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Cecil Rhodes and the Cape-Cairo railway project. Rhodes founded the De Beers Mining Company, owned the British South Africa Company and had his name given to what became the state of Rhodesia. He liked to "paint the map British red" and declared: "all of these stars ... these vast worlds that remain out of reach. If I could, I would annex other planets".[1]

Imperialism is "a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonisation, use of military force, or other means".[2] Lewis Samuel Feuer identifies two major subtypes of imperialism; the first is the "regressive imperialism" identified with pure conquest, unequivocal exploitation, extermination or reductions of undesired peoples, and the settlement of desired peoples into such territories.[3] The second type identified by Feuer is "progressive imperialism" founded upon a cosmopolitan view of humanity, that promotes the spread of civilisation to allegedly backward societies to elevate living standards and culture in conquered territories, with the allowance of a colonised people to assimilate into the imperial society, an example being the British Empire which claimed to give their subjects a number of advantages.[4]

The term as such primarily has been applied to Western political and economic dominance in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some writers, such as

  • J.A Hobson, Imperialism a Study 1902.
  • The Paradox of Imperialism by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. November 2006.
  • Imperialism Quotations
  • State, Imperialism and Capitalism by Joseph Schumpeter
  • Economic Imperialism by A.J.P.Taylor
  • Imperialism Entry in the Columbia Encyclopedia (Bartleby)
  • [1] Imperialism by Emile Perreau-Saussine
  • The Nation-State, Core and Periphery: A Brief sketch of Imperialism in the 20th century.
  • Mehmet Akif Okur, Rethinking Empire After 9/11: Towards A New Ontological Image of World Order, Perceptions, Journal of International Affairs, Volume XII, Winter 2007, pp.61–93
  • Imperialism 101, Against Empire By Michael Parenti Published by City Lights Books, 1995, ISBN 0-87286-298-4, ISBN 978-0-87286-298-2, 217 pages

External links

Primary sources

  • Ankerl, Guy. Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharatai, Chinese, and Western, Geneva, INU PRESS, 2000, ISBN 2-88155-004-5.
  • Bayly, C. A. ed. Atlas of the British Empire (1989). survey by scholars; heavily illustrated
  • Brendon, Piers. "A Moral Audit of the British Empire". History Today, (Oct 2007), Vol. 57 Issue 10, pp 44–47, online at EBSCO
  • Brendon, Piers. The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 (2008), wide ranging survey
  • Bickers, Robert andChristian Henriot, New Frontiers: Imperialism's New Communities in East Asia, 1842–1953, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-7190-5604-7
  • Blanken, Leo. Rational Empires: Institutional Incentives and Imperial Expansion, University Of Chicago Press, 2012
  • Barbara Bush, Imperialism and Postcolonialism (History: Concepts,Theories and Practice), Longmans, 2006, ISBN 0-582-50583-6
  • Darwin, John. After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400–2000, Penguin Books, 2008.
  • Fay, Richard B. and Daniel Gaido (ed. and trans.), Discovering Imperialism: Social Democracy to World War I. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012.
  • Niall Ferguson, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN 0-14-100754-0
  • Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-674-00671-2
  • E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875–1914, Abacus Books, 1989, ISBN 0-349-10598-7
  • E. J. Hobsbawm, On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy, Pantheon Books, 2008, ISBN 0-375-42537-3
  • J. A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study, Cosimo Classics, 2005, ISBN 1-59605-250-3
  • Michael Hudson, Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance, Pluto Press, 2003, ISBN 0-7453-1989-0
  • Hodge, Carl Cavanagh. Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914 (2 vol. 2007)
  • Page, Melvin E. et al. eds. Colonialism: An International Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia (2 vol 2003)
  • Pakenham, Thomas. The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876-1912 (1992)
  • Petringa, Maria, Brazza, A Life for Africa, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0
  • Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, Vintage Books, 1998, ISBN 0-09-996750-2
  • Simon C. Smith, British Imperialism 1750–1970, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-521-59930-X
  • Benedikt Stuchtey, Colonialism and Imperialism, 1450–1950, European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011
  • E.M. Winslow, "Marxian, Liberal, and Sociological Theories of Imperialism," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 39, no. 6 (Dec. 1931), pp. 713–758. In JSTOR

