Imperialism means practice of extending the power, control or rule by a country over the political and economic life of areas outside its own borders. Occupation or direct rule is not always the feature. The essential feature is exploitation. Imperialist countries are also called Metropolis (mother country). Imperialism can be achieved through colonialism. It is a story of deception, brutality and armed might.
Colonialism means practice of acquiring colonies by conquest or other means and making them dependent. Today imperialist control has not come to an end and manifests itself in the form of economic exploitation and domination of independent but economically less developed countries and spheres of influence. This is called ‘neo-colonialism’
1st Phase
  1. The first phase began in 16th century with the finding of new sea routes and new land. This was the period of slave trade. 5000 slaves were sent to America every month during 17th century.
  2. Africa was used for slaves and Asia mainly for trade.
  3. Countries fought war to protect their trading interests. It was a period of naked plunder by European colonial powers. It led to growth of Industrial Revolution and capitalist system
2nd Phase
It started in 1875 and continues in many form today. This period is called New or Neo Imperialism. It was a result of rapid economic progress. The power of Spain and Portugal declined and new powers such as Germany, Japan, USA, Italy, Belgium emerged.
Conditions that helped Imperialism
Industrial Revolution & Capitalist Philosophy
  1. Increased production of goods. Maximum profit was the prime motive. More and more production and minimum wages to workers was the modus operandi. Production was greater then Demand. Low wages led to low purchasing power which led to  less demand. This made necessary the search for new markets.
  2. Moreover, one industrialised country could not sell to another as they employed tariff barriers to protect their industry and economic interests. This was known as Protectionist policy.
  3. For selling the goods at high price and acquiring raw materials at throw away prices political domination was necessary. It had the benefit of eliminating competition in the colonised country.
  4. Industries required raw materials. India and Egypt provided Cotton. Congo and East Indies were used for Rubber. Change of pattern of cultivation took place. Focus was on plantation agriculture and cash crops. Opium cultivated in India was used for smuggling in China which inturn was used for payment for goods bought in China. Peasants were forced to cultivate only one or two crops.
  5. Coal, iron, copper and oil were other major interests.
  6. Asian and African colonies were attractive for investors. Rate of return in Europe was barely 3 – 4 % whereas it was 20% in Asia. Export of capital for investment >> Export of goods. Increase in financial might of banks and financial institutions. Control by giving credit and promote industries to serve their need and not to industrialise.
  7. Political domination was needed to make their investment safe as a weak government may not be able to withstand uprising and protect their industries e.g Morocco became French Morocco after heavy investment from France
Transport and Communication
Steamships, construction of railroads and inland waterways by employing cheap labour. Telegraph (Morse), Telephone (Bell). Construction of Suez and Panama canal.
Extreme Nationalism
  1. It was aided by the unification of Germany and Italy. It was associated with Chauvinism. Myth of superiority over other people. Need for colonies to add to prestige.
  2. Imperialism became fashion of the age. Writers and speakers opened institutions to promote the idea of imperialism and took great pride in calling their territorial empires.
  3. Acquiring of colonies for strategic point of view became widespread. England needed Port Said, Aden, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cyprus to set up naval bases.
  4. Acquiring a colony led to chain reaction. If a country acquired one then it needed another to protect it and so on.
  5. It added to imperialist manpower. People were inducted into army for use in wars and conquest. e.g Indian forces were used in WW. Manpower was also used for admin at lower levels.
Civilising Mission
  1. Western countries considered imperialism as a noble purpose. The purpose was to bring civilisation to ‘backward’ people.
  2. Rudyard Kipling gave the idea of ‘the white man’s burden’. Jules Ferry said  ‘Superior races have the duty of civising the inferior race’
  3. Role played by Christian missionaries. They went into unknown areas driven by their zeal of spreading Christianity. They were followed by traders and soldiers.
  4. Explorers and adventurers also helped in spreading imperialism. They discovered territories and brought back news about natural resources and opportunities for trade and development.
Conditions in Host Countries
  1. Economicbackwardness.
  2. Governments were weak and fragile.
  3. Outdated modes of warfare. Maxim guns was used by Europeans.
  4. Lack of education and succumbed to nefarious intentions of colonial powers e.g Granting of diwani rights to EIC by Mughals and considering them as Bees that give Honey by Aliwardi Khan of Bengal.
