Dbq documents – Imperialism

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DBQ Documents – Imperialism


Document 1

Percentage of Territories Belonging to the European/US Colonial Powers, 1900


Percentage Controlled












Document 2

From: Chinese official Lin Zexu, Letter to Queen Victoria, 1839

We find that your country is distant from us about sixty or seventy thousand miles, that your foreign ships come hither striving the one with the other for our trade, and for the simple reason of their strong desire to reap a profit. Now, out of the wealth of our Inner Land, if we take a part to bestow upon foreigners from afar, it follows, that the immense wealth which the said foreigners amass, ought properly speaking to be portion of our own native Chinese people. By what principle of reason then, should these foreigners send in return a poisonous drug, which involves in destruction those very natives of China? Without meaning to say that the foreigners harbor such destructive intentions in their hearts, we yet positively assert that from their inordinate thirst after gain, they are perfectly careless about the injuries they inflict upon us! And such being the case, we should like to ask what has become of that conscience which heaven has implanted in the breasts of all men?

We have heard that in your own country opium is prohibited with the utmost strictness and severity:---this is a strong proof that you know full well how hurtful it is to mankind. Since then you do not permit it to injure your own country, you ought not to have the injurious drug transferred to another country, and above all others, how much less to the Inner Land! 


Document 3

From: Statement from the people of Canton, China, 1842

Behold that vile English nation! Its ruler is at one time a woman, then a man, and then perhaps a woman again; its people are at one time like vultures, and they are like wild beasts, with dispositions more fierce and furious than the tiger or wolf, and natures more greedy than anacondas or swine. These people having long steadily devoured all the western barbarians, and like demons of the night, they now suddenly exalt themselves here.

Verily, the English barbarians murder all of us that they can. They are dogs, whose desires can never be satisfied. Therefore we need not inquire whether the peace they have now may be real or pretended. Let us all rise, arm, unite, and go against them.

We do here bind ourselves to vengeance, and express these, our sincere intentions in order to exhibit our high principles and patriotism. The gods from on high now look down upon us; let us not lose our just and firm resolution.


Document 4

From: Dadabhai Naoroji, The Benefits of British Rule, 1871

The Benefits of British Rule for India - Politically:
Peace and order.  Freedom of speech and liberty of the press.  Higher political knowledge and aspirations.  Improvement of government in the native states.  Security of life and property.  Freedom from oppression causes by the caprice or greed of despotic rulers, and from devastation by war.  Equal justice between man and man. Services of highly educated administrators, who have achieved the above-mentioned results. Education, both male and female. Development of indigo, tea, coffee, silk. Railways. Telegraphs.

Good Intentions.

Our great misfortune is that you [the British] do not know our wants. When you will know our real wishes, I have not the least doubt that you would do justice. The genius and spirit of the British people is fair play and justice.


Document 5

From: Requests of the Fanti people of Ghana to the British authorities, 1872

  1. The Fanti Confederation must have the recognition, support, and hearty cooperation of Her Majesty’s Government and its friendly aid and advice. We do not pretend for one instant to be able to carry on a government in the interior without such recognition and assistance.

  1. That the courts of the Confederation be recognized as the courts of first instance in matters or disputes between its subjects…

  1. On considering the vast improvements to be made in the country, and the great extent of the Confederation… the want of good and substantial roads, the backwardness of education, and the immense efforts which will have to be made to spread civilization, and diffuse knowledge over the country inland, we find that the Confederation must have a revenue of some 20,000 British pounds.


Document 6

From: Memorandum from the chiefs of Brass, a city-state on the Niger Delta, to the British Royal Niger Company, 1895

The Niger Company are cleverer than we are. We humbly submit that we have a right, confirmed by our Treaty, to go and trade freely in the places we have traded for all these generations. We are ready to pay to do so, but let us pay a fair duty, and conform to fair regulations.


Document 7

From: Bal Gangahar Tilak, nationalist extremist, Address to the Indian National Congress, 1907

We are not armed and there is no necessity for arms either. We have a stronger weapon, a political weapon, in boycott. We have perceived one fact, that the whole of the administration, which is carried on by a handful of Englishmen, is carried on with our assistance. We are all in subordinate service. The whole government is carried on with our assistance and they try to keep us in ignorance of our power of cooperation between ourselves by which that which is in our own hands at present can be claimed by us and administered by us. The point is to have the entire control in our hands. I want to have the key of my house, and not merely one stranger turned out of it. Self-government is our goal; we want a control over our administrative machinery. We don’t want to become clerks and remain clerks. We shall not give them assistance to collect revenue and keep peace. We shall not assist them in fighting beyond the frontiers or outside India with Indian blood and money. We shall not assist them in carrying on the administration of justice. We shall have our own courts, and when the time comes we shall not pay taxes.


Document 8

From: Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian Home Rule, 1908

Many example can be given in which acts of majorities will be found to have been wrong and those of minorities to have been right. All reforms owe their origins to the initiation of minorities in opposition to majorities. … So long as the superstition that men should obey unjust laws exists, so long will their slavery exist.

Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience, I use soul-force [satyagraha]. For instance, the government of the day has passed a law which is applicable to me: I do not like it; if, by using violence, I force the government to repeal the law I am employing what may be termed body-force. If I do not obey the law and accept the penalty for its breach, I use soul-force. It involve sacrifice of self.


Document 9

From: English Cartoon, “Leopold, King of the Congo,” 1908


Document 10

From: Arab nationalists, “Announcement to the Arabs”, 1914

When will you realize the truth? When will you know that your country has been sold to foreigners? See how your natural resources have been alienated from you and have come into the possession of England, France, and Germany. Have you no right to these resources? You have become humiliated slaves in the hands of usurping tyrants; the foreigners unjustly dispossess you of the fruit of your labor and leaves you to suffer the pangs of hunger. How long will it be before you understand that you have become the plaything in the hand of him who has no religion but to kill the Arabs and forcibly to seize their possessions?


Document 11

From: German missionary school [Kaiser’s portrait] , German East Africa, 1912


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