The Building of Global Empires The idea of Imperialism

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Chapter 33

The Building of Global Empires

The idea of Imperialism

  • Term dates from mid-19th century

  • In popular discourse by 1880s

  • Military imperialism

  • Later, economic and cultural varieties

  • US imperialism

Motivation for Imperialism

  • Military

  • Political

  • Economic

  • European capitalism

  • Religious

  • Demographic

  • criminal populations

  • Dissident populations

Manifest Destiny

  • Justification for U.S. expansion

  • Discovery of natural resources

  • Exploitation of cheap labor

  • Expansion of markets

  • Limited expansion

The “White Man’s Burden”

  • Example of racist discourse (justification) for imperialism

  • Rudyard Kipling (1864-1936)

  • Raised in India, native Hindi speaker

  • Boarding school in England, then return to India (1882)

  • French: mission civilisatrice

Geopolitical considerations

  • Strategic footholds

  • Waterways

  • Supply stations

  • Imperial rivalries

Domestic Political Considerations

  • Crises of industrialism

  • Pressure from nascent Socialism

  • Imperial policies distract proletariat from domestic politics

Technology and Imperialism

  • Transportation

  • Steamships: transformed to warships via industrial technology

  • Railroads facilitate imperial control (imperial/military communication and transport) and transportation of raw materials

  • Infrastructure

  • Suez Canal (1859-1869)

  • Panama Canal (1904-1914)

  • Canals allow faster travel times for steamships (warships)

  • Canals, therefore, also facilitated imperial control and imperial trade


  • Industrial Revolution allowed for creation of weapons essential to success of imperialism

  • Early 19th century: muzzle-loading muskets: long loading time and inaccurate

  • Mid-19th century: breech-loading rifles

  • Reduce reloading time and increased accuracy

  • 1880s: Maxim gun, 11 rounds per second

The Military Advantage

  • Battle of Omdurman, near Khartom on Nile in Northeastern Africa (Sudan), 1898

  • Five hours of fighting

  • British: six gunboats, twenty machine guns, 368 killed

  • Sudanese: 11,000 killed


  • Communications were essential to success of imperialism

  • Correspondence: communication/travel between imperial country and imperialized country

  • 1830 Britain-India: 2 years

  • After Suez Canal, 2 weeks

  • Telegraph

  • 1870s, development of submarine cables

  • Britain-India: 5 hours

The Jewel of the British Crown: India

  • Europeans were the first imperialists

  • Britain was first among the European imperialists

  • East India Company enjoyed a monopoly on India trade

  • Original permission from Mughal emperors

  • Mughal empire declines after death of Aurangzeb, 1707

  • After Mughal decline, East India Company merchants/traders gained greater political and economic authority throughout India

Home of a Wealthy Family in Calcutta

British Conquest

  • Protection of economic interests in India through political conquest

  • Britain maintained political authority (and defense) by utilizing both British and Indian troops

  • Indian troops known as sepoys; sepoys consisted of both Hindu and Muslim Indians

British Colonial Soldiers

Sepoy Revolt, 1857

  • Sepoy troops received Enfield rifles

  • Rifle cartridges in wax paper greased with animal fat

  • Problem for Hindus: beef (cow as sacred)

  • Problem for Muslims: pork (pig as unclean)

  • Sepoys revolt and capture British garrison/fort

  • 60 soldiers, 180 civilian males massacred (after surrender)

Britain establishes direct rule

  • British government Pre-empts East India Company; gov’t takes over authority in India from the East India Company

  • The British establish civil service staffed by English

  • Meant to reinforce British authority in India

  • Low-level Indian civil servants

British Rule in India

  • British organize Indian agriculture

  • Cash crops cultivated: tea, coffee, opium

  • Stamp of British culture on Indian environment

  • The British infused India: established railroads and telegraph infrastructure; developed canals, harbors, and irrigation systems

  • Veneer on poor Muslim-Hindu relations

Imperialism in Central Asia

  • British, French, Russians complete for central Asia

  • French and Russian imperialism in response/competition to British imperialism of India

  • France drops out after Napoleon deposed in 1815

  • Russia active after 1860s in Central Asia and approached India

  • The “Great Game”: Russian vs. British intrigue in Afghanistan

Imperialism in Southeast Asia

  • Spanish: Philippines in the 16th century

  • Dutch: Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) in 17th century

  • Dutch East Indies valuable for coffee, rubber, sugar, tea, tin, tobacco

  • British establish presence beginning in 1820s

  • Conflict with kings of Burma (Myanmar) 1820s, established colonial authority by 1880s; Burma valuable for ivory, jade, rubies, and teak (timber)

  • In 1824 Thomas Stamford Raffles founds Singapore for trade in Strait of Melaka

  • Base of British colonization in Malaysia, 1870s-1880s

  • Malaysia valuable for important sea ports and as sources of rubber and tin

  • French: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, 1859-1893; French Indochina

  • Encouraged conversion to Christianity

  • By end of 19th century, only Siam (Thailand) was not imperialized by Europeans

  • Siam a buffer between British and French imperial possessions

The Scramble for Africa (1875-1900)

  • After end of slave trade, Europeans imperialize Africa for valuable resources

  • Gold, ivory, palm oil

  • French, Portuguese, Belgians, and English compete for “the dark continent”

