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The Impact of Railroads on the Process of Empire-building

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There was an epoch when the continents were in distinct configuration, and one of the land masses referred to as the Afro-Eurasia. Afro-Eurasia comprised of Africa, Europe, and Asia together with other adjacent lands as a spatial entity. Surprisingly, it never acquired a name of its own when other prominent lands were named. It’s sometimes called Eastern Hemisphere or the Old World but doesn’t have any specifics. Though, before the common era, Afro-Eurasia dominated in trading through the improvements and contributions from animals that operated as technologies. For example, the Tuareg tribe, known as the blue people, dominated the regions of the central Sahara and Sahel and adapted to camel Nomadism from camel-herding Arabs, which expanded camel caravans, mainly known as camel trains (Compton, n.d.). From that time and onwards, technologies started to develop, and modernization commenced to take place in Afro-Eurasia.

From the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, the technologies improved in Afro-Eurasia and railroads established, which exclusively elongated the Industrial Revolution, and made overland transportation effective, and worthwhile than it was ever before. Furthermore, the Industrial Revolution technologies served Europeans in the formulation of immense empires by joining places together at a reasonable price. Specifically, during the years of 1860 to 1918, in Afro-Eurasia, the European empires built a compelling foundation for themselves through railroad construction in Asia and Africa. However, Africa and Asia stood for themselves with the aid of railroads through politically, socially, and economically. Therefore, railroad construction in Asia and Africa assisted to begin nationalist movements against European control.

To begin with, the primary nationalistic action Asia and Africa made against Europe was related to politics. The word nationalism implies to the political, social, and economic policy described by the enrichment of the interests of a country, in particular, to defend one’s nation and to maintain freedom over the homeland (“Nationalism,” 2018). Additionally, the patriotism Asia and Africa had through politics suggests to issues of government, empires, societies, revolts, and expansion. In this case, countries such as China, Russia, and a map to connect Cairo to the South African port of Cape Town explained one of the points that defined politics and showed the influence of the railroads.

In the Qing dynasty official memorandum to the court in 1867, Shen Baozhen explained that the Qing government must construct railroads, but not by giving authorizations to the Western companies unless they met very rigorous criteria (Doc 2). The information showed that the officials set a very high bar for the Westerners to have permission to built railroad because they seemed to be in favor of Chinese building the railroads. The memorial was addressed in the meaning of self-strengthening action and following the Taiping Rebellion. In general, the officials desired to modernize China and knew that railroads could have a tremendous impact on the survival of empires in Afro-Eurasia. Still, the officials wanted to do it without antagonizing the rural population and without making themselves weak by handing in all the powers to the Europeans.

Another example is from the editorial from a British politician in a British newspaper about the creation of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1901. The information unveiled that the formation of the Trans-Siberian Railroad will enable Russia to dominate East Asia if the other European powers didn’t protect their affairs there (Doc 5). The situation elaborated the great game between Russia and Europeans in Central Asia and revealed how Russians attempted to expand and defended their country. In detail, the document meant to affect society and government evaluation by analyzing British carelessness on the issue.

Additionally, a map included in a newspaper published in British New Zealand in 1899 showed a suggested railway advocated by the imperialist Cecil Rhodes to connect Cairo to the South African port of Cape Town. The map claimed for Britain and other European powers to protect their interests in Asia against the future Russian expansion. (Doc 4). The plan issued during the era of European sovereign widely in Africa. In brief, the map proposed for British officials and settlers in New Zealand and featured a project elsewhere in the British Empire to inject dignity in British imperial successes. However, the recommended railway in the illustration was never entirely built, and it showed that both Africans and Asians were conscious of Europe’s motives to control them, and hence they played intelligently and protected their country and government from getting ruled by the Europeans. The map not only facilitated the expansion of empires but also threatened by generating tensions with other states. Thus, railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia by making Africa and Asia use their political issues against European rule.

