Colonialism and Imperialism - The White Man's Burden

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Imperialism: The White Man's Burden

In one of his most famous poems, Rudyard Kipling said, "Take up the white man's burden!" (146). He was only one of many who believed in the virtues of imperialism in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. During that period, imperialism was on the rise, and Africa was being swallowed up by competing European nations. The imperialists had many arguments supporting imperialism. They said it was beneficial and, in some cases, essential. Their arguments did not satisfy everyone, but that did not bother them. The justifications ranged from economics to social services, while touching on everything else in between (Hayes 222-3).

Kipling was one of the most talked about authors of his time. Born in India and the son of a military man, he learned the ways of British imperialism (Orel 333). He enjoyed the company of British soldiers and spent a lot of time talking with them (Hayes 228). Being friends with the soldiers, he probably sympathized with them when he heard their stories of the uncivilized people of Africa (Rhodes 178). This known, it is easier to understand why he viewed imperialism as the duty of the Europeans. Kipling argued that it was the European's responsibility to civilize the downcast natives of Africa. He also pointed out how they could stop the spread of disease and bring food to those who would have starved. Kipling spoke of the fact that there had been many wars in Africa and that he believed the white people could finally bring them to an end (Kipling 146-7).

Many Europeans agreed with Kipling on these points; however, they did not limit their reasons for imperialism to only these. One of the major driving forces of imperial...

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Orel, Harold. "Kipling, Rudyard." World Book Encyclopedia. 1991 ed.

Pearson, Karl. "Social Darwinism: Imperialism Justified by Nature." Sources of the Western Tradition. Ed. Marvin Perry, Joseph R. Peden, and Theodore H. Von Laue. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987. 182-3.

Rhodes, Cecil. "Confessions of Faith." Sources of the Western Tradition. Ed. Marvin Perry, Joseph R. Peden, and Theodore H. Von Laue. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987. 178-9.

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