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Europe’s Colonial Empires in 1914

This map is part of a series of 24 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1815-1914.

In 1914, the European colonial empires attained a considerable dimension:

-The British Empire is the vastest, covering more than 30 million square kilometers.

-The French Empire comes in second with 10 million square kilometers.

-Germany and Italy, whose colonial policies are late, have a presence mainly in Africa.

-Belgium is present in the Congo.

-The Netherlands and Portugal preserve a part of their empires from preceding centuries: the largest part of Indonesia for the Netherlands, Angola and Mozambique for Portugal.

-Spain, for its part, lost, in the course of the 19th century, almost the entirety of its immense colonial empire, and is present only in Rio de Oro and in northern Morocco.

-Finally, Russia developed, at its borders, an empire in central Asia and the Far East.

This territorial takeover is justified, in the eyes of Europeans, by the pursuit of economic advantage, and by their conviction of carrying out a civilizing mission. It also enables the States to affirm their power and glorify their sense of national pride. From 1880, colonial expansion accelerates rapidly, and competition among European powers generated crises: at Fachoda, between France and England, in central Asia, between England and Russia, or in Morocco, between Germany and France. For all that, the European cooperation, which manifested itself in the tone of several international conferences, avoided the worsening of the crises.

Moreover, on the eve of the outbreak of World War I, the main colonial disputes among European powers were settled.