Further reading

  1. ^ S. Gertrude Millin, Rhodes, London: 1933, p.138.
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionaries: id=5gCHckKszz0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=dictionary+of+human+geography&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Nah1UdLTNYfgqAHcgoCQDg&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA The Dictionary of Human Geography (5th ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. p. 373. ISBN 978-1-4051-3288-6
  3. ^ Lewis Samuel Feuer. Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind. Transaction Publishers, 1989. P. 4.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Edward W. Said. Culture and Imperialism. Vintage Publishers, 1994. P. 9.
  6. ^ Barbara Bush (2006). Imperialism And Postcolonialism. Pearson Longman. p. 46.  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ a b Magnusson, Lars (1991). Teorier om imperialism (in Swedish). Södertälje. p. 19.  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Hobson, J. A. "Imperialism: a study." Cosimo, Inc., 2005. pg. 154
  11. ^ Hobson, J. A. "Imperialism: a study." Cosimo, Inc., 2005. pg. V
  12. ^ a b "Imperialism." 'International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd edition.
  13. ^ "The United States and its Territories: 1870–1925 The Age of Imperialism". University of Michigan. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  14. ^ Louis, Wm. Roger. (1976) Imperialism page 4.
  15. ^ Christopher, A.J. (1985). "Patterns of British Overseas Investment in Land". Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. New Series 10 (4): 452–466.  
  16. ^ Painter, J. & Jeffrey, A., 2009. Political Geography 2nd ed., Sage. pg. 183–184
  17. ^ Painter, J. & Jeffrey, A., 2009. Political Geography 2nd ed., Sage. pg.184
  18. ^ Harvey, D., 2006. Spaces of Global Capitalism: A Theory of Uneven Geographical Development, Verso. pg. 91
  19. ^ a b c Adas, Michael; Peter N. Stearns (2008). Turbulent Passage A Global History of the Twentieth Century (Fourth Edition ed.). Pearson Education, Inc. pp. 54–58.  
  20. ^ Mark F. Proudman, "Words for Scholars: The Semantics of 'Imperialism'", Journal of the Historical Society, Sept. 2008, Vol. 8 Issue 3, p395-433
  21. ^ D. K. Fieldhouse, "Imperialism": An Historiographical Revision," South African Journal Of Economic History, (1992) 7#1 pp 45-72
  22. ^ P. J. Cain, "Capitalism, Aristocracy and Empire: Some 'Classical' Theories of Imperialism Revisited," Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, (2007) 35#1 pp 25-47
  23. ^ G.K. Peatling, "Globalism, Hegemonism and British Power: J. A. Hobson and Alfred Zimmern Reconsidered," History (2004) 89#295 pp 381-398
  24. ^ Robert Aldrich, Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion (1996)
  25. ^ Anthony Clayton, The Wars of French Decolonization (1995)
  26. ^ Martin Thomas, The French Empire Between the Wars: Imperialism, Politics and Society (2007) covers 1919-1939
  27. ^ Winfried Baumgart, Imperialism: The Idea and Reality of British and French Colonial Expansion, 1880-1914 (1982)
  28. ^ Emmanuelle Jouannet (2012). The Liberal-Welfarist Law of Nations: A History of International Law. Cambridge UP. p. 142. 
  29. ^ Raymond Betts, ‘'Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914 (2005)
  30. ^ Tony Chafer, ‘’The End of Empire in French West Africa: France’s Successful Decolonization?’’ (2002)
  31. ^ attributed to Voltaire
  32. ^ Thomas Pakenham, ‘’The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912 (1992) ch 12
  33. ^ Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, 1860–1914 (1988) ch 10
  34. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler, "Bismarck's Imperialism 1862–1890," Past & Present, (1970) 48: 119–55 online
  35. ^ Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann, "Domestic Origins of Germany's Colonial Expansion under Bismarck" Past & Present (1969) 42:140–159 online; Crankshaw, pp. 395–7
  36. ^ Joseph A. Mauriello. "Japan and The Second World War: The Aftermath of Imperialism". Lehigh University. Retrieved December 9, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Japanese Imperialism 1894–1945". National University of Singapore. Retrieved December 9, 2013. 
  38. ^ "The Japanese Empire 1942". The History Place. Retrieved December 9, 2013. 
  39. ^ V.I. Lenin (1913). Critical Remarks on the National Question. Prosveshcheniye. 
  40. ^ "The Soviet Union and Europe after 1945". The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  41. ^ Melvin E. Page (2003). Colonialism: an international social, cultural, and political encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. 
  42. ^ Beissinger, Mark R. 2006 "Soviet Empire as 'Family Resemblance,'" Slavic Review, 65 (2) 294-303; Dave, Bhavna. 2007 Kazakhstan: Ethnicity, language and power. Abingdon, New York: Routledge.
  43. ^ Foreign Affairs, Vol. 32, No. 1, Oct., 1953 - Soviet Colonialism In Central Asia by Sir Olaf Caroe
  44. ^ Caroe, O. (1953). "Soviet Colonialism in Central Asia". Foreign Affairs 32 (1): 135–144.  
  45. ^ Piers Brendon, ‘’The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997’’ (2008)
  46. ^ Wiliam L Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism: 1890-1902 (2nd ed. 1950) pp 67-100
  47. ^ Text of Original address (
  48. ^  
  49. ^ Oliver Kamm (October 30, 2008). "America is still the world's policeman". The Times. 
  50. ^
  51. ^ Moore: War is just a racket, said a General in 1933


