Chapter 6: COLONIALISM AND IMPERIALISM
The European countries had been the birth place of Industrial
revolution. But this had also created its ugly version called
imperialism. In this the mother country would dominate the colony
politically and economically for its own advantage. This was
possible because of the absence of unity, prosperity in these
Conditions that helped Rise of Imperialism
Demand created by Industrial Revolution
The industrial revolution created a capitalist class that
produced goods for earning profit. the main objective of
production became earning as much profits as possible. For this
the capitalists could reduce wages or increase production. But
reduction of wages meant low purchasing power at home and
increasing production would create more goods than demand. All
European countries followed protectionist policies
to prevent outsiders from selling to domestic market and protect
Hence there was a need to find markets outside Europe
where goods could be sold. The Asian, African countries were such
markets. The imperial nations set up factories there and slowly
converted them to forts, finally the interfered in the country's
politics to keep other imperial powers out. Finally the domestic
industry was ruined and forced to become a consumer of European
The other reason for colonialism was to protect
interests and investments of the home country as a weak
government in colonies would not be able to handle protests and
the imperial nation's investments would be lost.
Industrial revolution in Europe needed raw materials to
feed the industries. The domestic production wasn't
enough to do this and so colonies were sought as they were
suppliers of raw materials.
- Improvement in Transport and
Improved roads, waterways and railways brought every country
within the reach of industrialized nations. The raw materials
could be transported easily and efficiently from Asian colonies to
Europe. At the same time the finished goods to could be taken from
Europe to colonies.
Communications like telegraph could be used to send messages to
colonial governments and remote control the administration of the
Colonies became a source of pride and status. Writers and leaders
of countries began to raise slogans that more colonies should be
brought under control to increase the nation's prestige. The
colonies were annexed and later more were acquired to protect the
existing colonies e.g. England captured South Africa to protect
its trade routes to India.
Colonies also increased the man power of imperialists as the
people from colonies could be recruited forcibly into the armies
of the nations.
The imperialists believed that it was the White mans
burden to civilize the inferior people and convert
them to Christianity. The missionaries would often go alone into
unknown areas and spread the religion in those places. But the
missionaries were also followed by traders who looked for
opportunities and soldiers sent to protect the missionaries.
Explorers and Adventurers
The explorers who travel to many regions and bring back reports
on the usefulness of these regions to trade with the home country.
The home country would then establish a trading post and soon in
pretext of protecting the trading interest colonize the entire
Conditions that favored Imperialism in Asia and Africa
The lack of modern nationalism in such areas meant that people
often owed allegiance to princes and tribal leaders. The leaders
were divided and the Europeans took advantage of this. The
Europeans were superior in military tactics too. The Asian
artisan's were skilled but their techniques were old and only a
small number could be produced.
The machine manufactured goods were easily dominant over these.
Imperialism in China
China was a producer of tea, silk and other goods but there was
no market for British goods in China. Also China had a restricted
trade policy and a handful of ports were open for foreign trade.
The British had to pay gold and silver for trade and so were
having a negative balance of trade. Hence they started cultivating
opium in India and sold it to Chinese smugglers who paid them in
Gold. This was used to pay for Chinese imports. This system was
favorable to British but damaged Chinese morally.
The Chinese government destroyed the opium cargo and England
attacked it. In the war the Chinese were easily defeated. They had
to open ports for foreign trade. Island of Hong Kong was handed
over to British. However this didn't end here and a second war was
fought that resulted in more ports opening and granting of extra
territorial rights to Foreign powers i.e. no foreign citizen
would be tried in Chinese courts for crimes in China. China
also couldn't impose tariff on foreign made goods.
China had a war with Japan that was trying to increase its
influence in the Asian region. It wanted Korea which was
strategically located and had vast natural resources.China lost in
the War and had to pay war damages to Japan and surrender the
island of Formosa. With the pretext of helping China financially
the imperial powers like England, France, Germany, Russia gave
loans to it in return for privileges of trade.
Sphere of influences were created by these nations.
In them the imperial power had the sole right to build transport,
communication lines and trade. This was called "Cutting of the
The United States was facing a threat to its
trade with China and so came up with the "Open Door Policy" which
meant that any country could trade anywhere in China. This
benefited US, England too agreed to this as it feared that Russia
or Japan could easily capture China.
