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The High Nineteenth Century

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It is quite intriguing that some nations would like to extend their authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations. There are different forms of imperialism ‘Economic imperialism’, for example, means the process by which an economy extends its financial control over others. There are also different ways in which different people viewed and explained this imperialism based on their individualities. In this paper I will compare how different scholars viewed imperialism and examine Western influence of the 18th/19th centuries to different nations.

In imperialism lays Britain's commercial expansion following its industrial revolution. That gave it the need to secure world-wide material interests. Then need grew desperate as capitalism began over-producing, and the industrialized countries began competing with each other for outlets. At the beginning of the 20th century, imperialism also took on a domestic shape. Britons took pride in their imperialism. By 1902 it was clear that their empire was stretched about as tight as it could be without breaking, and imperialists turned away from expansion to consolidation. An imperialist became someone who wished to federate the empire economically, militarily, and even politically.

At the end of the 19th century imperialism started facing reaction from all over the world. There later came the idea of the white man’s burden which stated that European nations had the responsibility of ruling Africans and Asians so as to civilize them. Mill, unlike other liberal theorists, makes no appeal to this. He insists thatlatent or underdeveloped abilities and virtues in their colonies could be actualized under the right conditions and liberty if that was the argument.

According to J. S Mill, imperialism is the ultimate stage of capitalism. To support this he makes the following remark.

“The sole end for which mankind is warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their member, is self-protection.”

In this case, the Imperialists had a wide and liberal vision of coming up with a highly multiracial and civilized society. John Gallagher during 19th century came up with different ideas about European Imperialism that gave it a new understanding where he states that imperialism did not necessarily require formal or legal control by one country over the other.

"………..bulk of British emigration, trade, and capital went to areas outside the formal British Empire. A key to the thought of Robinson and Gallagher is the idea of empire ‘informally if possible and formally if necessary’

Western nations also introduced cultural imperialism to their colonies and mostly in Africa by promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture of their societies into their colonies. It is usually the case that the former belongs to a large, economically or militarily powerful nation. Through economic processes (indirect imperialism), the concerned state is officially self-governing but linked to the imperial power by (often unequal) trade relations. According to Painter, the notion of cultural imperialism is indicated by

"………….existing or traditional ways of life and ways of thinking that are subordinated to the culture of the imperialists."

However not all states were submissive to this Western Imperialism. It took great efforts to change some people for example in China where Western superiority was challenged by equally strong Chinese beliefs. According to Spence,

“…..all of them came to China with similar attitudes of cultural superiority, yet none were able to enact the changes they had originally planned”

 The goals of these men, Spence argues that,

“……..met with resistance because their expertise was often bound with ideological aims to which the Chinese were not willing to submit”

Imperialism is therefore not a present day advent but a thing of the past. This dates, but not limited to, the years of colonialism. I have looked at the different forms given to it like direct, indirect, economic, political, cultural, and many more. This is an indication that the imperialists are ready to coin more and more words to give imperialism a new face but this should not justify imperialism whatever form it takes or whatever name it’s given, it remains the extension a nation's authority by territorial acquisition (peacefully or non peacefully) by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over another nation.

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