Technology also played a large role in Asian colonialism, especially the role of steamboat and weapons in the Opium Wars and other exhibitions of gunboat diplomacy. However, one of the greatest factors in Asian colonialism was the alteration of urban centers to fit the economic focus of the industrial nations.
Asian urban centers before the period of Western control in the late nineteenth century, were rather small. The traditional Asian city served as an administrative center for the state and was generally located inland where it was safer from invaders. Commercial centers were located on the coast, but were not a focus of Asian state interest. Europeans used the Asian focus on land travel to establish centers in the port areas. In time, these European centers were transformed into traditional European commercial cities.
The nineteenth century brought an increase in the size and number of ships needing to enter port areas. The smaller urban areas of the past were insufficient to meet those needs. In addition, the gradual Western development of plantations and other modes of production increased the amount of product and raw material for export. Foreign commercial groups actually encouraged migration of Asian tradesmen to the developing urban ports, which resulted in growth in size and importance of the cities.
It is clear that the development of the Asian economic areas followed the pattern of London’s development in England. London remained a separate geographical and social entity, somewhat isolated from the government seat at Westminster. However, the revival of trade, increase in agricultural development and transportation advancement ensured that London would increase in stature as a port city. London’s importance, like the Asian port cities, increased due to the advancements and demands of the industrial revolution.
Latin America’s colonial experience was extremely harsh and draining. Here, too, advancements of the industrial revolution resulted in European penetration and domination. Latin America was mainly used as a center for development of raw materials for export to Europe.
Latin America was a perfect center for mercantilist endeavors. The natural resources were ripe for exploitation, and the large indigenous population provided the cheap labor to extract the natural resources. The indigenous people were not allowed to reap benefits from this labor, and have continued to be discriminated against even today.
The industrial revolution greatly affected European colonialism by providing the technology, fervor, and demand for the resources that the third world could provide. The development of the steam engine, quinine, and breech loaded weapons effectively eliminated obstacles to control, and allowed the European powers to institute mercantilist policies.