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Q7. How did the conditions in Asia and Africa support the imperial powers?



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 They fought with axes, bows and outdated firearms (if any), while Europeans had new rifles and a “maxim-gun” (a fast firing machine gun) + the naval artillery to pound the coastal cities of their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.


Critically analyze the impact of Imperialism on the colonies.

Imperialism is associated with exploitation, misery, poverty, cruelty, conversion, degradation and racial segregation. Holison had said that imperialism was ‘rapacious and immoral’.


Economic Impact: Main objectives of imperialism and colonialism was to exploit the colonies and their inhabitants to generate economic wealth for the mother country and her corporations.

The imperialist powers exploited the colonies by importing raw materials at the cheapest possible rates and exported the finished products at very high rates. They also tried to cripple local industries, trade and commerce by enacting necessary industrial and taxation laws. This policy of systematic exploitation resulted in the draining of wealth and greatly contributed to poverty, starvation and backwardness of the colonies. Large numbers of people were forced into slavery or the system of indentured laborers, and vast areas of natural habitats were cleared and converted to monocultural plantations.

On the positive side it led to develop­ment of some industries in Asia and Africa. The various imperialist powers set up industries in their colonies to make profits and thus paved the way for the industrialization of the colonies. The colonial powers established long lines of railways, built banking houses etc. in the colonies to fully exploit their resources. They also set up certain industries in these colonies to make quick profits and fully exploited the resources available there.


Social and Cultural Impact: economics imperialism also functions as a social and cultural imperialism since its interventions, and disruptions of independent politico-economic development in numerous countries throughout the world.

A Western focus distorts indigenous views of their own history. Geographical locations were renamed, a way to colonize the spatial dimensions of indigenous peoples. Imperialism labeled indigenous or other colonized peoples as inhuman or subhuman. The indigenous perspective was excluded while everything from plants to people were collected as ‘specimens’ and knowledge was categorized into disciplines.

This has resulted in Indigenous people shying away from their own language and culture and blindly aping western culture, language, and society as well as food habits.

It adversely affected the religions of the local people as they were encouraged by the Western Missionaries to embrace Christianity by offering them material benefits. As a result Christianity became a thriving religion in many Asian and African coun­tries.

Colonial and impe­rialist rule led to racial segregation. The European rulers treated their culture as superior to the Asian and African cultures and tried to impose the same on them.

Further, they believed that white races are superior to the black and enacted discriminatory laws against the local people and this policy of racial segregation greatly undermined the moral tone of the local population.

The imperialist rule undermined the moral principles. The policy of ‘divide and rule’ followed by the British in India best exemplifies this policy of the imperialist powers. It is well known that this policy of ‘divide and rule’ ultimately led to the partition of India.

Another impact of imperialism was the export of Western values – resource exploitation, consumerism and materialism to the colonies. In the meantime, the Enlightenment began to shift West societies towards values such as democracy, independent judiciary, free press and escape from religious tyranny. These, when well developed offer checks and balances against excessive concentration of power and corruption, and some safeguards against environmental predation.

After the colonies gained independence, the newly independent citizens uncritically embraced most of the negative values and have vigorously continued the practices of their early colonial masters.

As a result, in the former colonies, the environment, especially natural habitats and their species, is being destroyed at a scale that is unprecedented in history.

The imperialist powers were involved in a number of wars with the local people as well as amongst themselves which resulted in loss of millions of lives. Thus colonialism and imperialism resulted in untold misery to humanity.


Political Impact: In the political sphere, Imperialism proved to be a blessing in disguise for some countries. British provided political unity to India which she had not achieved at any stage in her past history.

This was rendered possible due to development of railways, modern means of trans­port and communication, press, introduction of English language which served as lingua franca, and a uniform system of administration through­out the country. This unity paved the way for the growth of political consciousness amongst people and ultimately motivated them to over­throw the colonial and imperialist yoke. The western colonialism and imperialism was responsible for the introduction of western ideas like nationalism, democracy, constitu­tionalism etc. in Asia and Africa and thus uncon­sciously let loose liberal forces in the countries of Asia and Africa.

The colonial powers introduced system of administration in the country. It is true that the administrative machinery was evolved primarily to promote the interest of the imperialist powers, paid little attention to the well being and welfare of the locals who were not given adequate representation in the civil services.

The imperialist rule also led to the rise of slavery. The local population was treated as commodity and slaves began to be sold and purchased as part of personal belongings.

This slave trade resulted in the uprooting of millions of Africans and Asians from their homes and were made to work under the most inhuman conditions and were treated with great cruelty.

Finally, the colonialism and imperialism led to bitter rivalry among the European powers and they fought various wars for the possession of the colonies and in process destroyed human and capital wealth of colonies. In the light of the above discussion we can say that colonialism and imperialism left a deep impact on Asia and Africa in the political, eco­nomic as well as social field.

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