[World History] Imperialism and Colonialism: Meaning, Factors responsible

History122 Comments

  1. Prologue
  2. What is imperialism?
  3. What is colonialism?
  4. What is Neocolonialism?
  5. What is New Imperialism?
  6. Conditions/factors that helped the rise of Imperialism
    1. Industrial Revolution and Capitalism
    2. Marxists: Capitalism = Imperialism
    3. Protectionism
    4. Mercantilism
    5. Supply of raw material
    6. Investment
    7. Infrastructure investment
    8. Why Political domination necessary?
    9. Slave trade
    10. Transport and communication
    11. Rise of extreme nationalism
    12. Mind diversion
    13. Fear and security
    14. Civilizing mission
    15. Christian Missionaries
    16. Adventurers and explorers
    17. Favorable conditions in Asia and Africa
  7. Mock Questions

Prologue

New Syllabus: General studies Mains Paper I contains following topics on World History

History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.

You already have Younger/New NCERTs, if not click on following:

  1. India and the Contemporary World I (Class 9)
  2. India and the Contemporary World II (Class 10)
  3. Themes in World History (class 11)

But in terms of depth / coverage /analysis of World History, the older NCERTs were better. Although for someone living in a small town / remote area, it’s impossible to find them. So, I’m uploading the summaries one by one for the benefit of such aspirants.

We start with Class 10 (Old NCERT), “Story of civilization volume II”, Chapter 9, “Imperialism and Colonialism.”

That chapter revolves around subtopics:

  1. Meaning of Imperialism
  2. Conditions that helped growth of Imperialism
  3. Conquest of Asia, Africa, Americas and the Pacific.
  4. Effects of Imperialism.

This first article deals with first two topics (Meaning and conditions). Future articles will cover the rest. Keep in mind,

  1. This is mere base / foundation / starting point to supplement your readings from IGNOU BA, MA etc.
  2. These are “summaries” (and not verbatim paragraphs). I’ve taken liberty to include external sources to elaborate the explanations.

What is imperialism?

  • The term imperialism means the practice of extending the power, control or rule by a country over the political and economic life of the areas outside its own borders.
  • Imperialism refers to the process of capitalist development, which leads the capitalist countries to conquer and dominate pre-capitalist countries of the world.
  • The imperialist country or Metropolis (literal meaning mother country), subordinates another country/ colony for its own economic and political interests.
  • This may be done through military or other means and particularly through colonialism.

What is colonialism?

  • Colonialism means the practice of acquiring colonies by conquest (or other means) and making them dependent.
  • The country which is subjugated by a metropolitan capitalist country is described as a colony, and what happens in a colony is colonialism.
  • In other words, Colonialism =the total system of imperialist domination of a pre-capitalist country.
  • Occupation / direct rule over a country by another country=not always an essential feature of imperialism
  • The essential feature= exploitation, with or without direct political control.
  • Until recent years, most countries of Asia Africa and other parts of the world, where under the control of one or another imperialist country.

Imperialism

Colonialism

Imperialism refers, more broadly, to control or influence that is exercised either formally or informally, directly or indirectly, politically or economicallyColonialism usually implies formal political control, involving territorial annexation and loss of sovereignty.
Imperialism is a specifically European phenomenoncolonialism is the system prevalent in the colonies.
When we study imperialism we examine the impact of empire on the metropolis (home country)Here we study impact of empire on the colony.

What is Neocolonialism?

  • In the present day world, almost all countries are politically independent, however the imperialist control has not come to an end.
  • Neocolonialism is the practice of (mainly economic) exploitation and domination of independent but economically backward countries, by the powerful countries.

What is New Imperialism?

During the initial period of Industrial Revolution, the pursuit of colonies had slowed down. Why?

  • because Between 1775 and 1875, Europeans lost more territory than they acquired in North America and Latin America, because of successful revolution.
  • Spanish colonial rule from Mexico to Argentina was overturned.
  • There was a widespread feeling in Europe that colonies were more trouble than they were worth and the sooner or later colonies would revolt and fight for independence.
  • Benjamin Disraeli said “These wretched colonies will all be independent in a few years and are millstones around our necks.”

However, the pursuits and rivalries re-emerged in the last quarter of the 19th century.

  • This new face of imperialism (1875-1914) is often described as the new imperialism.
  • New imperialism resulted because of the economic system that had developed as a result of Industrial Revolution.
  • During this phase a few industrialized capitalist countries established their Political and economic control and domination over the rest of the world.
  • The form of domination and control included direct colonial rule, sphere of influence and various types of commercial and economic agreements.