  5. No concept of nation states and people could intrigue against their own kings. e.g Mir Jafar played the role of a traitor in Battle of Plassey.
Conquest of Asia
Well known. It was known as the ‘brightest jewel of the British empire’.
Opium Wars
Before this war only two ports were open for foreign traders. British merchants bought tea, silk but there was no market for British goods. British merchants started smuggling opium into China on a large scale. Illegal trade was highly profitable and did immense physical and moral damage. In 1839 the Chinese government seized an opium cargo and destroyed it. Britain declared war and easily defeated Chinese.
  1. Chinese were forced to pay heavy damages and open 5 port cities to British traders.
  2. British subjects were to be tried in English courts rather than Chinese courts. This methodology came to be known as extraterritorial rights.
  3. The Chinese government could not impose tariff on foreign goods.
  4. Island of Hong Kong was handed over to Britain.
French Trouble
France followed Britain. On the pretext that French missionary had been murdered, England and France fought another war and defeated China. It was forced to grant more privileges.
Japanese Problem
Japan tried to increase her influence over Korea which was under Chinese lordship. China resented which led to another ill fated  war in which China lost. Korea became independent and China had to cede Formosa and other islands to Japan and pay heavy war damages to Japan
Spheres of Influence
France, Russia, Britain and Germany gave loans to China to help her meet payment to Japan but at very high cost. They divided China into spheres of influence. Each country had certain regions reserved exclusively for its purpose. They acquired for themselves right to build railways and mining.
  1. Germany: Kiaochow Bay, Shantung and Hwang Ho valley
  2. Russia: Liaotung Peninsula, railroads in Manchuria
  3. France: Kwangchow Bay
  4. Britain: Wei-hi-Wei and Yantze Valley
USA which could not withstand being left out suggested an Open Door Policy or Me Too policy. Under this all countries would have equal rights to trade anywhere in China. Britain supported USA in the belief that this would discourage annexation of China by Japan and Russia.
Boxer Rebellion
This was an uprising against foreign powers. Foreign powers again emerged victorious and levied heavy damages on China as punishment. Imperialism continued with the cooperation of Chinese warlords.
Thus China although not conquered and occupied was reduced to a position of international colony. This is also known as Cutting of Chinese Melon.
South and South East Asia
  1. Srilanka : Its control passed over from Potuguese to Dutch and finally to England. It was used mainly for Rubber and tea plantations.
  2. Malaya and Singapore came under British. Control of all trade that passed through Strait of Malacca.
  3. Indonesia and surrounding islands came under Dutch control.
  4. Indo China (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) came under France.
  5. Burmese gave the French the right to construct railway from Tonkin to Mandalay. British govt fearing French expansion started a war. Burmese king was captured and sent to India. Burma was annexed and became part of British empire in 1886.
  6. Thailand remained independent but was under the British and French influence.
  7. Philippines and Cuba revolted against Spain. US occupied Cuba and Philippines.
Central and Western Asia
  1. England and Russia were rivals and were engaged in Great Game. Britain was concerned about defending its territory in India against expansion of Russia. Russia and Britain set up banks in Iran. Southern Iran came under British influence and North under Russian influence. After Russian Revolution the whole of Iran was occupied by British troops.
  2. In a major development Oil was found in Iran. Standard Oil Company of US and Anglo Persian Oil Company of England was set up.
  3. Britain and China agreed not to interfere in Tibet through an agreement in 1907. After overthrow of monarchy in 1911, Tibet passed under British influence.
  4. Russia agreed to recognize Afghanistan as being outside her influence and Britain agreed not to annex Afghanistan.
  5. German increased influence over Turkey and obtained a concession to build a railway from Constantinople to Baghdad and the Persian gulf. After WWI Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Arabia were taken away from Turkey and passed under England and France.
  6. Later oil became the focal point of all strategic maneouvres.
Japan as Imperialist Power
It started its programme of imperialism in last decade of 19th century. In 1853 American warships under Commodre Perry compelled the Japanese to open their country for American shipping and trade. Similar agreement were made with Britain and France. After Meiji Restoration Japan began to industrialise and within few decades became one of the most advanced countries of the world. Japan had very few natural resources at its disposal and thus looked for greener pastures.
