Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present

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Concurrent with the mining of gold and precious stones in Brazil, silver mines were also found in the Siberian highland and the financial as well as the informational value of a caravan route between Russia and China was recognized. The coastal fort colonies that the Dutch operated in Indonesia and the English on the coasts of India initially were reserved for commercial interests in spices, tea, coffee and cotton.

What Is Imperialism? Definition and Historical Perspective

As long as they did not expand inland and develop larger areas, they lacked military value. In , when governor Warren Hastings — [ ] strove not only for economic but also for the political and administrative development of the hinterland in Bengal and his administration was overshadowed by numerous scandals, his famous critic Edmund Burke — vented his anger on the methods of colonial rule. In this way, he also directed attention to the newly formed field of tension of the competing powers of the administrative centre in London and the "men on the spot", those increasingly more powerful servants of European colonialism who at the same time also pursued their own interests in the periphery.

In the 19th century, this would become a fixed topos of mutual accusations when businesses based on shares and founded on the model of the East India Company chartered in , monopoly to , and comparable to the Dutch Vereenigden Oost-Indischen Compagnie — , were raised by Sweden , Denmark , Scotland , Austria , Brandenburg-Prussia and Poland and were partly equipped with sovereign rights. Financially, they were based on the exchanges, which were becoming ever more central to European economic life, and a modern banking system that coordinated the international trade in luxury goods, such as silk, with that in foods novel to Europe, such as potatoes, maize and rice.

Only the English company flourished in the long run. Within limits, the Dutch company, which focused on the spice trade and participated in expanding the colonial empire in Southeast Asia, also succeeded. The British created a cotton monopoly. With the trade in goods, for example, coffee from Java and tea from China, Europeans continuously developed new areas, especially Asia, that could be "opened" almost without violence China since The formal use of colonial violence was symbolized in its most illustrative form in the slave trade with the establishment of slave ports on the coasts of West and East Africa as the starting points of slave shipments to the plantations of Middle and South America.

South Africa, since the 17th century developed by the Dutch as a settlement colony and since of importance to the British because of its gold and diamond mines, is exempted from this. Similar to Egypt, it played a special role, including with regard to its perception by Europeans. The shipping routes around the Cape and through the Suez Canal were of elementary significance from the perspective of military and commercial politics.

Imperialism : from the colonial age to the present : essays

Furthermore, a presence in Egypt held great symbolic significance, as manifested in attempts at its conquest from Napoleon Bonaparte — to Adolf Hitler — Remarkable in this parallel is the belief that focussed power in Europe and on the Nile — as the access to Asia — was a condition of concentrated power in the world. A British colonial administrator such as Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer — , who was stationed in Calcutta and Cairo , knew like none other that the survival of the empire depended as much on India, the Jewel in the Crown, as on the Suez Canal.

His book Ancient and Modern Imperialism is a testimonial of intimate knowledge of the manner in which colonial rule functioned, as they were handed down at various administrative posts. What the British were willing to spend on the defence of their interests some 6, miles from London is evident from the, on the whole devastating, South African War also Second Boer War, — Volunteers from numerous European countries fought on the side of the Boers against the British, who in turn recruited large military contingents in Australia and Canada.

The legend of imperial rule irretrievably lost its legitimacy when in the British and the French armies had to leave the Suez Canal Zone under pressure from the USA and the Soviet Union. Therefore, the Canal as well as the Cape were areas of first rank in the encounters of Europeans and non-Europeans as well as areas of encounter in the sequence of various European colonialisms.

Stephen Howe

Precisely defined dividing lines between periods are impossible in this panorama as a matter of course. For this, the enterprises in which all European colonial powers were more or less involved voyages of discovery , scientific projects such as cartography, construction of mercantilist colonial economies etc. However, there were phases in the overall development of European colonialism that can be separated in analogy to the development of the great power system of the European states:. In the beginning, Portugal and Spain in personal union — were primarily interested in overseas trade to Brazil and the Philippines and inspired by Christian missionary zeal.

