By the second half of the nineteenth century, European states (and the United States) had grown more powerful and technologically advanced than countries in the rest of the world.  This set the stage for a renewed effort to expand and establish European (and American) influence and control over territories in Australia, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Rim.  That effort soon turned, quite literally, into a mad scramble to extend national power and prestige overseas.  In Africa, the race was on to carve up Africa into European spheres-of-influence.  This imperialist competition helped to increase tensions among countries in Europe and was one of the contributing factors leading to World War I.
It is an oft-forgotten fact that the United States also erected its own overseas empire by the turn of the twentieth century.  As a direct result of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. obtained, for all practical purposes, Cuba and the Philippines as colonial possessions.  Islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, such as Hawaii, also came under American control.  There was also the American economic empire in Central and Southern America, carved out by powerful U.S. business concerns that practically functioned as behind-the-scenes dictators.  Thus, America was as much a participant in the race for empire as the European states.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, the non-European world began to experience the direct impact of European military, economic and intellectual power.  This was something that much of the world had been able to avoid for a long period of time, but no longer.  In most cases the superior technological advances (weaponry) of Europe and North America confronted Asian and African societies with a direct challenge to their existence.  The responses of these societies varied dramatically, from the decision to copy the West's economic characteristics as much as practicable (Japan) to the decision to undertake radical political revolution based on a Western model (China) to outright subservience (Belgian Congo).  Increasingly, the Western economic model (capitalism and heavy industrial development) and the Western political structure (the idea of the national state) became a model to be adapted (and modified) throughout the world.  This had a dramatic impact on the integrity of native societies.

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