Europe and its Imperial Past

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In 1877, a young man wrote an impassioned treatise to his colleagues at Oxford.“I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race,” wrote Cecil Rhodes, only 24 years old at the time. “Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings” he mused, “what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence.” Like many other Britons of his day, Rhodes was a staunch imperialist. The document cited, his famous “Confession of Faith,” was an unbridled expression of his belief in British racial superiority. In this essay we'll examine the practice of imperialism throughout modern history. Specifically, the philosophies and doctrines that provided justification of its offenses. We'll allow the life of Cecil Rhodes to serve as an entry point for this topic. This is ideal, first because Rhode's ideas and doctrines provide an illustration of imperial doctrine as a whole. Secondly, because Rhode's life is a microcosm of historic imperialism, as we shall see. Rhodes' was not alone in this views on the superiority of the British race. Indeed, with the establishment of Darwin's theory of evolution, countless intellectuals had scrambled to establish evolutionary biology as the basis for European racial supremacy. Over the years, Rhodes' charismatic dogma would draw him to the center of the imperialist movement. It was a fitting place for him, as in many ways Rhodes life was demonstration of imperialism at large. On the one hand, Rhodes represented a class of wealthy European business men who had grown obscenely rich through their shameless plunder of the colonized world. Throughout... ... middle of paper ... ...ives were theoretical equals. The source of their inequality being their lack of education, finances, or as it was termed at the time, their “barbarism.” There was an element of this in every imperial regime. Algerians were able to buy and sell land like Europeans under French rule. In India this was also the case. In cases where there was formal inequality, there was generally a paternal ideology providing support for it. For example, the “civilizing” missions in the Congo. Even as African workers were forced into labor under harsh conditions, the Belgian elite ruling them maintained that forced labor was “the only means of giving them the incentive to work.” Thus, the slavery imposed on the native population was merely a “humanitarian” effort meant to help the African laborers ”throw off their natural indolence and improve their condition.” Economically,

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