Imperialism in Africa

Explain what is meant by the term imperialism. Discuss the causes of imperialism in the 1800s. Kamar Findlay ID# 092165839 Mico University College Imperialism in Africa Mrs. Pitter October 29, 2011 Imperialism is “the creation and or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination” (Johnston, 2000. p. 375). In its simplest form Farah and Karls (2001) describes imperialism as one country’s domination of the political, economical and social life of another country.
The Europeans imperialism during the 1800s occurs out of the advantages of strong economies, well organized governments and powerful armies and navies. ‘Superior technology including riverboats and telegraph, as well as improved medical knowledge also played a part’ (Esler et al 2009. p. 752). Advances such as the Maxim Machines Guns and steam driven warships were very strong signals in persuading the Africans and Asian to accept European domination. European imperialism did not begin in the 1800s. European states have had empires in the Americas after 1492 and in South Asia and China.
Imperialism has been found in the histories of Japan, the Assyrian Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Roman Empire, Greece, the Persian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, ancient Egypt, and India and was a basic component in the conquest of weaker state. According to Smith (1998) the word itself, derived from the Latin verb imperare (to command), the Roman concept of imperium, while the actual term ‘Imperialism’ was coined in the 16th century, reflecting what are now seen as the imperial policies of Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Imperialism not only describes colonial and territorial policies, but also economic and/or military dominance and influence. From about 1870 to 1914, imperialist gain control over much of the world. Leading the way were the soldiers, merchants, settlers, missionaries, and explorers. In Europe, imperial expansion found favor with all classes, from bankers and manufacturers to workers. Western imperialism expanded rapidly for a number of reasons. The imperialism in the 1800s resulted from four key factors.
First, nationalism created an atmosphere in which rival European countries build empires in their competitive quest for dominance in Europe and indeed the world. Secondly, the Industrial revolution created an extraordinary demand for raw material and new markets, which in essence push industrialized nations to seek over sea territories. Thirdly imperialism rested on the notion of what was called the “White Mans Burden”. This was a belief that was held by the European powers that it was their responsibility to civilize the people who the belief was pagans.
Farah and Karls (2001) lamented that humanitarian impulses inspired many individuals to leave their secure lives at home and head for distant colonies. The desire was to spread western technology, religion, custom and tradition to those how were seen as the uncivilized. Finally, according to Ellis and Esler (2009) behind the idea of western civilizing mission was the growing since of racial superiority. European races, the lamented, were believed to be superior to all others and domination of the weaker races was simply nature’s way of improving the human species.
Nationalism played a vital role in the drive towards imperialism. ‘Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms’ (Athena, 2001. p. 226) . It is also seen as the belief that a nation will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals Ellis et al (2009) lamented that western leaders claimed that colonies were needed for national security. In the last half of the 1800s European nations visualize them self as the ideal country.
If Great Britain started a small colony in distant or Africa, France had to start one too-and so did Belgium, Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain, Portugal and Russia. Nationalism in the extreme promotes the idea of national superiority. Industrialized countries therefore felt they had the right to take control of weaker areas. Countries also tried to increase their power through the control of more land and people. In the 1800s Europe underwent a renewed period of imperialism which was very sophisticated in its nature. Much emphasis was placed on gaining or controlling a colony.
The resources and wealth gain from the colony was used to finance war and the army as well as the economy. The stronger a European military gets the more power full that country become in Europe and as such gaining the wealth from a colony could either break or build the power and prestige of a nation. When France for example, moved into West Africa, rival nations such as Britain and Germany seized lands nearby to halt further French expansion. In essence the Europeans taught of the colonies as a source of security. So strong and sophisticated was the sentiment of nationalism that it set of what was known as a ‘Scramble for Africa.
West Africa was already known to the European but the interior was untouched. The Belgian king Leopold the second occupies and carry profitable economic activities in the Congo (South Central Africa). Before long Britain, France, Germany and Italy were all lock in a tussle, pressing rivals claim to the region. According to Bickers and Henriot (2000), the scramble was turning out to be bloodshed between European powers. However this was somehow prevented with the calling of the Berlin Conference in Germany by the German Statesman Otto Von Bismarck.
This conference was design to reach a peace full agreement over the partition of Africa, but it reflect the ideals of imperialism as only the European powers were invited to the meeting and yet still it was the land of the Africans they were dividing among themselves. The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s knew no borders. The era known as the Industrial Revolution was a period in which fundamental changes occurred in agriculture, textile and metal manufacture, transportation, economic policies and the social structure in England’ (Ashton, 1969. p. 24).
Advances in agricultural techniques and practices resulted in an increased supply of food and raw materials, changes in industrial organization and new technology resulted in increased production, efficiency and profits, and the increase in commerce, foreign and domestic, were all conditions which promoted the advent of the Industrial Revolution. ‘The industrial revolution was the most compelling driving force behind imperialism in the 1800s’ (Thompson, 1964. p. 147). The newly build machineries and factory in Europe and the united state utilizes tons of raw resources and produces a tremendous amount of manufactured goods.
