New Imperialism Term Paper

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In 1899, British writer Rudyard Kipling published a poem called "The White Man's Burden" in McClure's Magazine. The poem urges the United States to take up the "white man's burden," the obligation of white people to colonize and "civilize" the dark-skinned native peoples of the world. Kipling writes, "Take up the White Man's burden / Send forth the best ye breed -- / Go send your sons to exile / To serve your captives' need / To wait in heavy harness / On fluttered folk and wild -- / Your new-caught, sullen peoples, / Half devil and half child." The poet's sentiments reflect a growing social trend in Europe and the United States that viewed whites, especially Protestants, as a superior race of human beings. Based on a twisted interpretation of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, Social Darwinism adopted the theory of "survival of the fittest" and applied it to human societies. According to Social Darwinists, the white race had proven itself superior to other races because of its great industrial and military strength, evident by the end of the nineteenth century. While Social Darwinism did not itself create the New Imperialism, Kipling's poem and its positive reception by Theodore Roosevelt proves that Social Darwinism did impact the policies of expansionism. By the end of the nineteenth century, the industrialized nations: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, encountered new economic and political realities. Colonialism had already been an integral part of the foreign policies of the European powers. However, Great Britain was the dominant player in the world, economically and militarily. After the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the balance of power in Europe shifted, somewhat weakening Britain's centrality in world politics and economics. The creation of Germany and Italy contributed to growing tensions in Europe and drove the desire for expansionism. The New Imperialism, which occurred mainly between 1871 through 1914, resulted from industrialized nations seeking control of foreign territories for economic, military, political, and philosophical aims.

One of the motivating factors for the New Imperialism was world trade. The world markets were becoming increasingly open to free trade, but because of an economic depression, many European powers sought to impose trade tariffs and other restrictions to assume dominance in the market. Also, nations needed new avenues for natural resources and the industrialized nations would compete heavily for access to the natural resources of Africa and Southeast Asia. Africa was the prime victim of the New Imperialism; only two nations remained free of European control. The New Imperialism completely restructured Africa, altering its social, political, and economic realities and undermining ancient indigenous traditions. The industrialized nations also sought potential for new markets for their finished manufactured goods. Therefore, the New Imperialism was mostly based on economic motives.

Europe suffered from a long economic depression from 1873 to 1896. The depression forced some nations to restrict free trade. Moreover, market growth was limited. Africa was viewed as a clearinghouse of cheap labor and raw materials as well as a potential new marketplace. In conjunction with the New Imperialism, the sometimes opposing forces of socialism swept across Europe in the beginning of the twentieth century. The working class labor movement in part grew out of the long depression. In response to the labor movement and in an attempt to squelch it, the governments of the industrialized nations looked to colonialism and imperialism as a means to maintain the status quo ("New Imperialism"). Also, financial institutions were pressuring governments to protect their overseas investments, and one of the means to do so was through the New Imperialist policies.

One of the incidents marking the beginning of the New Imperialism was Benjamin Disraeli's purchase of the Suez Canal from Egypt. The Suez Canal was for a long time the means by which Britain would trade with India. Therefore, the purchase was both economic and politically motivated. By controlling the Suez Canal, Britain established an imposing military presence in the Middle East. In fact, Britain's takeover of the Suez Canal led eventually to that nation's complete and official occupation of Egypt in 1882. Great Britain occupied Cyprus in 1878, for more military strategy than economic, as it feared Russia would invade the Ottoman Empire. Fears of Russian expansionism led to the British invasion of Afghanistan. Much of Britain's New Imperialism… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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