Players in New Imperialism:

  • New imperialist countries emerged viz. Germany, Italy, Belgium, USA and Japan. While,
  • Britain and France continued to be powerful and expand.
  • Power of Spain and Portugal declined.

ok so far we know the meaning of Imperialism. But why did it happen? What were the

Conditions/factors that helped the rise of Imperialism

Industrial Revolution and Capitalism

Industrial Revolution created the capitalist system of production. The capitalist entrepreneurs used two ways to make big profits:

Method to increase profit? =>Consequences?
  1. minimum wages to workers
  • low wages = low purchasing power of the majority of the domestic population= low demand of products in home country.
  1. More and more production
  • the production of goods was far in excess of the demand at home

Result?=> Because of the “underconsumption” in domestic market, the capitalist nations had to find new markets and buyers to sell their products.

Marxists: Capitalism = Imperialism

Lenin argued that Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism, and it’d lead to the demise of Capitalism.

In Capitalist system, wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the possibility for investment at home is exhausted, and capitalists have no choice but to invest abroad, establish colonies, and exploit small, weak nations.

Problem with this explanation?

  1. It fails to explain pre-capitalist imperialism of Greece and Rome.
  2. It fails to explain the Communist imperialism of Soviet Union itself!

Protectionism

  • As started ^above, the capitalist countries, Western powers had to find new markets for selling their goods.
  • England was the first country where industries developed, therefore she gained almost complete control over the world markets.
  • Even when other European countries began to use machines, they could not compete with England’s low prices.
  • So, they tried to protect and stimulate its domestic industries by imposing heavy tariffs on imported items.
  • Result? = European powers could not sell their products to each other. They had to find totally new markets and customers in Asia, Africa and the two Americas.

Mercantilism

It was the economic policy prevailing in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. This policy assumed following:

  • Volume of world wealth and trade was relatively static, so one country’s gain required another country/colony’s loss.
  • Wealth of a nation depended primarily on the possession of gold and silver.
  • A colonial possession should provide wealth to the country that controlled it.
  • Exports to foreign countries is preferable to imports or domestic trade, because exports brought more money into the country.
  • Governmental interference in the national economy is justified if it helps achieving the of above objectives.

So nations acted accordingly. They setup “trading posts” which would later become “forts”, arm twisted local rulers to gain exclusive market for their products and so on. All this was done and justified as the objectives of mercantilism were fulfilled.

Supply of raw material

As the industries grew in Europe, they needed more and more raw material. For example,

  1. Cotton= India and Egypt
  2. rubber= Congo and East Indies
  • They also needed =food grains, tea, coffee, Indigo, tobacco, sugar, coal, iron, tin, gold, copper and later oil.

Result?=>

  • Imperialists forced the colonies to cultivate only one or two crops which were needed as raw material for their own industries (e.g. indigo in India, Sugar in Cuba.)
  • Smuggling: sometimes, goods produced in one country were sold to another country to pay for the goods from that country. e.g. The English promoted cultivation of opium in India, then smuggled into China to pay for the goods they had bought from China.

Investment

Towards the end of 19th century, Western countries began to look upon Asia and Africa is good places to invest their capital. But Why?

  • Both Asia and Africa had abundant supply of raw material and cheap labour= good profit.
  • As we saw under “Demand” topic, low wages + excessive production= underconsumption. Therefore, if capital was invested in Europe, it would only fetch 3 to 4% profit, because of little purchasing power of local people.
  • But if the same amount was invested in Asia or Africa, you could earn as high as 20% profit.
  • Besides, Towards the end of 19th century, financial institutions such as banks expanded their influence and power, thus making FDI(!) easier than earlier.

Result?=>The export of capital for investment in other countries began to become more important in the export of goods.

Infrastructure investment

  • The Western powers invested in their colonies to promote industries that could produce goods for export e.g. mining and plantation.
  • They also invested to strengthen control over colony’s economy e.g. Railways, postal network.
  • Result?=> political domination became necessary.

Why Political domination necessary?

As the foreign powers invested more and more money in business and infrastructure in Asia, Africa and Americas, their risk increased:

  • what if the weak local prince, Nawab or tribes chief could not contain an uprising or rebellion?
  • What if there was a change in the government?

Such things could lead to reduction in profit or even loss of whole investment.

For the same reasons, French investors in Morocco (N.Africa), appealed to their home government in France, to annex it. Thus Morocco became “French Morocco”.

