01:506:101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: American Imperialism, Inequality Of Bargaining Power, New Imperialism
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Chapter XV: Europe’s World Supremacy
Social scientists have used a variety of terms to refer to the bifurcation between modern and traditional societies,
rich and poor: European/non-European, Western/non, and now developed/less developed, or “developing,” or Third (Fourth
and Fifth) World--and even North and South. By 1900, there was a world civilization, with all nations participating in a
world economy and the attributes of modernity available to all. The West reaped the fruits of progress, while native industry
suffered. European railroads threw native boatmen, carters, innkeepers out of work; migratory tribes were forced to settle;
native farmers were required to produce for export and were tied to the world markets.
Imperialism, the colonialism of the late 19th century, may be defined as the government of one people by another.
It proved transitory. Subject peoples wanted to advance; they took Western science, skill, and capital, but also assimilated
ideals of liberty, equality, democracy, and anti-capitalism.
78. Imperialism: Its Nature and Causes
A. The New Imperialism
1. From 1815-1875 there were no significant colonial rivalries. Britain alone was fully industrialized and was the
supreme colonial power. The French moved into Algeria, the Dutch developed Indonesia more intensively, and
China and Japan were opened, but there were no overt conflicts. The “Old Imperialism” was maritime and
mercantile --the purchase from native merchants of items made by native methods. Powers had no territorial
ambitions except in America, which was regarded as “open.”
2. The new imperialism of the late 19th century developed mines, plantations, docks, factories, railroads, banks, and
all the suitable amenities for Europeans. Natives often became wage employees; money was loaned to native
rulers. Imperialist powers gained a financial stake, and thus sought to secure their goods. Thus: Colonies:
territories brought under outright control. Protectorates: territories where a local ruler was maintained, under
European “guidance.” Bahrain, Aden, Oman were good examples. Spheres of Influence: territories under the
dominance of several European powers; each had a local monopoly on trade, investment, and advisory control.
China and Iran were the two best examples.
3. Europeans had an enormous power advantage, based on military technology and backed by a nation able to
marshall resources for any purpose. Nations like India, Turkey, Persia, China, and Japan were exceptionally weak.
Colonial “wars” were fought, always between decidedly unequal parties. The mere threat of a naval bombardment
often brought surrender.
B. Incentives and Motives
1. European life required material goods, many from tropical regions, as tea, cotton, rubber, petroleum, jute, coconut
oil. European manufacturers also need better markets for their products (neo-mercantilism). Money invested in
“backward” countries earned higher rates of interest--for greater risk and due to cheap labor. And investors tended
to prefer “civilized” political control over areas where their railroads, mines, loans, etc. were situated.
2. Hobson, an English socialist, and Lenin blamed imperialism on the need for capitalist to invest surplus capital. Hobson argued that
proper taxation would end imperialism. Europe really needed enormous imports to sustain its dense population, complex
industry, and high living standard. The need for raw materials made investment profitable. And only a fraction was actually
invested in colonies. But the average European worker gained in real wages.
3. Colonies were useful for surplus population--but few Europeans moved to the new areas. They were also symbols
of power. Finally: “Imperialism arose from the commercial, industrial, financial, scientific, political, journalistic,
intellectual, religious, and humanitarian impulses of Europe compounded together.” Faith in civilization became a
substitute religion, imperialism its crusade, Social Darwinism its holy writ. Europeans had to advance the work of
humanity. Much good was done--but the real purpose often was self-interest, and the tone was complacency and
condescension, as seen in Kipling’s poem, “The White Man’s Burden.”
79. The Americas
A. The United States and Mexico
1. The Latin American Republics (plus the Brazilian monarchy) were weak but did not face a strong external threat.
Mexico did face US cotton growers anxious to expand their plantation culture. Mexico opposed slaves, the Texans
declared their own republic which in 1845 was annexed to the US. The annexation brought a war which cost
Mexico half its territory to US “manifest destiny.”
2. Next came problems with Europe; rulers borrowed money at high interest. When Juárez repudiated the loans, a force
was sent to force payment from seized customs revenues. Nap III also had dreams of an American Empire and set up
Maximilian on the throne. US protests brought French withdrawal and the execution of Max. A main feature was
US ambivalence: we protected Latin American from Europe but ourselves became an economic menace--the
Colossus of the North. President Hayes of the US advanced the claim that “citizens of advanced states, operating in
more primitive regions, should continue to enjoy the security of property characteristic of their home countries.”
President Diaz of Mexico argued that Americans should expect no more right to protection that natives.
B. US imperialism in the 1890s:
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