With few exceptions, they managed to avoid colonial overlap. By contrast, competition heated up in the 17th century, when the English, French and Dutch pressed forward, initially not in the territories of the Spaniards and the Portuguese, but in neighbouring regions. This is demonstrated in exemplary manner by the North American Atlantic coast between the French possessions in modern Canada and the Spanish claims in the South.

The independence of the United States was substituted with supremacy in India, in South Africa and especially on the seas with the almost peerless Royal Navy and modern free trade. The colonial incorporation of Africa on a large scale began with France 's conquest of Algeria in , which at the same time more than before released Europe's internal economic and industrial tensions as colonialist forces and peaked in High Imperialism between and World War I. Since the origins of a pluralistic colonial system during the course of the 19th century, not only the Europeans were involved in dividing the world but also Japan and Russia.

The USA is the prototype for a successful linkage of continental internal colonisation in the form of the westward shift of the Frontier and maritime colonial policy in the Asian sphere, while paradoxically being the most successful model of anti-colonialism.

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At the latest around , the European system of great powers stood before the challenge of global competition. In the controversial interpretation of Niall Ferguson, it was logical that the USA would assume Britain's role as the "global hegemon" in the 20th century and marginalize the formal and informal colonialism of Europe but also continue globalization as "anglobalisation".

Since the 16th century, genuine European colonial powers such as Spain, Portugal, France and Britain were distinguished by developing a concept of their world rule and basing it on the legacy of Rome. They also participated in the virtually Europe-wide debate about the possible model function that the Roman Empire had for Europe.

From the Colonial Age to the Present

However, unlike the empires of the late 19th century, Spanish world rule was characterized by being pre-modern, and British colonial rule no later than held a geographical sway without example, which makes a thorough concept of empire and expansionism a precondition. Their shared reference frame was the Atlantic world, which as a historical concept for determining colonial practices had gained acceptance. However, the price that Spain came to pay for its position as world-empire was high and due to the European constellation of powers.

Its global superiority was offset by rejecting the claim to the imperial title of the Holy Roman Empire as a consequence of the division of the Habsburg inheritance. The empires of the modern nation state were not exposed to a loss of unity associated with the global dimension. Their expansion drive was primarily conditioned by worldly factors such as profit and prestige, in any case not a concept of universal monarchy indebted to Christian salvation, peace and justice. The world empire thought of Charles V — survived to the extent that the civilising mission of the modern European imperialisms became a transnational, but not primarily religious motor.

In , Albert Sarraut — [ ] , the governor general of Indochina , defined the leitmotiv of "mise en valeur" development and based it on the concept that the colonies are merely an exterritorial component of a "Greater France" or a "France Africaine". For the historian John Robert Seeley — and before him Charles Dilke — , the empire signified the "expansion of England" into a colonial world, in which cricket would be played just as in Oxford.

James Anthony Froude — warned that whoever overemphasized the value of India and the African colonies also underestimated that of the "white settlements". His book Oceana, or England and her colonies was an attempt at staging the British empire as the legitimate heir of the Roman republic: The former followed the principle of politically wise forms of government when it subordinated colonialism and republicanism to reason and with it attributed more weight to the code of the virtue of good government than to the authority of military or economic monopolies of violence in the African and Asian colonies.

That this rule could apply to the overseas empires but would be different for continental ones like that of the Habsburgs was discussed by contemporary observers in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy's sphere of influence and especially in delimitation against the pulsating German empire. Austrian imperial history was formulated in imperial terminology — after all, the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was officially accepted at the Congress of Berlin in However, the Habsburg Empire was not centralistic but multinational in concept and tolerated local independence up to the confirmation of regional and religious diversity.

Habsburg's deficit of not being able to provide a national identity was partially compensated by strengthening the popular dynasty, although it, in the person of Emperor Franz Joseph — , was not equal to the extreme High Imperialism of the turn of the century. The empire was governed in a nostalgic rather than modern manner. Where similar backward tendencies appeared in other European monarchies, a balance was sought using political and cultural measures. One of the best known examples is the crowning of Victoria — as the empress of India in , which was in a manner an imitation of the Bonapartist succession practice of the Spanish monarchy in South America.

