Imperialism

 

            Over the past five hundred years, approximately a dozen societies (initially all European) embarked upon a process whereby they penetrated and subsequently controlled other peoples (societies) all over the globe. This practice came to be known as imperialism; some historian divide up that process into three phases.

 

1.     Old or Classical Imperialism - (from 1500 - Age of Discovery/Exploration to 1800). The motives were frequently associated with the three G’s - Gold, God and Glory. Gold meant the quest for portable wealth (precious metals, spices, textiles, exotic goods, etc..) and the ethic was “rip off and run”. God stood for the impulse to civilize the “heathen savage” (uncivilized natives - consider the activities of the early missionaries). Glory inferred fame, honor, etc… Sometimes territories were claimed on behalf of a monarch (who was the embodiment of a nation) because the territory was useful as a trading or military site. In time these areas were also used as “dumping grounds” for dissidents/undesirables (Australia, Georgia) or breeding grounds for miniatures of the Mother country (New France). When the Mother country allowed her own citizens to settle themselves abroad, the process was known as colonialization.

 

            The imperial ethic stressed that the penetrated society essentially existed for the benefit of the Mother Country and this was reflected in an economic philosophy and policy called mercantilism. The Mother Country took inexpensive raw materials from her territories and sold them as more expensive finished goods. The Mother country imposed taxes and trading rules that essentially favored the accumulation of capital by the Mother country.

 

            However, by the late eighteenth century, the practices of mercantilism were coming under very stringent assault. In 1775, Adam Smith published his stinging attack on mercantilism as the wrong kind of economic program. He represented some of the thinking of the new laissez-faire capitalism.

 

            More damaging was the successful breakaway of thirteen British colonies in North America (1776-1783) and bringing to question whether classical empires could be sustained. In the 1820s and 30s most of Latin America threw off Portuguese and Spanish control reinforcing the question about the value of maintaining empires.

 

            The middle of the nineteenth century represented a kind of “lull” in the imperial process, and then the 1880s saw a remarkable reawakening of the imperial instinct.

 

2.     New Imperialism - (1850s - 1945) was marked by an enormous “scramble” for all the unclaimed territory left anywhere in the world. (Two non-European participants were Japan and USA). The speed of penetration was incredible (i.e. the division of Africa) and the ferocity of the competition among the Great Powers undoubtedly contributed to precipitating the Great War. It might be wise to consider the role of two more motives at work in the imperial process - industrialization and modern nationalism.

 

                Since the Second World War, two new sets of terms have become widely used. One set had its roots in the Cold War when the USA and the Soviet Union tended to polarize other states by making them “choose sides”. The two superpowers frequently utilized the expressions satellite, client and/or puppet state in reference to smaller societies influenced by one or the other of the big powers.

 

            Lastly, some third world countries and their friends inside certain ideological circles have popularized two variations on a theme - namely, neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism. These phrases have gained wider usage since the 1960s.

 

*** Basic Causes of War throughout History***

           

1.      Wars of conquest

2.      Wars of rivalry between Imperialistic powers

3.      Wars of Liberation from Imperialistic powers

 

According to Marx a necessary step in the development of Capitalism.

 

Motives for New Imperialism

 

1.      Economic  

n       need for raw materials and markets

n      especially now when the Industrial Revolution had spread all over Europe (competition between industrial nations.)

n      opportunities for investment (mines, railways, factories, etc..)

n      exploitation of cheap labor.

 

2.     Strategic Reasons -  

 

        Strategic naval bases, calling stations, ports of call (Suez Canal, Panama, etc…)

        Force of Nationalism

        desire for one’s country to get ahead in the domination of Africa and Asia

 

3.     Humanitarian and Administrative Reasons.

 

        “White man’s Burden” - Kipling

        Spread the benefits of Modern Civilization (eg. Medicine, technology, law, sanitation, etc..)

        Spread Christianity by missionaries

        Opportunity for white administrative posts in colonies (training ground for young man of a good family)

 

Methods of Takeover - Types of Control

 

1.      Colony - outright takeover (war = conquest)

2.      Protectorate - control for military protection (puppets)

3.      Sphere of Influence - understanding that an area is under the political and economic influence of a major power.

4.      Foreign Investment - control by investing capital and controlling economy

5.      Concession - Land, mines, railways, port cities, etc..

6.      Leasehold - factories conceded or leased to foreigners

7.      Annexation - making an area an integral part of its domain.