The Effects of Industrial Strength and Western Imperialism around the World
Although the Industrial Revolution contributed vastly in the transformation of European society during the nineteenth century, imperialism took the largest share in that transformation. When European industrialized nations realized that the domestic markets’ demand was too small for their products, they opted to expand their markets globally, where they took firm control of the unexplored regions of the world. Through Social Darwinism, European nations believed that it was natural for them to control the “inferior” people for the benefit of improving humanity. Western imperialism transformed European society and its colonies by carving up the whole world through trade, religious beliefs, politics, as well as oppressing indigenous people through wiping out entire civilizations and culture.
Industrial Revolution came before imperialism, where a new chapter was opened in the world’s history. Industrial Revolution touched almost every feature of human life, as people began to see a change in their standards of living. The world’s population began to grow exponentially as societies discovered extraordinary means of sustaining growth. The world began to feel the effects of social change as new schools of philosophy emerged to express the changes. People began to work outside their local environments, as new machinery industries created demand for labor. Industrial strength among European nations accelerated change in political and economic thoughts, as powerful countries took control of resources to expand industries. However, industrial strength of European nations led to deplorable working conditions and enhanced loss of status for women.
Imperialism is a structure where some powerful nations control and exploit less powerful nations through coercion, political pressure, or military conquest. Once a powerful nation claims a given territory, it turns it into a colony and administers it through local collaboration or governs it directly from its own geographical location. A military presence is necessary to maintain order, restrain uprisings, and discourage rivalry from other imperial nations. Discrepancies between European powers promoted renewed Western imperialism, which occurred between 1870 and 1914, resulting in colonialism (Lockard 468). The new colonies enabled the imperialist nations to accumulate profits from business interests, in addition to strengthening the capacity to compete with the rival nations.
Several scholars offered mixed reactions concerning the impacts of Western imperialism, particularly in Africa and Asia. There are those who argued that imperialism contributed positively in education and communication networks, promotion of trade and commerce, and overall wellbeing of native people. Other scholars, such as Conard and Holison criticized the Western imperialists for promoting poverty, misery, racial discrimination, religious conversions, and selfish interests (Mentan 170). The expansion of imperialists’ policies was meant to enhance political goals that linked empire building with greatness while religious beliefs were meant to win the hearts of weak native societies.
Proponents of imperialism embraced the ideology of Social Darwinism that expressed the conception of natural world. According to Darwin’s assumption, Social Darwinism involves exploitation of the inferior classes in society by the industrialized groups (Lockard 469). European imperialism was justified on the notion that white people are always superior to other people, and have the moral duty to assist ignorant native people to climb to the highest level of civilization. Social Darwinism stereotyped Asians, as well as Africans, as the most “backward” societies, who allowed Westerners to treat them discriminatively. The first demonstrations of Social Darwinism occurred in England and America while the second illustration was witnessed in the continental Europe. Imperialists claimed that were it not for colonialism in non-Western societies, such societies would still be in the dark on matters of good governance and trade.
Industrialization bred the nineteenth century’s imperialism by increasing production, consumption, and knowledge. Industrialization enabled European countries to own better weapons to enforce their willpower against Africans and Asians, in addition to the discovery of medicines to treat ailments such as malaria, which affected many Europeans in tropical Africa (Lockard 469). Leading European nations required exploited colonies as naval bases where they would harbor in times of war and expand the supply of coal.
Although Western imperialism contributed in the introduction of organized system of administration, such administration only served to promote its interests in the colonized regions. Western imperialism brought western ideas such as nationalism, constitutionalism, and democracy in various parts of Asia and Africa (Mentan 171). Subsequently, ethnic conflicts that emerged in the twentieth century resulted from imperial policies that were intolerable to most ethnic groups. There was also rivalry between the most powerful European countries, which led to conditions that triggered the start of World War I. The emergence of a unified Germany did not please Franc, as it had disturbed the balance of power, which was discussed at Vienna in 1815 (Spielvogel 755). The rivalry was enhanced when the Ottoman power began to decline, where Russia and Austria had the desire to take over the Balkans.
With industrialization largely restricted to Europe and the US, the Western nations were bound to expand both socially and economically. Political decisions made in London had an impact on people living as far as Malaya, Madagascar, China, Persia, and America (Lockard 469). Western imperialists marketed their products globally and took charge of factories, mines, oil fields, and railroads. Such expansion had its own share of problems. People began to overcrowd cities as problems of housing emerged. Children were exploited through child labor while social classes emerged to create division among the rich and the poor in society.
Imperialism lead to numerous political problems as the European nations destroyed many traditional political units. The natives were not represented adequately in civil services and were often exempted from taking higher positions in the government. The foreign administration that imperialists introduced to their colonies obliterated the traditional culture by setting up legal and property associations based on the market economy, as well as the administrative institutions to impose new laws. Monopoly capitalism made it hard for the colonized countries to learn from their imperial masters. To avoid potential competition, the local communities, imperialists invested little on development and concentrated much on exploitation of natural resources that offered raw materials to their industries.
Industrial strength and Western imperialism brought mixed reactions to human race all over the world as colonies embraced new technology, new administrative methods, western culture, politics, and other economic activities. Western imperialism contributed in Social Darwinism or “white man’s burden” to exert pressure in inferior countries. Although imperialism contributed vastly in the civilization of societies, it brought adverse effects such as racial discrimination, ethnic conflicts, and overcrowding in cities. Western imperialism ensured that industrialized world does not lack raw materials for manufacturing products to satisfy the growing population. Under Western imperialism, native culture was wiped out and western culture was introduced in the colonies. The rivalry between imperialists triggered incidences that led to WWI in 1914.
Lockard, Craig A. Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
Mentan, Tatah. Decolonizing Democracy from Western Cognitive Imperialism. Mankon, Bamenda, Cameroon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG, 2015. Print.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: Volume C, Since 1789. Australia: Wadsworth, 2014. Print.