Benjamin Disraeli — pushed Victoria's imperial title forward because he saw a crisis coming toward Britain and the empire with the monarch's Germanism and obliviousness to duty after the death of her prince consort Albert — Subsequently, British imperialism became even more unrivalled and the centrality of Europe in the world of the 19th century became even more clearly an economic, military and maritime centrality of Great Britain. Based on the Royal Navy and world trade, the Pax Britannica symbolized this programme of a pacifist colonialism.

In the concept of a peace-making world empire, there could be several global players but only one global hegemon.


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This idealisation of maritime rule was reflected in Alfred Mahan's — classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History , a manifesto of the triumphal "anglobalisation", that is the earth-girding and people-uniting expansion of the Occident. The overseas as well as the continental colonial empires of Europe were together characterised by constructing their imperial rule over a developmental differential against the "Other" and, thus, significantly contributed to a changed self-perception of Europe in the world.

Essentially, it was more about self-image than the image of others. Rule was alien rule over peoples perceived as being "subject". It had to be achieved with violent conquest and secured with colonial methods to guarantee economic, military and cultural exploitation. Therefore, the European claim to superiority legitimised the logic of the unequal interrelationship between colonial societies and a novel capitalism in Europe, especially the British "gentlemanly capitalists", 19 whose global reach came to bear in a particularly pronounced form as the slave economy.

Nowhere was the ambivalence between ruthless hegemonic ambition on one hand and concepts such as world citizenship, cosmopolitanism and human rights, which were derived from the Enlightenment, more clear than in slavery on the other hand. Probably no European colonial power remained aloof from this discussion, which with the help of medicine, anthropology, ethnology etc. The genocide of the Germans against the Herero and Nama in German Southwest Africa — is one of many testimonials, the reign of terror of the Belgian king Leopold II — in the Congo another.

Therefore, the concept of a "Europeanisation of the world" signifies the dilemma. On one hand, there are positive achievements, such as modern statehood, urbanisation, rationalism and Christianity, European thought systems such as Liberalism, Socialism and Positivism, which was received with great enthusiasm in France and England as well as in Brazil and Japan. On the other hand, there are negative legacies, such as Caesarism, racism and colonial violence.

It can also raise the question whether European history between about and cannot be predominantly read as a history of expansion, especially if one treats the history of the empires beyond Eurocentrism as world history but without underlaying it with a universal theory and without constructing it as a historical unity.

Science Still Bears the Fingerprints of Colonialism | Science | Smithsonian

With the treaty to divide the world of , a more intensive interaction of nation, expansion and "Europeanisation of the world" began that was not a unilateral creation of dependencies but a process of give and take with reciprocal influences beyond fixed imperial boundary drawing. According to this multipolar dynamic, Europe was not decentralised or provincialised, 21 but Europe is equally unsuitable as the only perspective in the interpretation of the global modern period.

Benedikt Stuchtey. Jahrhundert, Constance Cain, Peter J. Elliott, John H. Headley, John M. Korman, Sharon: The Right of Conquest: The acquisition of territory by force in international law and practice, Oxford Mommsen, Wolfgang J. Jahrhundert, Munich When quoting this article please add the date of your last retrieval in brackets after the url. When quoting a certain passage from the article please also insert the corresponding number s , for example 2 or Introduction In world history, no continent has possessed so many different forms of colonies and none has so incomparably defined access to the world by means of a civilising mission as a secular programme as did modern Europe.

Regions and periods Colonial regions and their limits as well as periods and their caesuras offer two possibilities of approaching European colonialism. However, there were phases in the overall development of European colonialism that can be separated in analogy to the development of the great power system of the European states: 1. Outlook Therefore, the concept of a "Europeanisation of the world" signifies the dilemma.

This volume contains a series of essays aimed at illuminating the theory, history, and roots of imperialism, which extend the analysis developed in Magdoff's The Age of Imperialism. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages.

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