Colonialism vs imperialism



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Colonialism vs imperialism

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Territories that were once part of the British Empire

The term 'imperialism' should not be confused with ‘colonialism’ as it often is. Robert Young writes that imperialism operates from the center, it is a state policy, and is developed for ideological as well as financial reasons whereas colonialism is nothing more than development for settlement or commercial intentions.

Age of Imperialism

The Age of Imperialism was a time period beginning around 1870 when modern, relatively developed nations were taking over less developed areas, colonizing them, or influencing them in order to expand their own power. Although imperialist practices have existed for thousands of years, the term "Age of Imperialism" generally refers to the activities of nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States in the early 18th through the middle 20th centuries, e.g., the "The Great Game" in Persian lands, the "Scramble for Africa" and the "Open Door Policy" in China]

The ideas of imperialism put forward by historians John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson during the 19th century. European imperialism were influential, and they rejected the notion that "imperialism" required formal, legal control by one government over another country. "In their view, historians have been mesmerized by formal empire and maps of the world with regions colored red. The 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.

Europe’s expansion into territorial imperialism had much to do with the great economic benefit from collecting resources from colonies, in combination with assuming political control often by military means. Most notably, the “British exploited the political weakness of the Mughal state, and, while military activity was important at various times, the economic and administrative incorporation of local elites was also of crucial significance”. Although a substantial number of colonies had been designed or subject to provide economic profit (mostly through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), Fieldhouse suggests that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in places such as Africa and Asia, this idea is not necessarily valid.

Modern empires were not artificially constructed economic machines. The second expansion of Europe was a complex historical process in which political, social and emotional forces in Europe and on the periphery were more influential than calculated imperialism. Individual colonies might serve an economic purpose; collectively no empire had any definable function, economic or otherwise. Empires represented only a particular phase in the ever-changing relationship of Europe with the rest of the world: analogies with industrial systems or investment in real estate were simply misleading.

During this time period, European merchants had the ability to “roam the high seas and appropriate surpluses from around the world (sometimes peaceably, sometimes violently) and to concentrate them in Europe.”

European expansion accelerated greatly in the 19th century. In order to obtain raw materials, Europe began importing them from other countries. Europeans sought raw materials such as dyes, cotton, vegetable oils, and metal ores from overseas. Europe was being transformed into the manufacturing center of the world.

Communication became much more advanced during the European expansion. The invention of railroads and telegraphs made it easier to communicate with other countries. Railroads assisted in transporting goods and in supplying large armies.



Along with advancements in communication, Europe also continued to develop its military technology. European chemists made deadly explosives that could be used in combat, and with the advancement of machinery they were able to create lighter, cheaper guns. The guns were also much faster and more accurate. By the late 19th century (1880s) the machine gun had become an effective battlefield weapon. This technology gave European armies an advantage over their opponents, as armies in less developed countries were still fighting with arrows, swords, and leather shields.


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