The characteristic feature of the age of Imperialism, and the basis of its conflicts, is the search for sources of raw materials and for markets of vast extent, and for strategic positions commanding the routes to them. But this is not all. The conflicts arise out of two contradictory sets of ambitions, whose course it determines—the ambition of the great empires for expansion, and that of the smaller nations for independence. Since the time of Napoleon the country between the Bosphorus and the Indian Ocean, the Nile and the Caspian, has been one of the principal fields of tension in world politics. In execution of the aims of the French Revolution, the genius of Napoleon had brought to Europe from Cadiz to Moscow a new self-confidence, a sense of freedom and energy: he made an end of the fusty provinciality, the isolation and backwardness of Italy and Germany, and the conception of Europe, which had gained a footing in courts and among a small caste of aristocrats and men of learning in the era of the Enlightenment, became an active force in the life of the peoples. These processes extended, in a very dilute form, as far as the Levant. Napoleon's expeditions and missions to Egypt not only made the Egypt of his day directly acquainted with its immemorial civilizations, but also laid the foundation for the awakening of modern Egypt which began under Mehemet Ali, the Albanian of humble origin who became an officer in the Turkish army and rose to be the founder of the dynasty that rules to this day in Egypt. Through Napoleon Egypt was brought within the field of the Anglo-French rivalry for the control of India and of the land route to India; and the rivalry over Egypt continued, though for different reasons, until in 1904 King Edward VII arrived at an understanding with France, for which Egypt (and Morocco) had to pay.