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Chapter 2
The High Tide of Imperialism: Africa and
Asia in an Era of Western Dominance
The Spread of Colonial Rule
The Myth of European Superiority
Social Darwinism
Prior to Columbus, center of the world trade network was Persian
Gulf and central Asia
• Carried not just commercial goods but also ideas and inventions:
compass, printing, Arabic numerals, and gunpowder
European Age of Exploration in the sixteenth century
The Advent of Western Imperialism
Asia and Africa sources of raw materials and new markets
The Impact of the Industrial Revolution
• Imperialism – efforts of capitalist states in the West to seize
markets, cheap raw materials, and lucrative sources for
investment of capital in countries beyond Western civilization
• J.A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study, 1902
– Imperialism a direct consequence of modern industrial
– Industrialized states produced more goods than they could
absorb in the domestic market and had to export
• Balance of power politics
1885, colonialism and national survival related
• Tactics
Before 1800, establish a few footholds
After 1800, direct control to protect from rivals
Economic interests secondary to security concerns or national
By 1900, virtually all societies of Africa and Asia under full
colonial control or at virtual collapse
The Colonial System
Direct and Indirect Rule
 Indirect rule – cooperation with local political elites whose loyalty
earned by economic rewards or granting of authority and status in
the colony
 Direct rule – local elites removed and replaced by new officials
from the mother country
The Philosophy of Colonialism
• Social Darwinism and “survival of the fittest”
The White Man’s Burden
• Assist backward people
• Rudyard Kipling
• Christian missionaries
• Western democracy
Assimilation and Association
• French colonial theory vacillates
Assimilation – transform colonial societies in the Western image
Association – collaborating with local elites while leaving local
traditions alone
• British reject assimilation, generally treating subjects as
culturally and racially distinctive
Replicate own hierarchical system
India Under the British Raj
 Muslims from Central Asia
• Governed a land primarily Hindu
Europeans arrive in early 16th century
• Enclaves on the coast to carry on trade
Mughals in decline by 1800
• British begin consolidating control
East India Company
• Privately run company to administer British Asian territories
• “The Great Game”
• Arab traders
• Internal trade – merchant castes
India Under
British Rule,
The Nature of British Rule
 Attention given to education
• Train the children of elites for government bureaucracy
• Introduction of the British civil service exam
Outlaw sati
 Attempted to end brigandage (thuggee)
 Introduced railroads, the telegraph, and postal service
Agricultural reforms
 Zamindar system (local landlords collect taxes and turn them over
to the government)
• Took advantage of new authority and increased taxes
• Rural unrest results in legislation protecting farmers from eviction and
unreasonable rent increases
 Limited forms of industrialization
• First textile mill, 1856
• Lack of local capital and advantages to British imports
• British textiles put out of work many of those in the Indian textile
Indian psyche
 Few efforts to introduce democratic institutions and values
 British arrogance and contempt for native tradition created anger
• Resentment of the high caste
The Colonial Takeover in Southeast Asia
The Imposition of Colonial Rule
 End of Napoleonic Wars, Britain agreed with Dutch to abandon
East Indies in return for free hand in Malay peninsula
• Stamford Raffles founded Singapore, 1819
Britain started trade with Burma, within a few decades placed it
under the colonial administration of India
French worried about British presence and intervened into the
affairs of Vietnam and gained control
• Seizure of Cambodia and Laos
• Kings introduce Western learning and maintain relations with the
• Left alone as a buffer between the French and British possessions,
United States in Southeast Asia
 Eastern Samoa and Hawaiian Islands colonized
• Hawaii annexed in 1898
Spanish American War
• Acquired Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands
• Turned into an American colony to prevent it from falling into the
hands of the Japanese
• Jumping off point for Chinese trade
• Emiliano Aguinaldo leads guerrilla forces against U.S. troops in a
demand for independence
Colonial Southeast Asia, c. 1850
Colonial Regimes in Southeast Asia
Economic profit was the immediate and primary aim
Colonial administration
 Indirect rule by the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies
• Dutch East India Company (VOC)
• Priyayi, the local landed aristocracy, maintained law and order
• Abandoned indirect rule for direct rule with plantation agriculture and
oil in Sumatra
Britain used direct rule in commercial centers of Singapore,
Malacca, and island of Penang
In Burma, Britain abolished the monarchy and established direct
rule through India
French in Indochina used direct and indirect rule
All powers slow to implement democratic institutions
• First legislative councils and assemblies composed almost exclusively
of European residents in the colonies
Rural Policies
 Vast majority of colonial people continued to farm the land
 Colonial policy emphasized cash crops for export
 Plantation agriculture
• Peasants recruited, become wage laborers
• Shanghaied laborers
• High taxes to pay administrative costs or improvements were heavy
burdens to poor peasants
Growth of population
• Sanitation
• Medical treatment
Benefits of colonial rule