Slave trade

  • The Spanish rule in Americas had resulted large-scale extermination of original inhabitants/Native-Americans. Because
    • they were forced to work in gold/silver mines and were massacred, if resisted.
    • Foreigners brought new diseases, and Native Americans had no immunity against them.
  • Later, the Europeans introduced plantation system in North America, West Indies and Brazil.
  • for the cultivation of sugarcane, cotton and tobacco (to supply as raw material to home industries).
  • These plantations needed lot of laborers.
  • Hence it became necessary to establish trading posts in the coastal areas of Africa to keep steady supply of African slaves.
  • later, Britain and other powers used “abolition of slavery” as an excuse to wage war against African chiefs and kings, but their hidden aim was to expand territorial possession. (For timber, ivory, minerals and oil).

Transport and communication

  • The Industrial Revolution brought drastic changes in transport and communication.
  • Steamship could carry goods much faster than the old sailing vessels.
  • The imperialist countries built railroads and inland waterways in the conquered areas, with the help of cheap local labor.
  • Thus could get raw material out of the interiors and send their manufactured products, faster than ever before.
  • Thus every area of the world was brought within easy reach of the industrialized countries.

Rise of extreme nationalism

  • the later part of 19th century was a period of intense nationalism
  • Germany and Italy had just succeeded in becoming unified nations.
  • Nationalism in the late 19th century came to be associated with chauvinism.
  • Nationalist intellectuals in all European powers argued that national greatness meant seizing colonial territory.
  • Once the scramble for colonies began, failure to enter the race was perceived as a sign of weakness, totally unacceptable to an aspiring great power.
  • many nations developed myth of their superiority over other people
  • Each country felt that she too must have colonies to increase her own prestige and power
  • imperialism became the fashion of the age.
  • Writers and speakers in England, France and Germany promoted the idea of imperialism and took great pride in calling their territories as “empires”
  • Germany’s expansion under Hitler was also based on the belief that German national culture was inherently superior than others.
  • by the end of the 19th century colonialism like nationalism developed into a mass cult.
  • Colonies were symbols of national greatness and nationalists of every economic class were proud of them.
  • Soviet union’s policy to ‘liberate’ the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Third World, and USA’s “protecting Freedom” = also examples of imperialism driven by moral and ideological concerns.

Mind diversion

  • Colonies helped to ensure social peace and prevented socialist revolution at home by taking the minds of the working class off their misery.
  • He who would avoid civil war must be an imperialist. (Cecil Rhodes).

Fear and security

  • Initially, colonies were acquired to get cheap raw material and market to sell finished products.
  • But then Imperialist countries started acquiring places for their military or strategic importance also.
  • For example, England established naval bases and coaling stations at Port Said, Aden, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cyprus – not to protect England but to protect its conquered lands and trade routes to India from her rival nations.
  • The rival nations installed similar bases elsewhere to protect their colonies and trade routes from England.
  • Thus, if you acquired one colony, you had to acquire other colonies to protect the first colony => leading to a chain reaction and race for grabbing more and more colonies. (And ultimately first World war).

Civilizing mission

Many European writers and thinkers used to blatantly support and justify Imperilism and colonization.

Rudyard KiplingEnglandWrote a poem titled “White man’s burden”. It gives a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule people of other nations.
Jules FerryFranceSuperior races have the duty of civilizing the inferior races.
  • To many Europeans and Americans, the prospect of saving souls seemed as important as the prospect of expanding prestige and profit.
  • They considered it was their Christian and moral responsibility to educated ignorant peoples into higher culture and convert them to Christianity.
  • Hence for them, imperialism = a noble task, a way of bringing civilization to do backward people of the world.

Christian Missionaries

  • Usually they went alone into an unknown areas in a spirit of duty and religion.
  • But often they were followed by profiteering traders and soldiers.
  • Then wars took place to protect the missionaries.
  • All these seemed quite natural to most Western people, because they considered it their nation’s destiny to civilize and Christianize the people of Asia and Africa
  • US President McKinley himself justified the annexation of Philippines in following words:

We must help our little brown brothers….there was nothing left to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift and civilise them as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.”

Adventurers and explorers

  • They had prominent role in Europe’s taking over of Africa.
  • They first went into unknown or little-known territories and brought back the reports that often indicated opportunities for trade and development.
  • On the basis of such reports, a trading post would be first setup.
  • Gradually, the explorer’s home government would take over the protection of the entire area around the trading Post.
  • Then this imperial home government would proceed to claim the entire territory as her own colony.

Favorable conditions in Asia and Africa

Biggest factor was lack of industrialization.