See also

After the Second World War, the United States became joined with Western interests in a global conflict over spheres of influence with the Soviet Union, known as the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States did not diminish its global ability to project force and became a “hyperpower”. A system of "Unipolarity" came to define international politics, with the United States at the centre.

The early United States expressed its opposition to Imperialism, at least in a form distinct from its own Manifest Destiny, in policies such as the Monroe Doctrine. However, beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century, policies such as Theodore Roosevelt’s interventionism in Central America and Woodrow Wilson’s mission to “make the world safe for democracy”[47] were often backed by military force, but more often affected from behind the scenes, consistent with the general notion of hegemony and imperium of historical empires.[48][49] In 1898, Americans who opposed imperialism created the Anti-Imperialist League to oppose the US annexation of the Philippines and Cuba. A year later a war erupted in the Philippines causing business, labor and government leaders in the US to condemn America's occupation in the Philippines. They also denounced them for causing the deaths of many Filipinos.[50] American foreign policy was denounced as a "racket" by Smedley Butler, an American general. He said, "Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents".[51]

"President McKinley fires a cannon into the Imperialist Strawman". Cartoon by W. A. Rogers in Harper's Weekly, September 22, 1900.

United States

A resurgence came in the late 19th century, with the Lord Curzon, General Kitchner, Lord Milner, and the writer Rudyard Kipling.[46]

The First British Empire was based on mercantilism, and involved colonies and holdings primarily in North America, the Caribbean, and India. Its growth was reversed by the loss of the Thirteen American colonies in 1783. Britain made compensating gains in India, Australia, and in constructing an informal economic empire through control of trade and finance in Latin America after the independence of Spanish and Portuguese colonies about 1820.[45] By the 1840s, Britain had adopted a general policy of free trade.

United Kingdom

Though the Soviet Union declared itself anti-imperialist, critics argue that it exhibited tendencies common to historic empires.[42][43] Some scholars hold that the Soviet Union was a hybrid entity containing elements common to both multinational empires and nation states. It has also been argued that the USSR practiced colonialism as did other imperial powers and was carrying on the old Russian tradition of expansion and control,.[44] Mao Zedong once argued that the Soviet Union had itself become an imperialist power while maintaining a socialist façade. Non Russian Marxists within the Russian Federation and later the USSR, like Sultan Galiev and Vasyl Shakhrai, considered the Soviet Regime a renewed version of the Russian imperialism and colonialism.