• Economic infrastructure
• Entrepreneurial class created
Profits repatriated to mother country
Displaced peasants move to cities with seasonal employment
Empire Building in Africa
Portuguese down the west African coast and to the Indian Ocean
 Slave trade
 Little European penetration into the interior
Africa before the Europeans
 Obstacle of the Sahara Desert
 Prosperous trading societies
• Caravan trade across the Sahara
• Religion and culture of Islam
Eastern coast trade
• Port cities
• Arab traders
• Swahili culture -- combination of elements of Arab and indigenous
Africa in
The Growing European Presence in West
Slave trade in decline by the beginning of the 19th century
 Dutch end in 1795 and Danes in 1803
 Great Britain and the United States end the international slave trade
• Britain applies pressure from other states to end slave trade
By 1880s slavery abolished in all major countries of the world
After the end of the slave trade, the Europeans became interested in West
African products of peanuts, timber, hides, and palm oil
Britain and France begin establishing settlements on west coast
 Gold Coast (Ghana) and Sierra Leone (plantations for freed slaves)
 United States establishes Liberia for freed slaves
 French occupied area around Senegal River near Cape Verde
Imperialist Shadow over the Nile
Desire to shorten the route around the Cape of Good Hope
Construction of the Suez Canal, 1854-1869
 Construction led by Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1854
 Muhammad Ali attempted to bring reforms on the British model
 Dependence on foreign financial support
 When an army revolt occurred in 1881 protesting foreign
influence, Britain set up an informal protectorate
 French seized Algeria in 1830
 French established a protectorate on neighboring Tunisia in 1881
The Scramble for Africa
At the beginning of the 1880s most of Africa still independent
By 1900, the British had consolidated authority over the Nile valley and
seized additional territories in East Africa
 French retaliated by advancing east from Senegal into the central
Sahara; also occupied Madagascar and coastal territories in West and
Central Africa
The Motives
 “Missionary factor”
 Three Cs – Christianity, Commerce, Civilization
 Technology and firearms to defeat Africans
The Berlin Conference
 Conference in 1884 to avert war and reduce tensions among European
nations competing for Africa
 France and Britain – Fashoda, 1898
Bantus, Boers and British in South Africa
South Africa
 Dutch settlers from the Cape Colony began to migrate east to lands
inhabited by local Khoisan and Bantu
• Internecine warfare among Bantus depopulated the region
Zulus under Shaka
Great Trek northeastward, forming Orange Free State and Transvaal
• Boer migration provoked by British seizure of the Cape
• British government more sympathetic to the rights of the African
population than were the Boers
Boer War, 1899-1902
 War between Britain and Transvaal that was backed by Orange Free
 Gold and diamonds in Transvaal
 Only whites could vote in the self-governing colony
The Struggle
for Southern
Colonialism in Africa
Indirect Rule
 Nigeria
• Local authority assigned to native chiefs with British district officers
served as intermediaries with the central administration
• Does not severely disrupt local customs and institutions
• All major decisions made by British administrators while native
authorities served as the means of enforcement
• Perpetuated the autocratic system
 Large European population -- fertile farmlands reserved for
European settlement
 Reserve lands set aside for Africans
 Europeans sought self-government
• Britain unwilling, agreed only to establish separate government for
European and African populations
South Africa
 High percentage of European settlers
• Divided between British and Afrikaners
Independent Union of South Africa created, 1910
• Combined Cape Colony and Natal with the two Boer republics
• Representative government only for European population
• African reserves were subordinated directly to the crown --
Basutoland (Lesotho), Bechuanaland (Botswana), and Swaziland
Lands north of the Zambezi River divided into territories of Northern
and Southern Rhodesia under British control
 Southern Rhodesia became a crown colony
Direct Rule
 French system of centralized administration
• Appointed governor-general aided by a bureaucracy
• At provincial level commissioners assigned to deal with local administrators
-- had to speak French
Assimilate Africans into French culture rather than preserve native
 Africans could run for office and serve in the French National Assembly
European colonial policy after World War I
 Colonial administration extended into outlying areas where represented
by a district official and defended by native army under European
 Improve social services, “sacred trust”
 More Africans in colonial administration
Women in Colonial Africa
 Sexual relationships changed
• End to forced marriages, body mutilation, and polygamy
• Western education for women
Unfavorable consequences
 Matrilineal system suffered
 Women restricted to traditional farming methods
 British tradition of female subordination
Discussion Questions
Define and discuss with examples the myth of European superiority.
Using examples, compare and contrast Western colonialism in
Southeast Asia and in Africa during the nineteenth century.
Identify and examine the positive and negative consequences of British
rule in India.
Compare and contrast “indirect rule” with “direct rule, and examine
which individuals or groups among the native populations might
benefit the most and which might benefit the least from the two
imperial approaches.