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Imperialism is the act of a larger more powerful country taking over a smaller weaker country. Imperialism was very evident in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Africa, an up and coming country was a gargantuan country and just waiting to be taken over. At one point in time the entire continent was taken over by imperialist nations. The novel "Things Fall Apart" written by Chinua Achebe tells about the trials and tribulations of African people and their country during imperialist times. There are a number of primary sources that I have read that talk about imperialism throughout Africa. This essay will be a comparison between the primary sources I have read and the novel by Achebe.
"Records of the Maji Maji Uprising" is the first primary source dealing with imperialism. It happened in 1905 in Tanganyika, Africa. This was one of the first battle with early colonial reign in Africa. The Africans were told if they applied Maji (holy water) that they would be invincible to bullets (1).
1. G.C.K. Gwassa, John Iffle, Records of the Maji Maji Uprising, Sources of Twentieth-century Global History (Copyright 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 14-17
This made Africans upset because of the fact that they would have to pay
taxes to the country that was imperializing them. Germany was the
country that took them over, and now they were placing taxes on the
country that was not even theirs. This relates to "Things Fall Apart"
because all the different villages had their own set of traditions and values
and as the villages all became imperialized by Great Britain everything was
new, and they had to adjust their normal lifestyles to fit that of Great
Britain. In result of imperialism, many villages and tribes fell apart,
including families started to break away as well. Imperialism as a whole
brought down Africa, and as a result was extremely detrimental to the way
of life in Africa.
Much like the United States in the 1950's and 60's, Africa had its fair
share of discrimination. An example from "Things Fall Apart" would be
when the white man was spotted riding a "iron horse". Later we find out
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that the horse was only a bicycle. This man was extremely threatening
towards the African people. They feared that one when one white man
comes through, there would be many more to follow. The villagers soon
track down this white man and they murder him. The Africans were correct
in assuming that there would be more white men to come. The other white
men found out what happened to their friend and became irate. They
destroyed the village, leaving absolutely nothing. This compares to one of
the primary sources I read by Martin Luther King Jr. "Letter From
Birmingham Jail" was the title. He wrote the essay as he sat in his jail cell
for leading a civil rights demonstration. He stated that he wanted racial
justice for everyone living in the United States (2). Still to this day racism
is still in effect, just not to the extreme that it was in the past.
Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem, "The White Man's Burden". This
poem is about Kipling's idea that imperialism should be used more
throughout the world. He wrote the poem after the United States took over
in the Philippines soon after the Spanish-American war. He says that he
does not agree on taking over the entire country, but to at least imperialize
the land. He feels that the white man is superior and should to some
extent control all (3). In "Things Fall Apart" Achebe feels that non whites
should be seen as equals.. They should be able to control their own
country and not have to be bothered by imperialist nations.
In the source "Lord Lugard Justifies Imperialism and Indirect Rule in
Africa" stated by Lord Lugard, the Nigerian governor feels the same way
as Kipling feels. He was very much for colonial expansion (4). Kipling and
2. Dr Martin Luther King, Letter From Birmingham Jail, Sources of Twentieth Century Global History.( Copyright 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 293-296
3. Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden, Traditions and Encounters, (Copyright
2006,2003,2000.All Rights Reserved) Pg.914
4. Frederick D. Lugard. Lord Lugard Justifies Imperialism and Indirect Rule in Africa, Traditions and Encounters, (Copyright 2006,2003,2000. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 924
Lugard are both on the same wave length with imperialism but Achebe
however is completely against it.
African American movements have gotten much better from years
past. However, because of years past their will always be a stereotype
when it comes to comparing Africans to Caucasians. The African race will
always be second. During the 1900's there were many attempts to have
equality and some have worked. However, all of the civil rights
movements happened in the United States and the United States alone.
What about the rest of the world? Even society today realizes that this is
the white man's world. It is sad but true.
Woman and their families were greatly effected by imperialistic
countries as well. In "Social Conditions Among Bantu Women and Girls"
primary source by Charlotte Maxeke explains how women were in charge
of planting, yard work, food preparation, and child care. When imperialism
hit cash-cropping agriculture came into effect (5). Because of this life for
women and children became worse. This lead to as I stated before the
breaking of families. Women were being worked hard and so were the
men, they seemed to never be around each other anymore. "Things Fall
Apart" has many similarities too. Becoming imperialized became very
5. Charlotte Maxebe, Social Conditions Among Bantu Women and Girls, Sources of Twentieth Century Global History. (Copyright 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 181-184
hectic and frustrating for Okonkwo and his fellow tribe members. Okonkwo
was considered a leader in his tribe, he was a feared man as well.
Everyone came to him for help. Okonkwo was not perfect though. He
made a terrible mistake one day and accidentally shot a Klansman. In
result of the shooting Okonkwo and his family were put into exile, and the
villagers completely destroyed everything in his possession. This included
his house, animals, and various buildings that he owned. In result of
loosing all his possessions it tore apart his very large family that included
many sons, all ranging from three different wives.
In conclusion, this paper I have talked about what imperialism is
and how it effected Africa and the rest of the world as well. Through
reading various primary sources related to imperialism and also reading
the novel "Things Fall Apart", it is evident that there are many similarities
between the two. Imperialism in result changed the world, and on top of
that changed many people's lives for better and for most the worse.