What Is Economic Imperialism AP World History?

Economic imperialism is a concept that has been around for centuries. It refers to the economic and political domination of one country or region by another. In the context of AP World History, economic imperialism refers to the period from the late 19th century to the early 20th century when Western powers, particularly European nations, sought to expand their influence and control over regions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America through economic means.

The Roots of Economic Imperialism

The roots of economic imperialism can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution in Europe. As European nations became more industrialized, they needed new markets to sell their goods and access to raw materials for their factories. This led them to seek out new territories in other parts of the world where they could establish trading relationships and secure resources.

The Scramble for Africa

One of the most well-known examples of economic imperialism was the Scramble for Africa. In the late 19th century, European powers raced to colonize Africa in order to gain access to its natural resources such as gold, diamonds, rubber, and oil. They also sought new markets for their goods and territories where they could establish plantations and extractive industries.

The impact on African societies was devastating. Millions were forced into slavery or indentured labor on European-owned plantations or mines. Traditional forms of agriculture were disrupted as more land was devoted to cash crops such as coffee and cocoa.

Latin America

Economic imperialism also affected Latin America during this time period. The United States became a major player in the region with its Monroe Doctrine which aimed at keeping European powers out of Latin America while expanding American influence there.

American companies invested heavily in Latin American industries such as mining, oil production, and agriculture. This led to a significant increase in American control over these sectors which had previously been dominated by local elites.

The Legacy of Economic Imperialism

The legacy of economic imperialism can still be seen today. Many developing countries continue to struggle with poverty and underdevelopment due to the exploitative economic policies imposed on them by Western powers.

The exploitation of natural resources and labor in these regions has also led to environmental degradation and social unrest. In some cases, it has even resulted in armed conflict as local communities resist the encroachment of foreign companies on their land and resources.


In conclusion, economic imperialism was a significant period in world history that had a lasting impact on many regions of the world. The drive for economic expansion by Western powers led to the exploitation of resources and labor in other parts of the world, with devastating consequences for local communities.

As we continue to grapple with issues such as global inequality and environmental degradation, it is important to understand the historical roots of these problems and work towards more equitable and sustainable systems that benefit everyone.