  1. 1894 – War with China.
  2. 1902 – Signed treaty with Britain to gain equal standings with European powers and equal rights in China. Southern part of Sakhalin  and Liaotung went to Japan.
  3. 1910 – Korea became a colony of Japan
Imperialism was not limited to any one people or region. It was the result of greed for economic and political power regardless of race or cultural claims.
Conquest of Africa
Till last decade of 19th century European influence extended to only 20% of Africa and that too in coastal areas only. Major interest was only in slave trade.
Slave Trade
  1. In 1562 Sir John Hawkins brough slaves in a ship called Jesus. Elizabeth received share in profit. The share of King of Spain in slave trade was fixed at 25%.
  2. Slave market in Lisbon was set up by Portuguese. Arab also dominated slave trade. African villages were raided, people captured and handed over to Europeans.
  3. African chiefs also took part and sold slaves for firearms from Europeans.
  4. Slaves were transported as inanimate objects in unhygienic conditions. Lakhs of them died during long journey. Extreme brutalities were inflicted. The person who killed a run-away slave was given a reward by govt.
  5. Slave trade ceased to exist by the end of 19th century.
Berlin Congress
  1. Berling Congress (1884) was held to decide how to share out Africa among imperialist countries.
  2. No African state was represented.
  3. Fraudulent and bogus treaties were signed with African countries. As a result almost 30% of African borders are straight lines and drawn arbitrarily.The terms of treaties were misrepresented. Support of European country during war was interpreted as becoming a protectorate.
The partition of Africa was complete by the end of 19th century. But it was just a Paper Partition. The actual control was accomplished through use of military power.
West Africa
Primary Interest was Cocoa, Rubber etc.
  1. H.M.Stanley with assistance from King Leopold II of Belgium founded International Congo Association. It made 400 treaties with African chiefs. They transferred their lands in exchange for cloth or other articles of no great value. 2.3 m sq km of land came to be known as ‘Congo Free State’ with Leopold as King.
  2. Stanley called occupation of Zaire as ‘unique humanitarian and political enterprise’. Rubber and ivory were collected brutally. The treatment was so bad that even other colonial powers were shocked. Hands of defiant villagers were chopped off and brought as souvenirs. In 1908 it became Belgian Congo. Later uranium, timber and copper became more important.
USA and Britain
  1. Later USA and Britain also joined. Copper resources of Katanga province was exploited.
  2. Britain acquired Nigeria, a land of rich natural resource. Britain also acquired Gambia, Gold Coast and Sierra Leone.
  1. Frenchman de Brazza was active north of Congo river. This area came to be known as French Congo with Brazaville as its capital.
  2. France acquired Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast and French Guinea. In a period of only 20 years the population of French Congo was reduced to 1/3 rd of its size.
  1. Came to scene after 1880. Acquired Togoland and Cameroon, South West Africa (Namibia). More than half of the population was exterminated. It also wanted Angola and Mozambique.
  2. After WW1 German territories were given to victorious powers.
Viva La Raza
It could capture only two colonies i.e Spanish Sahara and Spanish Guinea.
With the exception of Liberia whole of West Africa was divided. Liberia was settled by slaves who had been freed in America. It came under the influence of USA
South Africa
  1. Initially Dutch had established her colony but it was later taken over by the British. The Dutch settlers were known as Boers who went north and had set up Orange Free State and Transvaal.
  2. English adventurer Cecil Rhodes made fortunes in mining gave his name to African colony Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia is known as Zambia and Southern as Zimbabwe. Rhodes became famous for Rhodes Scholarship. According to Rhodes – “Pure Philanthropy is very well in its way, but philanthropy plus 5 per cent is a good deal better”
  3. British plotted to overthrow Boer govt of Transvaal which was rich in Gold. This led to Boer War (1899-1902) where Boers were defeated but were allowed to remain there.
East Africa
  1. Except Portuguese Mozambique, it had not been occupied before 1884.
  2. German adventurer Karl Peters came to the coastal region. He bribed and placed the region under German control. Later through an agreement France got Madagascar and East Africa was divided between Germany and England. Tanganyika came under German influence.