Trotsky and others,believed that the revolution could only succeed in Russia as part of a world revolution. Lenin wrote extensively on the matter and famously declared that Imperialism was the highest stage of capitalism. However, after Lenin's death, Joseph Stalin established 'socialism in one country' for the Soviet Union, creating the model for subsequent inward looking Stalinist states and purging the early Internationalist elements. The internationalist tendencies of the early revolution would be abandoned until they returned in the framework of a client state in competition with the Americans during the Cold War.

Bolshevik leaders had effectively reestablished a polity with roughly the same extent as that empire by 1921, but with an internationalist ideology: Lenin in particular asserted the right to limited self-determination for national minorities within the new territory.[39] Beginning in 1923, the policy of "Indigenization" [korenizatsiia] was intended to support non-Russians develop their national cultures within a socialist framework. Never formally revoked, it stopped being implemented after 1932. After World War II, the Soviet Union installed socialist regimes modelled on those it had installed in 1919–20 in the old Tsarist Empire in areas its forces occupied in Eastern Europe.[40] The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China supported post–World War II communists movements in foreign nations and colonies to advance their own interests, but were not always successful.[41]

By the 18th century, the Russian Empire extended its control to the Pacific, forming a common border with the Qing Empire.

The maximum territorial extent of countries in the world under Soviet influence, after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and before the official Sino-Soviet split of 1961.

Soviet Union

During the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894, Japan absorbed Taiwan. As a result of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Japan took part of Sakhalin Island from Russia. Korea was annexed in 1910. During World War I, Japan took German-leased territories in China’s Shandong Province, as well as the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands. In 1918, Japan occupied parts of far eastern Russia and parts of eastern Siberia as a participant in the Siberian Intervention. In 1931 Japan conquered Manchuria from China. During the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, it invaded central China and by the end of the Pacific War, Japan had conquered most of the Far East, including what is now Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippine Islands, Indonesia, New Guinea and many islands of the Pacific Ocean. Its colonial ambitions were ended by the victory of the United States in the Second World War and the following treaties which remanded those territories to American administration or their original owners.[36][37][38]


After the Treaty of Versailles and the collapse of the Third Reich, and the failure of its attempt to create a great land empire in Eurasia, Germany was split between Western and Soviet spheres of influence until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, in 1883–84 Germany began to build a colonial empire in Africa and the South Pacific, before losing interest in imperialism. Historians have debated exactly why Germany made this sudden and short-lived move.[33] Bismarck was aware that public opinion had started to demand colonies for reasons of German prestige.[34] He was influenced by Hamburg merchants and traders, his neighbours at Friedrichsruh. The establishment of the German colonial empire proceeded smoothly, starting with German New Guinea in 1884.[35]

Not a maritime power, and not a nation-state, as it would eventually become, Germany’s participation in Western imperialism was negligible until the late 19th century. The participation of Austria was primarily as a result of Habsburg control of the First Empire, the Spanish throne, and other royal houses. After the defeat of Napoleon, who caused the dissolution of that Holy Roman Empire, Prussia and the German states continued to stand aloof from imperialism, preferring to manipulate the European system through the Concert of Europe. After Prussia unified the other states into the second German Empire after the Franco-German War, its long-time Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1862–90), long opposed colonial acquisitions, arguing that the burden of obtaining, maintaining, and defending such possessions would outweigh any potential benefits. He felt that colonies did not pay for themselves, that the German bureaucratic system would not work well in the tropics and the diplomatic disputes over colonies would distract Germany from its central interest, Europe itself.[32]

From their original homelands in Scandinavia and northern Europe, Germanic tribes expanded throughout northern and western Europe in the middle period of classical antiquity; southern Europe in late antiquity, conquering Celtic and other peoples; and by 800 CE, forming the Holy Roman Empire, the first German Empire. However, there was no real systemic continuity from the Western Roman Empire to its German successor which was famously described as “not holy, not Roman, and not an empire”,[31] as a great number of small states and principalities existed in the loosely autonomous confederation. Although by 1000 CE, the Germanic conquest of central, western, and southern Europe (west of and including Italy) was complete, excluding only Muslim Iberia. There was, however, little cultural integration or national identity, and “Germany” remained largely a conceptual term referring to an amorphous area of central Europe.


