A central theme of this article is the concept of imperialism as something that can take many different forms. In order to demonstrate this idea, the authors make a point to view imperialism in a way that is much more inclusive to alternative methods of imperialism than their predecessors, taking into account factors such as economic and social influence that other scholars so often overlook when speaking of imperialism. Throughout the article, Gallagher and Robinson criticize the characterization of the mid-Victorian period as an “anti-imperialist” period and the late-Victorian period as one of imperialism. This classic analysis of these two periods has a number of shortcomings which Robinson and Gallagher seek to rectify. Firstly, the definition of imperialism as being characterized solely by annexation overlooks the large amounts of control that European nations exerted over states through means that fall short of actual annexation. In reference to this point, Robins...
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...spectrum is useful in that it helps reveal which specific circumstances in an imperial subject necessitate which specific imperial policies.
Robinson and Gallagher’s article The Imperialism of Free Trade not only provides an explanation of the effect of free trade on the imperialist powers and subjects alike, but it also provides a significantly more complete description of different factors of imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries such as the continuity in the motivation for imperialism which European powers possessed and also the description of imperialism and empire as existing on a scale between formality and informality. This method of understanding imperialism that contrasts with the traditional ideas provides a much more complete understanding of not only European imperialists in the 19th and 20th centuries, but of the concept of imperialism as a whole.
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