Military strength

  • Asian and African state did not have the economic might of imperialist powers- to fight a long war.
  • They fought with axes, bows and outdated firearms (if any), while Europeans had new rifles and a “maxim-gun” (a fast firing machine gun) + the naval artillery to pound the coastal cities of their enemies. while Indian and Arab ships didn’t have guns.
  • The only exceptions, where Europeans could not succeed in war = Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Internal rivalries

  • Politically, Asian and African states were not united.
  • There were Conflicts between states and within states, the ruler vs. chiefs, warlords, merchants etc.
  • Hence they often sought the support of Europeans against their rivals.

No Empires

  • In the ancient and mediaeval times, powerful empires had existed in Asia and Africa.
  • But during 19th century their governments became very weak. They still followed the old ways of governing, even though they had outlived their usefulness.
  • The loyalty of people still rested in local princes or tribal chieftains. They didn’t have the strong feelings for “nation-state”, like the Europeans.

No Machines

  • The Westerners admired and desired the fine quality goods made by Asian and African craftsmen.
  • But these craftsmen relied entirely on handmade tools= small scale production, could not compete with factory made products.

Mock Questions

12 marks

  1. Explain imperialism and new-imperialism.
  2. Explain colonialism and neo-colonialism.
  3. Explain the role of capitalism and industrial revolution in the emergence of Imperialism.
  4. How did nationalism help to make imperialism popular in Europe?
  5. “The dominant directive motive behind imperialism was the demand for markets and for profitable investment.” Comment
  6. “All great nations in the fullness of their strength have desired to set their mark upon barbarian land and those who fail to participate in this rivalry will play a pitiable role in time to come.” Comment
  7. Write a note on the role of writers, missionaries and explorer in the spread of colonization.

25 marks

  1. Write a note on the economic angle of Imperialism.
  2. List the conditions that helped growth of Imperialism and colonialism.
  3. Why were Asian and African countries so easily dominated by Western Powers?

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books
  2. Environment by ShankarIAS
  3. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  4. Art & Culture by Nitin Singhania (Hindi | English)
  5. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  6. Bipin Chandra: Post Independence
  7. Fast-track to Arithmetic Rajesh Verma
  8. MK Pandey’s Analytical Reasoning
  9. Disha’s Topicwise Paperset (Hindi | English)
  10. School Atlas
  11. Mains: Language papers
  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Disha


So far 122 Comments posted

  1. Amit

    Dear mrunal sir

    I am having Pub Ad as my optional subject. As i have not joined any coaching institute , therefore i am finding some problem in understanding the terms used in Public Administration.
    can you please write a note on these basic terms used in Pub ad and explain the terms in your words

    I am unable to understand the meaning of terms like Value Free science or value neutral science, Philosophy of Public administration.

    Please help me sir

  2. Roy

    thanxx a lot sir for taking up mains topics……lukin forward to more of such(including topics in world geography) in the future………..thankss again……..

  3. Pankhuri Sarkar

    Thank u so mch for posting this article.. m very garteful to u…

  4. Pankhuri Sarkar

    Sir I hv Pub AD as my optional subject.. cn u pls guide for the same…

  5. Pankhuri Sarkar

    cn u any1 gv me the link to download ignou books

  6. Arun Kumar

    Mrunal Sir, I would like to thank for all your efforts and helping the aspirants.

    Can you let us know if these old NCERT books like

    1) The story of Civilization, Vol. 2 (NCERT) Arjun Dev

    2) Contemporary World History (NCERT) Arjun Dev & others

    are available online ? or All these available in any coaching centres?

    I tried to get them in Bangalore. But NCERT book store itself doesn’t have them . Any pointers will be very helpful in this regard

    Thanks brother.

  7. risha

    thanks Mrunal Sir,please post the interview of ias toppers having history as optional

  8. Amit Jain

    Hello Mrunal,
    Could you please suggest some books for world history

    1. Nym

      Is neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism one and the same.

  9. karthik

    could you please guide me, where can I get Story of civilization part 1&2. Awaiting reply. thanks in advance…

  10. Usha Koradiya

    Hallo sir , I really like your site , it is very useful . Sir I have one request that I have studied in regional language ,so sometimes it is hard to understand in english Specially unknown topics . Please sir can v have hindi version of this site please. Thank u

  11. nagaaj

    sir, could you send to me CONTEPRORY WORLD HISTORY -II of old ncert collection.and also information regading to prepare eassy writing for civil services mains.plz………….plz……

  12. Chetan

    Mrunalji, Ek to Marxirm pe bhi banta hai..Please see if you can cater this request, i mean if you and bandwidth and adequate resources, this is the topic which is need of the hour after imperialism and colonialism.

  13. Romit

    Can u specify which class old ncert is necessary for world history preparation

  14. Avantika

    Endless thankyous & admiration for you Mrunal. You are amazing ^_^

  15. deepika

    Thanks a lot for ur work. .

