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View series: Europe's colonial expansion, 1820-1939

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European Expansion in the Far East 1860-1939

This map is part of a series of 19 animated maps showing the history of Europe's colonial expansion, 1820-1939.

The one-sided treaties of the 1850s opened up a new phase of Western expansion.

- Russia moved into Central Asia with the capture of Turkistan and Turkmenistan in the 1870s and 1880s and extended its influence into Afghanistan and Manchuria.

- Following the Indian rebellion in 1857, Great Britain took control of the whole of India and made it at the centre of a huge Asian empire.

It also placed the Sultanates of Malaysia and North Borneo under mandate.

- France tried to open up a route to Southern China and concentrated on expanding its territory into Indochina. In 1887, the Federation of Indochina was created, to which was added a Protectorate for the Laotian principalities.

- In order to prevent any foreign incursion in the East Indies, the Netherlands were much more active, sometimes using brute force, from the 1860s onwards: they took control of the southern parts of Borneo, Sumatra after the terrible war of Aceh, Western New Guinea, and all the tiny islands of Indonesia between 1880 and 1914.

Colonial competition was reinforced by the arrival of new imperial powers:  

- The United States chased the Spanish out of the Philippines after the Hispano-American wars and annexed the archipelago.

- Germany, a latecomer in colonial competition, managed to take over a few archipelagos in the Pacific and the area to the north-east of New Guinea; it also had ambitions for China.

- Japan, the only Asian nation interested in competing for Empire with the West, took control of Formosa during the Sino-Japanese war and accelerated the division of the Middle Empire Kingdom into spheres of influence.

After the First World War, India, China and Vietnam were shaken by the emergence of modern nationalist movements. Inspired by events in the West, their intention was to throw off Western domination, but Japan benefited most from the retreat and relative weakness of the European powers. In the period between the wars, Japan continued to move into China until it finally launched a great invasion in 1937 which led to the effective occupation of all “useful” territory.