  • Britain establishes strong presence in Egypt, Rhodesia (Central and Southern Africa)

  • Presence in Egypt to protect access to Suez Canal (correspondence, trade, and transport)

  • Presence in Rhodesia for gold and diamonds

Rewriting African History

  • European exploration of rivers (Nile, Niger, Congo, Zambesi)

  • Information on interior of Africa

  • King Leopold II of Belgium starts Congo Free State for commercial ventures

  • Belgium government takes control of colony in 1908, renamed Belgian Congo

South African (Boer) War 1899-1902

  • Dutch East India establishes Cape Town (1652)

  • Farmers (Boers) follow to settle territory, later called Afrikaners

  • Competition and conflict with indigenous Khoikhoi and Xhosa peoples

  • British takeover in 1806, slavery a major issue of conflict

  • Afrikaners migrate eastward: the Great Trek, overpower Ndebele and Zulu resistance with superior firepower

  • Establish independent Republics

  • British tolerate this until gold is discovered

  • White-white conflict, black soldiers and laborers

  • Afrikaners concede in 1902, 1910 integrated into Union of South Africa

Village around a Kraal

The Berlin West Africa Conference (1884-1885)

  • Fourteen European states, United States

  • No African states present

  • Rules of colonization: any European state can take “unoccupied” territory after informing other European powers

  • European firepower dominates Africa

Systems of Colonial Rule

  • Concessionary companies

  • Private companies get large tracts of land to exploit natural resources

  • Companies get freedom to tax, recruit labor: horrible abuses

  • Profit margin minimal

  • Direct Rule: France

  • “civilizing mission”

  • Chronic shortage of European personnel; language and cultural barriers

  • French West Africa: 3600 Europeans rule 9 million

Indirect Rule

  • Frederick D. Lugard (Britain, 1858-1945)

  • The Dual Magnate in British Tropical Africa (1922)

  • Use of indigenous institutions

  • Difficulty in establishing tribal categories, imposed arbitrary boundaries

European Imperialism in Australia and New Zealand

  • English use Australia as a penal colony from 1788

  • Voluntary migrants follow; gold discovered 1851

  • Smallpox, measles devastate natives

  • Territory called “terra nullus”: land of no one

  • New Zealand: natives forced to sign Treaty of Waitangi (1840), placing New Zealand under British “protection”

Australian Aborigine

European and Native Population in Australia and New Zealand

European Imperialism in the Pacific Islands

  • Commercial outposts

  • Whalers seeking port

  • Merchants seeking sandalwood, sea slugs for sale in China

  • Missionaries seeking souls

  • British, French, German, American powers carve up Pacific islands

  • Tonga remains independent, but relies on Britain

US Imperialism

  • President James Monroe warns Europeans not to engage in imperialism in western hemisphere (1823)

  • The Monroe Doctrine: all Americas a U.S. Protectorate

  • 1867 purchased Alaska from Russia

  • 1875 established protectorate over Hawai’i

  • Locals overthrow queen in 1893, persuade US to acquire islands in 1898

Spanish-Cuban-American War (1898-1899)

  • US declares war in Spain after battleship Maine sunk in Havana harbor, 1898

  • Takes possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, Philippines

  • US intervenes in other Caribbean, Central American lands, occupies Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti

  • Filipinos revolt against Spanish rule, later against US rule

The Panama Canal

  • President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909) supports insurrection against Colombia (1903)

  • Rebels win, establish state of Panama

  • U.S. gains territory to build canal, Panama Canal Zone

  • Roosevelt Corollary of Monroe Doctrine

  • U.S. right to intervene in domestic affairs of other nations if U.S. investments threatened

Early Japanese Expansion

  • Resentment over Unequal Treaties of 1860s

  • 1870s colonized northern region: Hokkaido, Kurile islands, southern Okinawa and Ryukyu islands as well

  • 1876 Japanese purchase warships from Britain, dominate Korea

  • Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) over Korea results in Japanese victory

  • Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) also ends in Japanese victory

Economic Legacies of Imperialism

  • Colonized states encouraged to exploit natural resources rather than build manufacturing centers

  • Encouraged dependency on imperial power for manufactured goods made from native raw product

  • Indian cotton

  • Introduction of new crops

  • Tea in Ceylon

Labor Migrations

  • Europeans move to temperate lands

  • Africans, Asians, and Pacific islanders move to tropical/subtropical lands

  • Indentured laborers, manual laborers

  • 2.5 million between 1820 and 1914

Colonial Conflict

  • Thousands of insurrections against colonial rule

  • Tanganyika Maji Maji Rebellion against Germans (1905-1906)

  • Rebels sprinkle selves with magic water (maji maji) as protection against modern weapons; 75000 killed

  • “Scientific” Racism developed

  • Count Joseph Arthurd de Gobineau (1816-1882)

  • Combines with theories of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) to form pernicious doctrine of Social Darwinism

Nationalism and Anti-colonial Movements

  • Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1883), Bengali called “father of modern India”

  • Reformers call for self-government, adoption of selected British practices (e.g. ban on sati)

  • Influence of Enlightenment thought, often obtained in European universities

  • Indian National Congress formed 1885

  • 1906 joins with All-India Muslim League

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