  3. Uganda was reserved for England. British East Africa came to be known as Kenya.
  4. After WWI Germany lost its territories.
  5. Italy occupied Somaliland and Eritrea. Abyssinia (Ethiopia) was an independent state. Italy invaded her but was humiliated as Ethiopia defeated her in 1896 war. Abyssinia received arms from France. This is known as Battle of Adowa.
North Africa
  1. France conquererd Algeria in 1830. It was very profitable as it provided huge market for French goods. French acquired Tunisia and Morocco, a strategically placed country.
  2. Britain got Cyprus at Berlin Congress (1878).
  3. Germans had been ignored so in order to avoid conflict it was necessary to accomodate her. France agreed to give Germany 250,000 sq km of French Congo.
  4. Italy had assured herself of support in her claims over Tripoli and Cyrenica which were possessions of Turkish empire. Italy declared war against Turkey and occupied two provinces which were given the old Roman name of Libya.
  5. France got free hand in Western Sudan and the Sahara.
  6. Sudan was exploited by Britain and Egypt. A Sudanese leader, Mahdi defeated British and Egypt in 1880s. They later recaptured in 1889.
  1. Egypt was ruled by Pasha. From the time of Napolean French were interested in Egypt. French company got the right to dig Suez canal. The canal was completed in 1869 which aroused British interest. Disraeli the British PM bought large number of shares from Paha to make sure of keeping route to India safe. The canal was described as ‘highway to our Indian empire’
  2. A joint Anglo French army increased control over Egypt. In 1914, Britain announced that Egypt was not under Turkish control but was a British protectorate. In 1922, Britain was forced to recognise Egypt as independent nation.
Americas and Pacific
  1. By 1820s almost all countries of the Americas gained indpendence from Spain and Portugal. Cuba and Puerto Rico were still under the control of Spain.
  2. US emerged as the biggest power and had immense naval strength. US-Spanish war led to passing of control of Cuba and Philippines in the hands of US. It also gained control of Guam and Puerto Rico.
  3. US claimed the right to civilise backward countries and stated that it must not fall out of the line of march.
  4. Through Monroe Doctrine (1823) US warned European countries not to extend their influence in the Western Hemisphere. It claimed sovereignty on the continent.
  5. In 1904 Theodre Roosevelt claimed that only US had the right to intervene and resolve dispute involving neighbouring countries. e.g Britain and Germany had imposed a naval blockade of Venezuela over failure to repay loan. US force them to lift the blockade.
  6. US gained control over Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Haiti, Hawaii (strategic location, sugar plantation). It also secured exclusive use of Pearl Harbour as a naval station.
  7. US intervened in Mexico by deposing Fransisco Madero, a popular leader.
  8. US made a major acquisition in the form of Panama Canal. It was of great economic interest. US took control of Panama Canal from France and gained perpetual right to a six mile canal zone. This was resented by Colombia. In 1904 US landed its troops in Panam aand recognised Panama as an independent state. The canal was opened in 1914 and has since been been under US control.
  9. The policy of US is known as Big Stick and one of International Policeman. Extension of economic influence is known as Dollar Diplomacy. This was facilitated by absence of strong govt in countries of South America. These countries were ruled by Caudillos or crude and corrupt military leaders with armed gangs. They gave concessions to foreigners to exploit natural resources.
Effects of Imperialism
  1. By 1914 almost all parts of non industrialized world had come under the direct or indirect control of few industrialised country. All parts were brought under World Economic Order.
  2. Countries lost their political freedom and served their interests. Naked plunder of natural resources took place. This resulted into economic backwardness and destruction of local industries.
  3. Patterns of agriculture was changed. Cuba was reduced to position of sugar producing country.
  4. Even after independence most of these countries found it difficult to modernise themselves.
  5. It bred racial arrogance and discrimination. e.g Apartheid in Africa. Intermixing of Blacks and White was made a criminal offence. Denial of rights to black in USA. Japan was given the status of ‘honorary whites’ by South Africa.
By |December 14th, 2015|History|

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  1. satyendra kumar December 14, 2015 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    thank you sir 🙂

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