In World War II, Charles de Gaulle and the Free French used the overseas colonies as bases from which they fought to liberate France. However after 1945 anti-colonial movements began to challenge the Empire. France fought and lost bitter wars in Vietnam and Algeria in the 1950s. Its settlers and many local supporters relocated to France. Nearly all of France's colonies gained independence by 1960, but France retained great financial and diplomatic influence. It has repeatedly sent troops to assist its former colonies in Africa suppress insurrection and coup d’état.[30]

It became a moral justification to lift the world up to French standards by bringing Christianity and French culture. In 1884 the leading exponent of colonialism, Jules Ferry declared France had a civilising mission: "The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilise the inferior".[28] Full citizenship rights – ‘’assimilation’’ – were offered, although in reality assimilation was always on the distant horizon.[29] Contrasting from Britain, France sent small numbers of settlers to its colonies, with the only notable exception of Algeria, where French settlers nevertheless always remained a small minority.

France took control of Algeria in 1830 but began in earnest to rebuild its worldwide empire after 1850, concentrating chiefly in North and West Africa, as well as South-East Asia, with other conquests in Central and East Africa, as well as the South Pacific. Republicans, at first hostile to empire, only became supportive when Germany started to build her own colonial empire. As it developed, the new empire took on roles of trade with France, supplying raw materials and purchasing manufactured items, as well as lending prestige to the motherland and spreading French civilisation and language as well as Catholicism. It also provided crucial manpower in both World Wars.[27]

In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the second-largest colonial empire in the world behind the British Empire, extending over 12,347,000 km² (4,767,000 sq. miles) at its height in the 1920s and 1930s. France controlled nearly 1/10th of the Earth's land area, with a population of 110 million people on the eve of World War II (5% of the world's population at the time).[26]

During the 16th century, the French colonisation of the Americas began with the creation of New France. It was followed by the establishment of trading posts in Asia and Africa in the 17th century.

The "First colonial empire", that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost, and the "Second colonial empire", which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830 and came for the most part to an end with the granting of independence to Algeria in 1962.[24] The French experience was marked by numerous wars, large and small, and also by significant help to France itself from the colonials in the world wars.[25]

French poster about the "Madagascar War"


Imperialism by country

The relationship among capitalism, aristocracy, and imperialism has long been debated among historians and political theorists. Much of the debate was pioneered by such theorists as J. A. Hobson (1858–1940), Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950), Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), and Norman Angell (1872–1967). While these non-Marxist writers were at their most prolific before World War I, they remained active in the interwar years. Their combined work informed the study of imperialism's impact on Europe, as well as contributed to reflections on the rise of the military-political complex in the United States from the 1950s. Hobson argued that domestic social reforms could cure the international disease of imperialism by removing its economic foundation. Hobson theorized that state intervention through taxation could boost broader consumption, create wealth, and encourage a peaceful, tolerant, multipolar world order. Conversely, should the state not intervene, rentiers (people who earn income from property or securities) would generate socially negative wealth that fostered imperialism and protectionism.[22][23]

In anglophone academic works, theories regarding imperialism are often based on the British experience. The term "Imperialism" was originally introduced into English in its present sense in the late 1870s by opponents of the allegedly aggressive and ostentatious imperial policies of British prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It was shortly appropriated by supporters of "imperialism" such as Joseph Chamberlain. For some, imperialism designated a policy of idealism and philanthropy; others alleged that it was characterized by political self-interest, and a growing number associated it with capitalist greed. Liberal John A. Hobson and Marxist Lenin added a more theoretical macroeconomic connotation to the term. Many theoreticians on the left have followed either or both in emphasizing the structural or systemic character of "imperialism". Such writers have expanded the time period associated with the term so that it now designates neither a policy, nor a short space of decades in the late 19th century, but a world system extending over a period of centuries, often going back to Christopher Columbus and, in some accounts, to the Crusades. As the application of the term has expanded, its meaning has shifted along five distinct but often parallel axes: the moral, the economic, the systemic, the cultural, and the temporal. Those changes reflect - among other shifts in sensibility - a growing unease, even squeamishness, with the fact of power, specifically, Western power.[20][21]

