Q6. Explain how civilization and religion was used as justification for imperialism.
The legitimacy of colonialism has been a longstanding concern for political and moral philosophers in the Western tradition. At least since the Crusades and the conquest of the Americas, political theorists have struggled with the difficulty of reconciling ideas about justice and natural law with the practice of European sovereignty over non-Western peoples. In the nineteenth century, the tension between liberal thought and colonial practice became particularly acute, as dominion of Europe over the rest of the world reached its zenith. Ironically, in the same period when most political philosophers began to defend the principles of universalism and equality, the same individuals still defended the legitimacy of colonialism and imperialism. One way of reconciling those apparently opposed principles was the argument known as the “civilizing mission,” which suggested that a temporary period of political dependence or tutelage was necessary in order for “uncivilized” societies to advance to the point where they were capable of sustaining liberal institutions and self-government.
Many European writers and thinkers used to blatantly support and justify Imperialism and colonization.
Wrote a poem titled “White man’s burden”. It gives a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule people of other nations.
Superior 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 was a noble task, a way of bringing civilization to do backward people of the world.
Christian Missionaries usually went alone into 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 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 its own colony.