Africa European Imperialism European Imperialism European expansion was almost a certainty. The continent was relatively poor place for agriculture, which pushed Europeans outside of Europe in search of new soil. Different countries sent explorers, like Columbus and Magellan, to find unknown trade routes to India and Asia. They stumbled onto new sources for raw materials and goods and Europe was suddenly substantially profiting. The exploration of Africa, Asia, and South America provided new wealth.
It increased the standard of living for Europeans, introduced them to spices, luxurious goods, silver, and gold (class notes). Later revolutions and reformers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries transformed European society and continually provided the continent with new interests, experiences, and ideas. As a result, Europeans developed new technology, which enabled them to explore unknown territory and expand their influence overseas. European imperialism began in the 14th and 15th centuries. There were a variety of factors that allowed for expansion. First of all, because the population of Europe was low there was a potential for rapid population growth.
Secondly, Europe was relatively small which made it venerable to invasion and provoked the need for strong armies. The fact that it was divided into states provoked the need for strong governments and because there was no one power that could change things in Europe they obtained a relatively strong freedom of thought. This solidarity gave Europe the power to send voyages and explorations around the globe to help find new resources. Futhermore, Europe sent explorers to find different and needed trade routes to Asia and India because the land routes were extremely long (class notes). Also, public opinion played an important role in the support of imperialism. Many people who werent pleased with their economic and political status could migrate to new regions to find other opportunities.
Others were inspired to spread the word of Christianity and sought a new standard of living. But most importantly, Europeans were concerned with the quest for material goods and to grow rich (textbook pg. 878). There were many changes in the methods from early imperialism to late expansionism. For example, unlike new imperialism early European expansion focused on establishing trading posts in different countries, instead of actually taking over the land and adding empires like later imperialism.
At this particular time Europe didnt have the resources or the strength to over power certain countries. In fact trading posts was all Europe could establish when trading with Africa. They could only set up trading posts on the coast of Africa because Europeans were easily susceptible to African diseases. British companies set up trading posts in India and created the British East India Company. These binds with India helped Britain maintain a successful economy and eventually became Britains power behind their throne.
However, in one instance Europe was able to take control of the Americas because of their low population. But, in most cases they were content with direct economic ties for gaining outside resources (class notes). For almost two centuries Europe experienced an imperial lull that lasted from 1700-1870 in which many countries lost empires and ceased to acquire new land. Usually, they made plans for expansion when it was inexpensive and easy to do. During this period it must have been just the opposite. After this imperial lull new imperialism arrived. It was during this time Europe reached the high tide of their power over the world. During the lull the Industrial revolution was underway which gave Europe a huge advantage over other parts of the world.
With new scientific technology such as the steam engine, and railroads Europeans were able to move faster and more efficient across the continent. Steam engines served as a way to move up rivers and carry arms, which was known as Gunboat Diplomacy. Science and biology created solutions for diseases. The discovery of quinine allowed Europeans to now travel deep into Africa and take direct control over a majority of the continent. Advances like the breech loaded rifle and the machine gun helped in making imperialism possible as well.
These new improvements made expansion easy and cheap. On the other hand, Political leaders pressed the new imperialism to distract society from domestic problems and rally them around national unity (class notes). These technological developments and other influences triggered a rush to seize territory and the rise of European colonization. Europeans now attacked Africa with physical force and direct control rather than gaining resources by negotiating trade agreements. These advancements now made the old trading colonies extremely important for political and diplomatic reasons.
Every powerful country used their colonies for national security, military purposes, and international prestige (textbook pg 877). New imperialism also brought new attitudes and theories about new European expansion. Many were convinced it was Europes responsibility to Europeanize the globe because they were industrially superior to any other country or continent. It provoked ideas such as Social Darwinism, which meant the strongest country would survive and dominate the rest. Also, the theory of the three Gs, Gold, God, and Glory motivated society to believe new imperialism was a good idea.
In which, Gold stood for economic profit, God signified Christianizing new lands, and Glory represented national power and unity. Along with theories of new imperialism there were also critics. Radical English economist, J.A. Hobson, criticized that the hunt for empires diverted popular attention away from domestic reform and the need to reduce the great gap between rich and poor (textbook pg.880). Joseph Conrad published the book Heart of Darkness to show the negative aspects of imperialism. He criticizes Europes quest for civilizing other countries throughout the story. The character Kurtz, who represents European imperialism in the book, says, By the simple exercise of our (Europe) will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded, which is good example of his unfavorable feelings for European civilizing. These critics informed European countries what was really happening in the colonies, but still most people were sold on the idea that imperialism was economically profitable for homeland (textbook pg. 880).
Colonies served European countries all the way up to WWII. But, the impact of the war and other factors caused many countries to withdraw their influence from the colonies. The war efforts drained European economies and devastated much of the land, which diverted attention away from the colonies and turned countries to focus on domestic problems. Rebuilding the info structure and the living standards became a higher priority after the war than building up overseas empires. The ideas that Europeans were more civilized came crashing down as well, after the Far East suffered mass defeats to Japan.
This showed that Europe could be defeated and led many people to believe Europe wasnt that powerful after all. Hitlers propaganda and insane views also added to the discredit of European superiority. Futhermore, in the colonies native nationalists gained power to stir up movements for independence, which was another factor that contributed to European decolonization (class notes). Different countries pulled out of their colonies in different ways. For example, Britain withdrew their influence peacefully and granted India independence in 1947 because of religious clashes and chaotic situations within India. Once India was gone it caused a domino effect on the rest of Britains existing colonies because they were only set up to protect India from rival countries.
Other countries like France didnt withdraw as peacefully as Britain. It was more difficult for France to give their empires because their initial motivation for acquiring the colonies was national prestige and power. The French, would have to deal with nationalists movements by force in order to restore their land. They battled the Vietmihn, which were both a nationalist party and a communist party, for rights to Indochina, but after many attempts were defeated. After suffering too much defeat the French decided to move out of Indochina.
Frances oldest colony, Algeria, began revolts and protests to get rid of the French. War with the Algeria Arab rebels was too costly and Frances government collapsed. They reinstated former French president Degaul to reassess stability back into the country. Degaul felt Algeria and other colonies were a burden to Frances economy and he gradually moved Algeria and the others to independence (class notes). People argue the fall of colonization began with Europe and others argue it began with the colonies.
It is argued that the colonies grew strong enough that Europeans had trouble keeping them under their control. During WWII Europe relied heavily on their colonies for support, which increased the native elites (locals who represented the colonies) importance in the colonies. After the war medication improved, which led to a massive population rise among colonies. They gained access to new weapons and used guerilla warfare to fend off European occupation. Also after the war, the European armies that helped take over the colonies in the beginning had faded away.
These factors were believed to be the main cause of decolonization. However, others believed that Europe withdrew from the colonies out their own interests. European leaders were occupied with domestic economics and realized the profitable trade was with countries inside the continent. As a result the economic interests of Europe and its colonies diverged, which caused European countries to pull out. They thought direct control was no longer needed, but sustaining trading ties was still important.
I believe the colonial factors are more convincing because Europes reasoning for decolonization sounds as if they were trying to avoid the embarrassment of getting forced out by the colonies (class notes). The overall impact of European civilization had more negative affects on the world than positive. I believe that it made countries greedy for more power and promoted non-western people to be racially inferior. It also caused rivalries between European countries, which lead to unneeded conflict. The only positive aspect I see coming out of imperialism was that it introduced the world to improved technology. However, there is no doubt that European imperialism had an immense influence on the world for five centuries.
It proved to be one of the greatest historical events in Western society History Essays.