Theories of imperialism

Along with advancements in communication, Europe also continued to advance military technologies. European chemists made deadly explosives that could be used in combat, and with innovations in machinery they were able to manufacture improved firearms. By the 1880s the machine gun had become an effective battlefield weapon. This technology gave European armies an advantage over their opponents, as armies in less-developed countries were still fighting with arrows, swords, and leather shields (e.g. the Zulus in Southern Africa during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879).[19]

Communication became much more advanced during the European expansion. With the invention of railroads and telegraphs, it became easier to communicate with other countries and to extend the administrative control of a home nation over its colonies. Railroads and globalised shipping assisted in transporting massive amounts of goods to and from the colonies.[19]

European expansion greatly accelerated in the 19th century. To obtain raw materials, Europe expanded imports from other countries and from the colonies. European industrialists sought raw materials such as dyes, cotton, vegetable oils, and metal ores from overseas. Concurrently, industrialisation was quickly making Europe the centre of manufacturing and economic growth, driving resource needs.[19]

During this time, European merchants had the ability to "roam the high seas and appropriate surpluses from around the world (sometimes peaceably, sometimes violently) and to concentrate them in Europe".[18]

Modern empires were not artificially constructed economic machines. The second expansion of Europe was a complex historical process in which political, social and emotional forces in Europe and on the periphery were more influential than calculated imperialism. Individual colonies might serve an economic purpose; collectively no empire had any definable function, economic or otherwise. Empires represented only a particular phase in the ever-changing relationship of Europe with the rest of the world: analogies with industrial systems or investment in real estate were simply misleading.[17]

Europe's expansion into territorial imperialism had much to do with the economic benefit of collecting resources from colonies, in combination with assuming political control by military and political means. The colonisation of India in the mid-18th century offers an example: there the "British exploited the political weakness of the Mughal state, and, while military activity was important at various times, the economic and administrative incorporation of local elites was also of crucial significance" for the establishment of control over the subcontinent's resources, markets, and manpower. Although a substantial number of colonies had been designed to provide economic profit and to ship resources to home ports (mostly through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), Fieldhouse suggests that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in places such as Africa and Asia, this idea is not necessarily valid:[16]

During the 20th century the historians John Gallagher (1919-1980) and Ronald Robinson (1920-1999) constructed a framework for understanding European imperialism. They claim that European imperialism was influential, and Europeans rejected the notion that "imperialism" required formal, legal control by one government over another country. "In their view, historians have been mesmerized by formal empire and maps of the world with regions colored red. The bulk of British emigration, trade, and capital went to areas outside the formal British Empire. A key to the thought of Robinson and Gallagher is the idea of empire 'informally if possible and formally if necessary.'"[14] Because of the resources made available by imperialism, the world's economy grew significantly and became much more interconnected in the decades before World War I, making the many imperial powers rich and prosperous.[15]

Africa, divided into colonies under multiple empires, circa 1913.

The Age of Imperialism, a time period beginning around 1700, saw (generally European) industrialising nations engaging in the process of colonising, influencing, and annexing other parts of the world in order to gain political power. Although imperialist practices have existed for thousands of years, the term "Age of Imperialism" generally refers to the activities of nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States from the early 18th through the middle 20th centuries, e.g., the "The Great Game" in Persian lands, the "Scramble for Africa" and the "Open Door Policy" in China.[13]

Age of Imperialism

Imperialism has been subject to moral or immoral censure by its critics, and thus the term is frequently used in international propaganda as a pejorative for expansionist and aggressive foreign policy.[12]

Although normally used to imply forcible imposition of a more powerful foreign government's control on a weaker country or over conquered territory that was previously without a unified government, "imperialism" is sometimes used to describe loose or indirect political or economic influence on weak states by more powerful ones.[12] If the dominant country's influence is felt in social and cultural circles, such as "foreign" music being popular with young people, it may be described as "cultural imperialism".