Boxer Rebellion occurred in China due to the
Chinese community being fed up with corruption in Chinese
government, interference of christian missionaries and increasing
foreign interference. But this rebellion was easily crushed and
led to more damages on China.
Thus though China wasn't dominated like India by a single foreign
power it too had become like a colony.
Fig 1: Sphere of Influence in China
Rise of Japan
Japan too was like any other Asian country. Commodore Perry of
USA forced it to open its ports to foreign trade. Similar
agreements were made with other European nations. But Japan didn't
end like other Asian colonies. This was due to the Meiji
Under Emperor Meiji the following reforms were carried out in
Japan. Universalize education, building transport and
communication facilities, building ports and army, incentivize
industry and trade. All this made her into a Industrial power but
at the same time elements of imperialism too developed there.
The Island of Japan wasn't with natural resources and so Japan
eyed the Korean pennsula and China. After a brief war with China
which it won due to adoption of modern military tactics, Korea and
Formosa were ceded to it. Japan also controlled trade and
territory in China. Russian - Japan was led to defeat of Russia
and capture of Sakhalin from it.
Imperialism in Africa
European nations had begun exploration of African nations during
the beginning of 15th century but this was confined mostly to the
exterior or coastal regions. Even this contact was disastrous for
Africans as Slave Trade emerged.
The Spanish and Portuguese had captured Central and Latin America
and exterminated the local populations. There was a demand for
slaves in such regions. Hence Portuguese captured slaves from
Africa took them to the slave market in Lisbon and sold for
commodities or firearms. The slaves were taken to Latin America
and sold to plantations.
The African chiefs participated in this trade for purchasing
firearms of Europeans. However this trade had disastrous
consequences for Africans. Every month 5000 were transported to
American plantations and half of them died en-route. The Slave
trade also created a technologically backward Africa to this day.
By the 19th century trade in slaves had lost its importance and
had led to start of a second type of exploitation - Colonies. The
interior regions were explored and war on tribal chiefs were made.
The Africans were easily conquered as they lacked unity and arms
to match the Europeans.
Fig 2: African colonization Map
Other reasons for easy defeat
of the African's was that the European nations were united in
the conquest. If at all imminent danger of war was between
them then negotiations took place and partition of territory
was peaceful. The map of Africa shows that most of
the boundaries of these nations are straight lines, as these
were partitioned on maps during negotiations.
The absence of modern nationalism in Africa
also was one reason for its easy domination by Europe.
Imperialism in America and
United States had gained freedom
in 1793 and it had increased its territory by was on Mexico.
The purchase of Florida, Alaska and Louisiana had increased
its territory. The short civil war ended slavery and after
1865 industrialization too increased and made USA a dominant
force in the western hemisphere.
It built the third largest navy
and asserted its right to influence and interfere in the
affairs of its neighbors if its trade and investment interests
were compromised. The Gunboat diplomacy by Commodore Perry had
opened Japan for trade and Open door policy over china to
Just like Europe and Japan
imperialist elements developed in USA that wanted it to be a
leader in the race for colonies. The leaders of USA also
wanted it to participate in the civilizing mission of
uplifting the backward areas of Asia.
Monroe doctrine and Dollar
The US declared that only it
could intervene in the affairs of its neighbors and cautioned
the Europeans from intervening in the Western hemisphere. It
sent its troops if it felt that the events in Central or Latin
American countries were against its investment. It also
followed a policy of using investments in these regions as an
excuse to dominate them.
This "Big Stick" or
"Dollar Diplomacy" of USA was reason for its
increasing influence in South America. The countries of South
though had political freedom but were ruled by Corrupt
warlords who sold land and exploitation concessions to foreign
powers for money. The trading companies of USA invested in
such countries and successfully dominated them economically.
Effects of Imperialism
The Imperialism and its effect
of colonization damaged the non industrial world and led to
its economic subjugation to the West. The worst effects are
seen in Africa that has remained backward to this day.
Trade and industry of these
colonies was destroyed and hasn't recovered its glorious
heights of the past even today e.g. China and India.
The one sided trade policy of
making the colonies a source of raw material and consumer of
finished goods had led them to remain one crop economies and
entirely dependent on Europe for its basic needs. Natural
calamities created destruction in these nations even today.