Age of Imperialism
Created by superbrain103 on Feb 2, 2010
Last updated: 02/04/10 at 10:50 AM
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The mass colonialization of Africa brought about both positive and negative effects. On one hand, Africans were forced to give up their lands and their cultures to the invading Europeans. This split up formerly stable nations and resulted in identity problems for many Africans. Many died from European diseases such smallpox and from resisting the European captors. The most harmful effect of imperialism in Africa was the erroneuous gerymandering of the African continent. Rivaling nations would be joined together as a colony while friendly nations would be split apart as colonies of different European empires. These faulty borders still cause problems in Africa today. On the other hand, local warfare was reduced in Africa. Through the efforts of the humamitarians, sanitation was improved and schools and hospitals were constructed. Lifespans and literacy were at an all-time high, as was the economy of many African nations. Contributors to the economic expansion of the colonies were the modernization policies that European nation invoked in Africa. These included railroads, dams, and telephone and telegraph lines. However, these improvements benefited mostly only European businessmen and officials. Although horrendous acts occured in the African continent, we can find small pockets of improvement due to the imperialism of Europe.
The Boers were Dutch farmers who colonized South Africa as a way station for Dutch ships sailing to and from the Dutch East Indies. Conflict inevitably began when the British claimed the Cape Colony. In the 1830s, the British forced to Boers to move north through Africa. This event later became known as the Great Trek, and can be compared to the Trail of Tears in North America. When diamonds and gold were discovered in Africa, a proverbial army of "outsiders" rushed into the territory. The Boers tried to prevent these newcomers from gaining political rights in Africa. As a result, the newcomers started a rebellion against the Dutch farmers. Although the rebellion failed, the Boers blamed the British for the uprising and subsequently went to war with them. The Boer War was significant because it was the first war to incorporate modern warfare tactics. The Boers, aware of the fact that they were greatly outnumbered, resorted to commando raids and guerrilla tactics. As retaliation, the British captured Boer families and allies into concentration camps, where mass disease claimed the lives of thousands. In the end, the British won the war. In 1903, the Boer republics were annexed into the Union of British South Africa. The British were a clever empire which embraced imperialism and colonialism at all costs. The Boer War was an example of both their resoucefulness and their ruthlessness.
Having once been a colony under a tyrannical grip, the United States was indecisive in its policy of imperialism. However, two groups convinced the American government to establish colonies. One wished to fulfill America's destiny as a world power, the other embraced the openings of new markets and trading opportunities. The United States soon gained colonies from Spain due to its victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The colonies gained were the Phillipine Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Filipino nationalists were enraged when the United States, which had promised them immediate independence after the war, retained their colonies. What followed was a series of skirmishes between the United States and Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo, one that the nationalists would lose in 1902. Afterwards, the United States promised to prepare the Phillipine Islands for self-rule. This preparation included the building of roads, railroads, hospitals, and school systems. However, some United States businessmen seeked profit from the colonies. They encouraged Fillipinos to grow cash crops in leau of agricultural necessities. This resulted in famine throughout the islands. The Phillipino Islands was an example of America's policy of dishonesty with its colonies.
Ethiopia was the only African nation to successfully fend off the Europeans, largely due to its clever king. Menelik II played the Italians, French, and British against each other for trading rights with Ethiopia, all the while stockpiling modern weapons for his troops. In 1889, Menelik signed a treaty with Italy believing that he was giving up a tiny portion of his country. However, he discovered a difference between the treaty written in Ethiopian and the treaty written in Italian. In the Italian treaty, he was actually giving the entirety of Ethiopia as a protectorate of Italy. Italian forces were soon discovered marching on northern Ethiopia. Menelik II declared war on the Italians. In 1896, Menelik used his modern weapons to defeat Italian forces and keep his nation independent. He continued to import these weapons in case any other foreign power wished to invade Ethiopia. Menelik's strategy proved that the only way to successfully resist the Europeans was by playing their game of diplomacy and superior technology. His modernization of Ethiopa ultimately saved the country.
In a time when Americans were pushing for the annexation of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani took the throne. She called for a new constitution which would transfer power from the American planters in Hawaii to the Hawaiian natives. However, Liliuokalani was overthrown before the changes could take place. In 1894, Sanford B. Dole, an American plantation owner in Hawaii, was named president of the Republic of Hawaii. President Cleveland of the United States refused his petition to annex Hawaii, but it was annexed in 1898 nonetheless.
The Berlin Conference was a meeting of the European imperialist powers. Its goal was to peacefully carve up Africa so that each nation could have its stake. Although it essentially determined Africa's fate, no African leaders were invited to the Conference.
The grandson of Muhammad Ali, the reformer of Egypt, continued his grandfather's legacy by supporting the construction of the Suez Canal. This canal would link the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea for trade purposes. Ironically, the building of the canal cost so much that it left Egypt in so much debt that it agreed to let the British oversee the financial control of the project. In 1882, the British had control of Egypt.
After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the British East India Company gained decisive control over India. It was considered to be Britain's "jewel in the crown"; not only did it contain a plethora of resources, India also acted as a major market for British products. The British set up restrictions that ensured the dependency of the Indian economy on the British. By 1850, Indians had taken enough of the racism directed towards them by the British, the lack of power their people had in their own country, and the Christian missionaries trying to convert them. The tension between the Indians and their British captors erupted into a full rebellion when sepoys, or Indian soldiers, were informed that their new Enfield rifles had cartridges covered with the meat of cow and pig. To put the cartridges in their rifles, both ends were required to be ripped off. This was a problem as the Muslim Indians could not eat pork, and the Hindu Indians could not eat beef. When the sepoys refused to use their guns, 85 were jailed. On May 10, 1857, sepoys joined with the Indian soldiers stationed in Delhi and captured the city. The rebellion quickly spread to northern and central India. With the help of the British government, the British East India Company eventually regained control of their "jewel in the crown". However, from then on, the method of rule in India shifted from indirect to a very involved direct rule. In fact, Queen Victoria even named herself Empress of India. The increasing resistance created a desperate reaction from the British; they thought that by completely controlling India, the problem would be solved. However, more and more problems would continue to rise in India due to nationalism and reform leaders.
By the mid-19th century, Europeans had set up a trading system with the Africans. However, until then, immense African armies kept them out of the African interior. In fact, European only controlled a tenth of mainly coastal African land by the 1880s. Other factors keeping the Europeans out of Africa were the complicated system of African rivers, rapids, cataracts, and unpredictable flows. Diseases such as a malaria wreaked havoc on European explorers. Also, Africans controlled their own trade networks and provided the items that were utilized in them. Problems such as navigation and disease would later be fixed by the invention of the steamboat and the perfection of the drug quinine. One person fortunate enough to trek through the interior of Africa before this was the Scottish missionary David Livingstone. When he went missing in the late 1860s, the American news reporter Henry Stanley was sent on a mission to find him. After Stanley found Livingstone, he decided to explore more of Africa. King Leopold II of Belgium, interested in Stanley's findings, commissioned him to convince the local chiefs of the Congo to sign treaties with him. These treaties gave Leopold control of the Congo River Valley. However, the Belgian Congo, as it was later named, was taken away from Leopold by the Belgian government; it became clear that he was brutally abusing the colony for rubber tree plant sap. Leopold's actions startled the rest of Europe into claiming parts of Africa and its resources.