Imperialism has been found in the histories of Japan, the Assyrian Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Roman Empire, Greece, the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, ancient Egypt, the British Empire and India. Imperialism was a basic component to the conquests of Genghis Khan during the Mongol Empire, and of other war-lords. Historically recognized Muslim empires number in the dozens. Sub-Saharan Africa has also featured dozens of empires that pre-date the European colonial era, for example the Ethiopian Empire, Oyo Empire, Asante Union, Luba Empire, Lunda Empire and Mutapa Empire. The Americas during the pre-Columbian era also had large empires such as the Aztec Empire and the Incan Empire.


The principles of imperialism are often generalisable to the policies and practices of British Imperialism "during the last generation, and proceeds rather by diagnosis than by historical description".[11] British imperialism often used the concept of terra nullius (Latin expression which stems from Roman law meaning 'empty land'). The country of Australia serves as a case study in relation to British settlement and colonial rule of the continent in the eighteenth century, as it was premised on terra nullius, and its settlers considered it unused by its sparse Aboriginal inhabitants.

Technology and economic efficiency were often improved in territories subjected to imperialism through the building of roads, other infrastructure, and introduction of new technologies.

A controversial aspect of imperialism is the defence and justification of empire-building. Most controversial of all is the justification of imperialism done on rational grounds. J. A. Hobson identifies this justification on general grounds as: "It is desirable that the earth should be peopled, governed, and developed, as far as possible, by the races which can do this work best, i.e. by the races of highest 'social efficiency'".[10]


The term "imperialism" should not be confused with "colonialism". Robert Young writes that imperialism operates from the centre, it is a state policy, and is developed for ideological as well as financial reasons, whereas colonialism is nothing more than development for settlement or commercial intentions.[9]:116 Thus it can be said that imperialism includes some form of colonialism, but colonialism itself does not automatically imply imperialism, as it lacks a political focus.

Territories that were once part of the British Empire.

Colonialism vs. imperialism


  • Colonialism vs. imperialism 1
  • Justification 2
  • History 3
    • Age of Imperialism 3.1
  • Theories of imperialism 4
  • Imperialism by country 5
    • France 5.1
    • Germany 5.2
    • Japan 5.3
    • Soviet Union 5.4
    • United Kingdom 5.5
    • United States 5.6
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
    • Primary sources 8.1
  • External links 9

The word imperialism became common in the United Kingdom in the 1870s and was used with a negative connotation.[8] In Great Britain, the word had until then mostly been used to refer to the politics of Napoleon III in obtaining favourable public opinion in France through foreign military interventions.[8]

Even if a particular empire does not have a "global reach" as we would define it today, empires by their nature still tend to contribute to processes of globalization because of the way that imperial power tends to generate counter-power at its edge-lands and send out reverberations far beyond the territories of their immediate control.[7]

It is mostly accepted that modern-day colonialism is an expression of imperialism and cannot exist without the latter. The extent to which "informal" imperialism with no formal colonies is properly described remains a controversial topic amongst historians.[6] Both colonisation and imperialism have been described by Tom Nairn and Paul James as early forms of globalization:

corporations of the empires. monopolist, as well as continued future military interventions and occupations in the colonies to establish, expand, and exploit less developed markets for the First World War would lead to wars between the empires themselves, such as the contemporary profit. Lenin concluded that competition between empires and the unfettered drive to maximise colonies, as production was outsourced to the empires' capital markets, and finance, banking, he observed that as capitalism matured in the Western world, economies shifted away from manufacturing towards Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism's work Lenin. In monopoly capitalism as it matures into nation state perspective, imperialism is a natural feature of a developed capitalist Marxist From a [5]

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