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Effects of imperialism of the west on Africa and India

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Jules Ferry once said “In order for a country to be great, she must show her influence throughout the world and carry everywhere she can her language, her customs, her flag, her arms, and her genius.” This quote is the perfect example of the views of an imperialist nation. From 1750-1914 Western civilizations dominated the world by enforcing their culture and systems upon weaker nations. Regions such as Africa, the Middle East, India, and Africa were severely impacted positively and negatively by the imperialism of the west. Two of those cultures that were affected in a very similar way during this time period by the effects of imperialism were Africa and India. In both places wars and violence occurred but new technologies were brought by the west that helped improved the civilizations. However Africa and India responded differently to the way the west imposed there economic, social and political ways upon the people.

From 1870 to 1890 a very important event occurred known as the “Scramble for Africa”. European powers attempted to acquire as much African territory as they could get there hands on. Men such as King Leopold the Second of Belgium singed treaties with local chiefs that granted them personal control over the land. He exploited the Africans living in the Congo River valley for there labor. He forced them to collect sap from rubber plants as well as other back breaking work. The people were over taxed and abused. This operation benefited the Belgium economy greatly but added nothing but poverty to the African economy. In 1884 the German Chancellor Bismarck organized the Berlin Conference in order to divide up Africa in a civilized matter between Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, and Italy. Some of the positive effects of this western imperialism were the new technologies such as medicine and nutrition that were brought to Africa. This increased life-span and resulted in a population expansion.

Transportation and communication techniques were introduced including railroads, telephones, and telegraphs. Some Africans received proper education and later on were exposed to greater economic opportunities. The army even accepted some African as administrators or soldiers in the army. The negative effects were quite substantial though. At the Berlin conference, the representatives gave no thought into what tribes, ethnic, and cultural barriers they were interfering with. This caused many conflicts between populations in Africa. Socially the natives were treated subordinately to the Europeans. They were forced to participate in back breaking labor for very little pay. The domination of the west ate away at the values and traditions that Africans had once held so precious. Relationships were broken between tribes and cultures. One example of the violence that went on during this time was the dispute over South Africa. The Boers, Zulu, and British all clashed over the land and abundant resources found in Southern Africa.

The British adopted a Forward Policy in the region that would hopefully bring the various British colonies, Boer republics and independent African groups under control. At the Battle at Isandlwana over 1300 British troops were killed. A new policy of divide and rule led to a decade of destructive civil war. The Boers were Dutch farmers living in South Africa who attempted to push the British north but instead found themselves fighting with the native Zulu people. The discovery of diamonds and gold brought more and more foreigners into the region. The people tried to start a rebellion against the Boers but it was unsuccessful. The Boer War was fought in 1899 but in the end the British came out victorious and united their South African land into the Union of South Africa.

By 1857 Britain had a great deal of control of the subcontinent of India. It was run by the British East India Company which was only interested in profits and ignored the culture and needs of the Indian natives. The British trained an army of Indian soldiers known as the sepoys. They organized a revolt because they had to bite off bullet cartridges that were greased with pork or beef fat. Most of the soldiers were Muslim or Hindu and these animal fats were against their religion. The sepoys rose up against the officers and the violence spread quickly to cities in northern and central India. Due to this revolt the British government took control over India and brought an end to the East India Company’s rule. The government then divided India into provinces and then districts. Politically the British provided a single system of law and government that unified India. They opened up the job market and gave more people the opportunity to get an education. English became the official language in an effort to unify the culture. Despite all these positives, England ruled by fear. In order to let the people know how powerful they were, they would strap criminals and rebels to cannons.

They passed laws without taking the natives needs into consideration. Economically the British built roads, bridges, railroads and set up telegraph wires. British manufactured goods but a damper on India’s cottage industries where people produced goods in their own homes. Money lenders became popular so people could pay their taxes. Socially Indians were looked down upon by the British. There culture was looked at as inferior to the West. Soldiers were not able to move up in rank and laborers were forced to work long hours in horrible conditions. The British banned such practices as Sati in which a women thrown herself into the burning ashes of her husband. This was a very sacred ritual to some and those people felt that their culture was being infringed upon. Many people in India embraced the new opportunities that Britain provided them with. They prospered and pursued respectable occupations. Others were outraged at the exploitation of the Indian culture.

The major difference between Western Imperialism in India and Africa is that in Africa more than two groups were fighting for the land. Native tribes as well as several western powers were all trying to gain as much land as possible. In India the only competition was between Britain and the Indian people. This caused fewer problems. A major similarity is that Westernization brought along with it new technologies that allowed these regions to prosper. New medicines, transportation, and communication techniques were huge benefits to Africa and India. In both regions, the ruling powers split up the territory without thinking about the boundaries that the native people had set up. This caused a lot of anguish between the people and resulted in many social problems. A common trend in imperialism is that the colony works to benefit the mother country. European nations prospered greatly off the resources and products being produced in Africa and India but yet the native people struggled to pay ever increasing taxes. Wars and rebellions broke out in both regions due to unfair guidelines set by the ruling countries. The inhabitants of Africa and India were looked down at as being inferior people and having an inferior culture.

The imperialism that occurred in Africa and India in the 1800’s was much more similar then different. Both suffered injustices but enjoyed the new technologies and governmental systems that the west brought with them. The West believes that it was there duty to spread their “glorious” culture to those who were less fortunate then those. That idea had good intentions but when the countries started to loose sight of that and become greedy and inconsiderate major problems started to occur. They had no regard that the land they were changing was not their own.

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