vincent Ho says:

    May-or-ri? Damn John I know mispronouncing is your thing but you're taking the piss now!

  81. Helena Hudson says:

    King Leopold of Belgium killed and maimed over 20 million Africans in the Congo but you won't hear about that part of the story.

  82. Terezi Pyrope says:

    Honestly I'd love to have this guy as my world history teacher. He has a way of keeping your attention. XD

  83. Menilek Mulugeta says:

    11:10 Hey! John Green mentioned the Emperor I was named after!! This dude is the best…. so few people know about the Battle of Adwa which is one of the only examples of an African Sovereign successfully defeating a European army in open field combat, using modern weaponry, whereby confirming the nation's absolute sovereignty, and having this recognized in a treaty acknowledged by all European powers. Ethiopia has never been conquered by a non-Ethiopian!

  84. Charley Bennett says:

    u said maori wrong

  85. ndabuko luvuno says:

    speak slower buddy

  86. おっ says:

    Opium war
    British Museum

    Great British History

  87. The Lone Wanderer says:

    It’s a low. Many people died or simply suffered from European rule and exploitation

  88. Crypto Rootz says:

    And Yet I Still Hear No apology from you…. White Person…..

  89. Dashiz Nitz says:

    This is horrible 🙁
    I feel ashamed

  90. mark totton says:

    What I am missing is someone who can take a slice of the whole world at a specific time and explain everything that was going on. You are the closest I have seen yet, but too jokesy!

  91. Captain Jules says:

    11:35 Good joke but Giuseppe is most closely translated to Joseph, not John, which would be Gianni

  92. Malazgirt 1071 says:

    european barbarism throut the world,, tyrant dictators were europeans

  93. Kris Kris says:

    I am happy to live in a world that has been improved so radicaly by imperialism and capitalism, it would be very sad to live in a world where this never happened

  94. katie cook says:

    the mongals seem to be the exception to everything!

  95. red comn says:

    Sizzling simian
    Burning bonobo
    immolating marmoset

    That some name

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