Prussia, Austria, and Russia Partition Poland:
Internal divisions accelerated by a ridiculous parliamentary system led to Poland’s decline in the 18th century, and its neighbors – Prussia to the west, Austria to the south, and Russia to the east – were more than happy to bite off a large part of the struggling nation in the “First Partition” of 1772. All told, the nations usurped about half of its territory and a third of its population. In an attempt to save itself, the Polish government tried to institute internal reforms, but it was too little too late. In the “Second Partition,” in 1793, Prussia and Russia took even more land, causing Polish rebellions that they quickly crushed. As if that weren’t enough, the “Third Partition,” in 1797, had Austria participating again, and it finished off Poland as a separate state. The nation wouldn’t be independent again until 1918. And shortly thereafter, to add insult to injury, the Nazis and Soviets partitioned the country one last time, in 1939.
America Takes Most of the West from Mexico:
In 1776, the 13 colonies covered about 900,000 square miles along the east coast of North America. Over the course of the next 75 years, the country would expand 300%, to about 2.9 million square miles through five international treaties, two wars, and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Though the Purchase was a legitimate exchange of property – except for the claims of Native American inhabitants, of course, who were never really consulted – much of the later expansion was a blatant illegitimate land grab. The Mexican-American War of 1846, for example, began in part because slave owners in the American South wanted to add Texas as a new slave-owning territory. The war resulted in the transfer of all of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and large parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming to the U.S., all for the rather paltry payment of $15 million.
Cecil Rhodes, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia:
Cecil Rhodes single-handedly added the modern countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia to British South Africa. Hardly content to stop there, Rhodes once famously declared, “I would annex the planets if I could.” Rhodes moved to the British Cape Colony in South Africa in 1870 at the age of 17 and founded the British South Africa Company, which began at South Africa’s diamond-rich Kimberly mine and is now known as DeBeers. The company began expanding north into the tribal lands of present-day Zimbabwe in 1889, and subdued recalcitrant tribes there by force in 1893. The new territory was called Rhodesia in Rhode’s honor. Meanwhile, in 1890, company agents made treaties with local tribal leaders in present-day Zambia. Botswana was brought under British control after the controversial Boer War from 1899 to 1902. In the end, Cecil Rhodes had single-handedly taken control of an area more than three times the size of France.
Columbia rejected a $10 million offer by the U.S. for the rights to build a canal across its land, so a “rebel force” was quickly organized, which broke free and became the country of Panama (with U.S. military support). The rebels got the bucks, and Teddy Roosevelt got his canal.