Europe alone could not provide the raw material and the bulk the recourses needed for manufacturing would have to come from outside of Europe. On the same note the European market was becoming overwhelmed with producers and a new market was also needed for the selling of the manufacture goods. As such, face with the desire for well needed raw materials and new markets, the industrialize countries of Europe set out on a quest for new colonies in order to facilitate the needs of their new industrialize cities.
Fascinatingly the areas such as East Asia, Africa and the Americas were scarcely known to the Europeans. However the little they know about areas was compelling enough to indicate that these regions amass a huge amount of resources. Thus it is not surprising that these regions would become the safe haven for European exploit of raw material and markets. According Ellis (2009) the industrial revolution started with the textile industry in Britain and the amount of textile produce was dependent on the availability of cotton.
Cotton was grown in huge amount in the regions of North Africa particularly the ancient civilization of Egypt. Cotton was also grown in excessive amount in India and because of this supply it came with little or no surprise that the British would seize the opportunity to colonize and bring these areas under their control. In great demand was raw material such as gold, copper, Rubber, diamond, silver, ivory, steel, Coal, Petroleum. Most of these resources if not all could be found in Africa and areas in the Middle East (Near East).
As such these areas became the catalyst of European exploiting and economic activities. The economic demands of the industrial revolution were one of the reasons why these areas with the abundance of resources succumbed to the burden brought by the European imperials ideals. Europeans also ventured on a path to civilized (Civilizing Mission) the people who they themselves claim as uncivilized. The ‘civilizing mission’ as it was term was notably the underlying principle of French and Portuguese colonial rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Kuper (1965) lament that it was influential in the French colonies of Algeria, French West Africa, and Indochina, and in the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Guinea, Mozambique and Timor . The European colonial powers felt it was their duty to bring Western Civilization to what they perceived as backwards peoples. Rather than merely govern colonial peoples, the Europeans would attempt to westernize them in accordance with a colonial ideology known as “assimilation”. Those who did not practice the Christian faith were seen as pagans and as such it was the ‘white man burden’ (Europeans) to save these people by Christianizing them.
According to Esler (2009) during the age of imperialism, growing numbers of catholic and protestant missionaries decided to bring the Christian message to the most remote parts of Africa and Asia. Like many other Europeans and Americans of this period, these missionaries believed that Christianity and Western Civilization together could benefit and transform the world. Educating the people into western education was just another aspect of European conquest as even the education itself was design in such a way to prevent the people from the colonies to accept their own traditions and culture.
To achieve these goal missionaries usually set up churches schools and hospitals as well. Esler (2009) explained that some Europeans seized on the theory of Social Darwinism as a proof of their cultural and racial superiority. ‘Social Darwinism’ is a belief, popular in the late Victorian age in England, and America which states that the strongest or fittest should survive and flourish in society while the weak and unfit should be allowed to die’ ( Hawkins, 1997. p. 457).
The European adopted this theory and truly put it into effect as one of their reason for conquest and imperial rule was because they saw themselves as the dominant race with the god given right to rule. European during the 1800s and the earlier half of the 1900s view the non-white race of Africa and Asia as barbaric and uncivilized or somewhat a lesser species of the human race. Because of these descriptions the European held it in their view that this race should be control and dominated by the superior race which of course was the Europeans.
European domination led to erosion of traditional African and Asian values and destroyed many existing social relationships. Native peoples were forced to work long hard hours for subsistence pay. In an attempt to come to a conclusion, the research done have shown that imperialism in the 1800s was cause out of four key factors. These were the Industrial Revolution, Nationalism, religion and racial superiority. The economic demands of the industrial revolution had a profound impact on European economy and the colonies the governed. The more resources came from he colonies the wealthier and more power full the mother country became. In their quest was also to civilized the people of the colonies who the thought were barbaric. As such schools and church alike was established within the colonies. Imperialism was also driven on the basis of racial superiority. The Europeans held the view that they were superior to the colonies over which they dominated. Africa and Asia were the continents that succumb to the imperialist ideals of the 1800s. They were a region with a lot of resources and wealth which was needed to foster economic growth n Europe.
Reference Athena,L (2001). Encyclopedia of Nationalism. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers Ashton, T. S. (1969) The Industrial Revolution. London: Oxford University Press Chambers, J. D. The Workshop of the World. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. Esler, A and Ellis, E (2009) World History. USA: Prentice Hall Farah, A and Karls, A. B (2001) World history: the human experience. USA: McGraw Hill Hawkins, M (1997). Social Darwinism in European and American Thought 1860-1945: Nature and Model and Nature as Threat.
London: Cambridge University Press Johnston, Ronald John (2000). The Dictionary of Human Geography (4th ed. ). USA: Wiley-Blackwell Kuper H,(1965) Urbanization and Migration in West Africa . California: Mayfield Publishers Company Bicker,R and Henriot,C (2000) New Frontiers: Imperialism’s New Communities in East Asia, 1842–1953. Manchester: Manchester University Press Simon C. Smith, (1998) British Imperialism 1750–1970, Cambridge University Press Thompson, E. P. (1964) The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Pantheon


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