Week 11: “New Imperialism”- European Imperialism in the World
Beginning in the later 19th century (roughly the 1880s), Europe began a massive increase in its imperial conquests across the world, especially in areas previously unseen or explored by Europeans, spreading European culture, ideas, economic and military power across the other parts of the world. While Empires had always existed within Europe, the extent and level of influence was greater than any empires that had been established in history. Known as “New Imperialism”, this shift in conquest centered especially on Africa. The conquest or “Scramble” for Africa, though much shorter lived than the Spanish Conquest of the New World, had a profound impact on the development (or lack thereof) in Africa which the continent continues to wrestle with to this day. Remember that “New Imperialism” was a shift toward greater imperialism from Europe as a whole that was fueled by the changes that were taking place within Europe. It influenced politics, writing, and even advertisement in Europe.
The concept of political and social dominance is one longstanding impact of Imperialism. In the short term, imperialism will fuel the competition between European powers that would eventually lead to those same imperial powers bringing their conflict to the European theatre. However, Western, Central, and Southern Africa were fundamentally changed by European conquest. The questions of resistance, exploitation, and the role of imperial powers on the weakening of Africa continue to be grappled with to this day. There is a legacy or resistance, collaboration, and genocide that will be at the forefront of our conversations this week. All of these factors continued to impact the indigenous people of the globe who experienced imperialism first hand. Conquest, in a manner of speaking, was just the beginning.
Keep in mind that imperialism was a two way street. While Africa, Asia, and parts of the Middle East were profoundly impacted by European conquest, Imperialism also had a key cultural connotation. A few of your readings and visuals (especially those related to Pear’s Soap) make a clear case for this. The conquest of other countries became part of the social consciousness. Colonial wars became mark of literature and art. The rise in literacy also led to greater sensationalism and catering to the masses about popular (and simplistic views) of the African people. Consider all of this as you examine the development of European society in light of these imperial ventures.
Below are the prompts for both the Discussion Posts and the Response Paper:
How did Europeans view the people they were conquering during this period of imperial expansion? Look at the examples for Africa and the Africans, but also remember that Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” was a response to the Philippines. Look at one element of these views, whether racial, economic, political, or cultural, and discuss your opinion with your fellow students.