Another nationalistic movement the Africans and Asians executed against Europe was through social concerns. The public issues fall under the categories such as race, family, class, gender, and hierarchies. From all those categories, some types of these social matters shown through the circumstances in India, in two discrete years. For example, the British-Indian Association petition to the British colonial government in 1866 declared that the high-caste Hindus were subjected to harassment from European passengers on second-class railroad carriages and were driven to interact with the masses outside the train platforms. In the railroad transportation, even the women’s respectability also jeopardized (Doc 1). The information points out the imposition of direct British rule following the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The petition showed the uprise of India, and how they complained and demanded the government to stop with all the overpowering and judgments by classes and races. Also, the petition stated, “The miseries suffered equally the horrors of the ‘middle passage’ (Doc 1). The extent to which the Indians got tired of European rule and had to revolt shown through the hyperbole and the reference to the ‘middle passage.’

The Indians protested for the poor treatment in the railroad transportation by the Europeans, and it might have worked because, in 1913, the British army officer magazine article published in London argued that the construction of railways in India served to unify the various ethnic and religious groups of India into a political and cultural community loyal to Great Britain (Doc 7). The condition and the point of view expressed that the British army officer proposed to sustain British control in India as Indian nationalist actions proceeded to grow. Somehow, the British strived to continue their rule in India gave prosperity to the objections India made and urged Europeans to listen to India and encouraged to operate their demand for better railway transportation. The interpretation of aforementioned fundamentally came from the point that the British constructed and made alterations in the railroads that the Indians objected before. Assuredly, through extreme pushing, years later, the deliberation of destruction seemed to affect the Europeans to do what the Indians wanted. Hence, railroads influenced the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia, by making Africa and Asia use their social issues against European domination.

The last nationalistic move Africa and Asia made against European rule was by economic problems. The wealth issues have to do with production, money, trade, labor, jobs, and industry. Some of the matters of economic concerns presented by the description of the Ottoman government and by the speech of Ernest Roume. According to the Ottoman government report in 1893, the offer to build a railway from Damascus to Mecca clarified that the construction of a railroad from Damascus to Mecca would aid Muslims in traveling to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and would raise the fame of the Ottoman sultan in the Muslim world. It would also reduce reliance on foreign or Western ships (Doc 3). The report got written during a period when the Ottoman Empire considered the extent of reforms needed to address growing Western political and economic dominance. The record aimed to persuade the sultan to construct a railroad and flatter him. If the sultan personally took the step, they noted that people of political and economic influence wouldn’t hesitate to give away some of their assets to the formation of the railroad, and they could form a system where they could have all the power.

Additionally, in 1904, the speech given by governor Ernest Roume of French West Africa to native administrative council discussed that the construction of the railroad in French territory in West Africa was not solely required for economic reasons, but also to lift Africa out of “poverty and barbarism” (Doc 6). The condition influenced the ideas of European cultural superiority and civilized mission regarding its imperial subjects and territories. The aim was to convince the native administrative council to approve the construction of railroads, which would be in Ernest’s best interests as governor. Also, Africa suffered miserably and wanted from Darkar, the executive committee to build railroads for proper means of communication and get Africa out of poverty. Railroads were the only option to affect the economy of Africa in a positive approach, and uplift them to rule their continent, and push the Europeans out of control. Requesting Dakar through the speech to build railroads, were one of the actions that Africa used against Europe to improve their economy. Conversely, western transnational associates promoted for the creation of railroads in Latin America because of it satisfied their economic interests, much as they did in Afro-Eurasia (White 2011). Therefore, railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia by making Asia and Africa use their economic issues against European control.

To sum up, throughout the years from 1860 to 1918, in Afro-Eurasia, the European empires formed an enthralling base for themselves through railroad construction in Asia and Africa. Nevertheless, Africa and Asia stood for themselves with the help of railroads through politically, socially, and economically. Hence, railroad construction in Asia and Africa helped to emerge nationalist movements against European control. Afro-Eurasia, the world that existed where the continents were in a different shape than now, had problems within the continents. In general, it wasn’t a perfect world and the development of technology, especially railroads made an impact on the empire-building in Afro-Eurasia. Empire-building in Afro-Eurasia had ups and downs, which measured the knowledge and gave rise to patriotism in Africa and Asia. According to a physicist, Albert Einstein, ‘Nationalism, in my opinion, is nothing more than an idealistic rationalization for militarism and aggression’ (Einstein). Countries in those regions understood to defend and protect themselves from dominant Europe and showed aggression as issues of railroads gave a spark to nationalistic actions.

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