As the Age of Industry took root, factories sprung up throughout the West. Industrializing nations soon exhausted their domestic markets and raw materials and needed the replacement of: a) more cheap and abundant natural resources and b) markets for their manufactured goods. Suddenly, industrializing nations were competing for access to and control over regions with abundant raw materials throughout the world and their accompanying markets where manufactured goods could be sold. For example, in Sub-Saharan, East and Southern Africa a veritable treasure trove of precious stones and metals inspired Western nations to compete for control over these trade goods. South and East Asia became coveted locations to dominate not only for its fruits gleaned from the land (such as cotton, lumber and coffee beans), but also for the abundant reserves its animals provided (in labor, fur and transportation). Similarly, the natural assets of Latin America, including the rubber tree, the coffee plant, the cocoa plant and the naturally occurring salt licks, spurred competition for its control. Finally, the Pacific Northwest region had plentiful raw materials, the most marketable being its gold, fur, lumber and sea life. This was the dawn of a new age wherein economic, political and cultural domination over resource rich non-industrializing nations became strategic – an Age of Imperialism.

Question: How did the need for natural resources in the age of industry ultimately drive imperialism, domination of resource rich non-industrialized nations, in the various regions of the world from the mid to late 19th century and the early 20th century?

Introduction to Collection:


This kit contains 12 excerpts from primary source documents written during the Age of Imperialism, between the mid- to late 19th century and into the early 20th century, that all focus on the economic motives for imperialism. The documents can roughly be divided into three groups. The first group contains statements by Western economists of the age who specifically discuss how natural resources have inspired and/or influenced their acts of imperialism. These documents are numbers three, eight, nine and eleven. The second grouping of documents has a wider geographic range of contributors as it includes discourse among leaders of the nations imperializing and being imperialized for an economic motive. This group includes documents one, four, five, six and twelve. The third group of documents is notably smaller but also markedly more objective as it contains basic statements on the number and kind of resources located in various regions. This set includes documents two and seven.


This kit contains nearly 60 images, most from the Library of Congress digital archives, showcasing the relationship between natural resources and imperialism. The images are strategically separated into four collections to guide students toward a deeper and more meaningful study on the differing regional experiences of imperialism. It also allows for the use of groups that can derive a more focused and regionalized answer to the question. The four collections include: Latin America; the Pacific Northwest; East and South Asia; Sub-Saharan, East and Southern Africa. Nearly all of the images compiled in this digital toolkit on the Age of Imperialism are hosted within the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Repository and the Library of Congress Geography and Maps Repository. The bulk of the images are from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection as it contains the widest ranging images documenting industry and imperialism throughout the world from the mid to late 19th century and the early 20th century. However, the George Grantham Bain Collection was also particularly useful as it contains photographs from the Bain news picture agency that had worldwide coverage from the 1860s to the 1930s.

There were also two collections that were far more region specific and contained a treasure trove of images. First, the World’s Transportation Commission Photograph Collection not only contained William Henry Jackson photographs of the changing forms transportation throughout the world due to industry and imperialism, it also contained large numbers of photographs of the changing markets both port side and within the city. It was ideal for collecting images documenting the impact of industrialism on a nation or region and contained a great deal of images that contributed to the Imperialism in the North Pacific and Imperialism in South Asia digital toolkits. Second, the Thereza Christina Maria Collection was of particular importance as it contained photographs from the National Library of Brazil and collected by Emperor Pedro II in order to document changes occurring in Latin America, particularly Brazil. This collection also inadvertently assembled images on the effects of the Age of Industry on the Latin America landscape.


This kit includes periodic music written and performed during the Age of Imperialism. Specifically chosen where two freely accessible songs of the British Empire with lyrics that specifically relate to imperializing other nations and spreading the British Empire.

NCSS Standards:

III. i. Students will describe and assess ways that historical events have been influenced by, and have influenced, physical and human geographic factors in local, regional, national, and global settings.

Additional Links:

The Internet Modern History Sourcebook
This site contains a treasure trove of scholarly primary source documents on the Age of Imperialism hosted by Fordham University and within a public domain.

Paper Trails: Cultural Imperialism from the late 19th Century as seen through Documents, Literature and Photographs
Well supported article demonstrating how, for both the colonized as well as the colonizer, cultural issues were as significant as (and often directly related to) economic, political and military affairs in determining their identities and giving shape to their societies with a very useful set of links at the end. By Marc Jason Gilbert, North Georgia College and State University

Obees History Page
This collection of primary source documents by Professor Joseph O-Brien, Department of History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice on industrialism and imperialism.

CIA Fact Book
Provides an overview of natural resources located in countries around the world.

The Granger Collection
The Granger Collection, which requires registration, provides an enormous number of prints (posters, political cartoons) and photographs used by many textbook companies, showcasing this time period.

The British Museum
Imperialism was dominated world wide by the British and therefore documentation can be found at the site for the national museum.

New York Regents Prep
This non profit organization hosts a student friendly social studies content knowledge review website federally-funded by Title III Technology Literacy Challenge Grant and the Learning Technology Grant.



A partnership between the College of William & Mary School of Education, the University of Kentucky College of Education,
and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program