The Advent of Imperialism

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The Advent of Imperialism

We live in a world today in which the consequences of

nineteenth-century Western imperialism are still being felt. By about

1914 Western civilization reached the high point of its long-standing

global expansion. This expansion in this period took many forms. There

was, first of all, economic expansion. Europeans invested large sums

of money abroad, building railroads and ports, mines and plantations,

factories and public utilities. Trade between nations grew greatly and

a world economy developed. Between 1750 and 1900 the gap in income

disparities between industrialized Europe and America and the rest of

the world grew at an astounding rate. Part of this was due, first, to

a rearrangement of land use that accompanies Western colonialism and

to Western success in preventing industrialization in areas Westerners

saw as markets for their manufactured goods. European economic

penetration was very often peaceful, but Europeans (and Americans)

were also quite willing to force isolationist nations such as China

and Japan to throw open their doors to Westerners. Second, millions of

Europeans migrated abroad. The pressure of poverty and overpopulation

in rural areas encouraged this migration, but once in the United

States and Australia, European settlers passed laws to prevent similar

mass migration from Asia.

A third aspect of Western expansion was that European states

established vast political empires, mainly in Africa but also in Asia.

This "new imperialism" occurred primarily between 1880 and 1900, when

European governments scrambled frantically for territory. White people

came, therefore, to rule millions ...

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... the wisdom of the East. Whether this is so or not, the violent

breaking down of the characteristic institutions of Asia to satisfy

some hasty lust of commerce, or some greed of power, is quite the most

fatally blind misreading of the true process of world-civilisation

that it is possible to conceive. For Europe to rule Asia by force for

purposes of gain, and to justify that rule by the pretence that she is

civilising Asia and raising her to a higher level of spiritual life,

will be adjudged by history, perhaps, to be the crowning wrong and

folly of Imperialism. What Asia has to give, her priceless stores of

wisdom garnered from her experience of ages, has refused to be taken;

the much or little, which we could give, we spoil by the brutal manner

of our giving. This is what Imperialism has done, and is doing, for


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