  16. Ankush

    can anyone please provide the link where detailed syllabus of civil services is written by someone(sorry i don`t remember the name) in the classification manner under different headings of different papers on this website?….plz reply as i am unable to search it.

  17. saumitra

    can u suggest book for polity mains

    n thanks for this awesome work

    1. shani

      hey laxmikant is enough wat i thnk

    2. mrithyunjaya b u

      new polity syllabus has lightly advanced so for polity static part laxmikant and for current affairs prsindia.com and mrunal/polity but complusory refer india yearbook for schemes

  18. Dhiraj Kumar

    what r the books u should go for thorough practice of csat in prelims..

    1. Ankush

      I read the following books:

      1. Quant by Arun Sharma- TMH
      2. Reasoning by Arun Sharma- TMH
      3. Comrehension by Arun Sharma.
      4. Verbal reasoning & Decision making by Premanand Jha- Arihant Publications.

      Did various model papers and also bought xerox of test series offered by many coaching centres, let us say Byjus, Crackias and Vajiram. ( just to get a flavor)

      The best thing about these books are that these are very structured and concept has been explained holistically.
      Word of advice is start early, give yourself proper time and see magic happening.
      By the way, Arun sharma now teaches at Vajiram & Ravi and he is a GURU.
      My relation with him is like of Eklavya and Dronacharya. Though i can not compare myself with Eklavya, he indeed is Dronacharya.Excellent books written by him.
      Paradox is if every one read these books holistically, it will make coaching centres run out of business.

      Hope this information helps.
      Ankush Phawa.

  19. nikil

    thank u sir. odrwise it was nt possible for me to do it living here khurda

  20. madheswaran

    thank you sir, it is very useful, precise, simple.

    1. Shell shocked

      Thank you so much buddy

    2. Sam

      Pradeep. History ki modern n ancient n medieval pdf ka bhi link dedo yaar old edition
      Thanks

  21. Dhanu

    mrunalji,document[world history] is unable in eGyankosh,is this a network error,should i wait for sometime or any other source plz let us know.thanq

    1. Pradeep

      Remove /jspui from the URL.

  22. Dhanu

    thanq Pradeep.all the best for exam.

  23. lucky

    Very good article!! Great insight into history!!

  24. Aspirant

    Hey pradeep
    thank u man

  25. Nikita

    @Pradeep:Thank U so much.Its been so long I have been trying to get this book by Arjun Dev.Its really very good..:)

  26. sghosh

    As you have mentioned “Power of Spain and Portugal declined”, during New Imperialism (1875-1914).what happened to the Dutch?

  27. Sahil

    Hi Murnal Sir,

    I need a help, as I am using the below list of books for preparing Prelims excluding The Hindu reading and the concepts which you have provided on your blog.

    1. India Year Book 2013
    or New Vishal’s India.. 2013
    2. Rajiv Ahir’s A brief history of Modern India
    3. International Affairs by V.K. Khanna.
    4. Statistical Analysis (Spectrum Publication)
    5. Indian Polity, Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity
    or Our Constitution by Subhash Kashyap
    6. Geography of Jammu and Kashmir by Majid Hussain or
    G.N. Yatoo.
    7. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh, Tata Macgrawhill

    Are they sufficient……?????

    One more thing.. for preparing for Mains what should I study (feed) as in extra….

    Thanks
    Publication (For Subject 5) (ordered)

  28. boomer5

    Now old ncerts matter more than new ones which are hardly available everywhere. Isn’t that sad? Probabaly UPSC wants us to study from NOS and IGNOU books? What you think Mrunal Sir.

  29. anugya singh

    Can i just go through these artickes n skip NCERT old ones?

  30. sameeksha

    @ankush the quant by arun sharma z d same one ment for cat only??

    1. Ankush

      @sameeksha: no..he has written books specific to CSAT..available at all major book selling sites (flipkart,infibeam) published by TMH or easily available in Rajendra Nagar also..still a fan of these books 🙂

  31. pavan kumar

    Greetings Sir,

    Please help me in finding the old NCERT for class – 9. The story of civilization part – I.

  32. akanksha

    can anyone please provide story of civilization volume 1 soft copy?

  33. sanjay

    Hi Mrunal,

    Sir,
    The link to download history of civilization vol 1 is not working. Kindly provide it or mail me.

    Thanks,

  34. nisha

    plz tell me link to read world war -1 & world war-2 and other world history topic which is not covered by Roman Saini

  35. krishnendu samanta

    can anybody tell me from where can i get complete old ncert for world history of class 9 and contemporary world history part 2 of class 12

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