New technologies in the Industrial Revolution propelled the second phase of imperialism in the 19th century. Advances in communications, transportation, medicine and weaponry allowed European imperialists to advance deeper and more coercively into previously unexplored regions. This resulted in the establishment of colonies and imperial outposts in Asia, Africa, Oceania and elsewhere.

Steam-Powered Transportation

Transportation technologies, particularly those propelled by steam power, enabled European explorers to venture deeper into foreign territories. The steamboat, for example, was critical to Britain's victories over China in the Opium Wars, which secured parts of that country for European nations. Likewise in Africa, the steamboat enabled Europeans to penetrate deeper into the continent. Previously, Europeans were confined to the African coasts, but river navigation via steamboat enabled them to reach deep into the Congo.

Disease Medications

New medical technologies, particularly those effective against malaria, helped European conquerors to venture into tropical parts of the world. Before the discovery of quinine's anti-malarial properties, European explorers succumbed to disease in the tropics. Quinine, however, enabled them to survive. By 1850, the British government was using 9 tons of quinine annually to enable its imperialism. Likewise, the discovery of quinine further entrenched the European view that Western civilization's technological inventions made it superior to the rest of the world.

Communications Technologies

Communications advancements such as the telegraph helped Europeans better maintain authority in colonies across the world. For example, despite a large rebellion in India in 1857, the British use of the telegraph helped deter a full-scale revolution. This was because the telegraph enabled a relatively small number of British soldiers to monitor and communicate among each other during the rebellion. This allowed better coordination and control over local communities.


New guns and weapons further strengthened European command over populations in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Weapons like the machine gun enabled small European armies to defeat large foreign armies many times the Europeans' size. Being able to fire numerous rounds from a machine gun without reloading gave Europeans a distinct advantage over native tribes armed with spears and knives. In addition, the industrial manufacturing style enabled a steady flow of weapons.