Pros and Cons of Imperialism in Africa

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The need for success and power motivated Europe to move towards imperialism. By focusing on China, India, and Africa, this essay will argue that a state’s response to European imperialism in the nineteenth century until WWI grew out of its previous interactions with Europe after 1500.

Modernization was deeply rooted within the motivation for European imperialism. The need for power and success motivated countries to modernize. After modernization came industrialization to advance dominated as a country. From these points, modernity emphasized new ways of living and thinking that departed from the old traditional ways of life. Modern societies were governed by states instead of a monarchy. Societies governed by the state like Britain “were powerful, intrusive, and offered people the opportunity to play an active role in public and political life” (p.532).

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The first societies to witness this transformations were Western Europe and North America where the scientific and industrial revolution took shape. For centuries following the 1500s, Europe became the most innovative, prosperous, and powerful continent in the world. Because of the ideas of the hierarchy of race, “whites on the top and the less developed “child races” beneath them” (p.792). This idea influenced how Europeans’ views of superiority over other countries which encouraged their own global expansions. European dominance posed a great challenge for the rest of the world.

Motivation for European imperialism included the fact that Europeans were seeking economic growth from the wealth of Africa and Asia because of their goods such as gold, spices, silk, and textiles. In addition, Europe wanted to convert more people to Christianity and find more allies that were Christian as well through missionaries.

To begin, before European imperialism in China, the country was very agriculture heavy and had a high demand for Chinese tea, silk, and porcelain, and spices from other countries like India, Latin America, Britain, and other Western countries. However, China didn’t want to trade much because they already had much of what they needed due to their great agriculture.

China’s trade was purposely limited and had incredible revenue because a lot of countries desired to trade with them for their goods of which were only allowed to trade in Canton. Unfortunately, as the industrial revolution grew, China’s extreme wealth came to halt because China wasn’t able to keep up with the revolution. However, the state of affairs continued through the 18th century where countries tried to get better trade with China and failed. For example, (letter of rejection) -wanted to open up trade, china said no.

For this reason, Britain found something that China would be interested in, Opium. Opium was grown and processed in India but became a profitable market for Western countries. Little did they know, this drug would cause an “Opium war”. In effect, opium imports created a massive addiction problem and led to instability in China. This threatened China’s economic trading success because the addictions created a great amount of outflow of silver to pay for the opium which reversed their ability to attract the world’s desire for silver supply.

China eventually moved Opium, confiscating Britain’s opium and chucking it into the sea resulting in Britain demanding compensation and access to more Chinese territory to open more ports to carry out their trade. Of course, China objected to these demands which led to Britain having to use force. By the 1830s, Britain unleashed a flood of opium supplies into China to teach them a lesson on the honor of free trade and the “proper” way to have good relations with those China is trading with. This resulted in the Treaty of Nanjing with Europe having access to five new ports that were opened up to foreign traders. In addition, foreigners were allowed to travel freely and buy land in China. This new power made a tremendous impact on China. China’s status of power was now given up to Europe. Europe got what they wanted out of China and Britain imported so much tea from china that trade rose by 30 billion dollars.

However, China wasn’t giving up just yet. The Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) formed against Britain. The rebellion’s goal to push out the foreigners. Rebels killed Christians, missionaries, and foreign merchants in an attempt to push out foreigners and protect the Ching dynasty. Still, the rebellion was stopped by being suppressed by an alliance of the western powers.

In any event, European imperialism constructed a new path and advocated many changes for China. They eventually realized that they couldn’t keep up with the other countries and had to modernize after all. Reformers called for an end of monarchy and in 1912, the monarchy was overthrown by peasants and warlords. As a result of those events, the communist party came to power in 1949. p.870 primary source

In contrast, Africa came to great effects of European imperialism as well. In the early 1800s, before Europeans came, North Africa had close ties to the Muslim world while East Africa had profitable trade including slave trade with the middle east and copper exchanged for goods such as cloth and firearms. Meanwhile, West Africa was home to Islamic reform and South Africa was a land of turmoil.

European imperialism started in Africa due to trade and the wish to spread Christianity, and fascination with African geography. European powers were then established and it called for free trade along the Congo and Niger rivers, but Britain couldn’t do anything unless they establish something there first. So they did.

As a result, Europe successfully triumphed in colonizing Africa through industrialization. Africa now had a global economy led by Europeans, fed by natural resources and cheap labor Africa. Mostly about controlling the means of production (Marxist), Europe wanted colonies to secure the sources of raw materials like iron, rubber, and copper that were used to fuel the industrial economies so that they wouldn’t be behind and Britain wouldn’t lose any money.

An important factor that sticks out the most with Africa than with India and China is that Africa was the hardest country to impose imperialism onto. Africans did not comply with European imperialism, but in fact, resisted. Another Europe didn’t fail to take over territory in Africa because they didn’t want to, but another factor was due to disease. Yellow fever and malaria killed Europeans in staggering numbers. But technology such as steamships made it possible for Europeans to travel inland and guns, specifically machine guns since Africans had mostly and spears and knives.

Aside from that, Europeans brought transportation, western medicine that improved African lives while missionaries spread Christianity and built schools for education. Later on, European colonizers in Africa disbanded and disappeared leaving Africa on its own with little guidance and or stability to develop on its own. Left with no economic standing, Africa remained at square one while the rest of the world becomes way more industrialized and developed. This lack of economic growth led to poverty amongst the people in Africa and the loss of their identities and cultures leading to a disunited country that is still present today.

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