Views of European Imperialism
European imperialism extended to the continents beyond Africa. As imperialism spread, the colonizer and the colonized viewed the experience of imperialism in very different ways. Some Europeans were outspoken about the superiority they felt toward the peoples they conquered. Others thought imperialism was very wrong. Even the conquered had mixed feelings about their encounter with the Europeans.
Document A: J. A. Hobson Hobson’s
1902 book, Imperialism, made a great impression on his fellow Britons.
For Europe to rule Asia by force for purposes of gain, and to justify that rule by the pretence that she is civilizing Asia and raising her to a higher level of spiritual life, will be adjudged by history, perhaps, to be the crowning wrong and folly of Imperialism. What Asia has to give, her priceless stores of wisdom garnered from her experience of ages, we refuse to take; the much or little which we could give we spoil by the brutal manner of our giving. This is what Imperialism has done, and is doing, for Asia.
Document B: Dadabhai Naoroji
Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Indian elected to the British Parliament. In 1871, he delivered a speech about the impact of Great Britain on India.
To sum up the whole, the British rule has been—morally, a great blessing; politically peace and order on one hand, blunders on the other, materially, impoverishment. . . . The natives call the British system “Sakar ki Churi,” the knife of sugar. That is to say there is no oppression, it is all smooth and sweet, but it is the knife, notwithstanding. I mention this that you should know these feelings. Our great misfortune is that you do not know our wants. When you will know our real wishes, I have not the least doubt that you would do justice. The genius and spirit of the British people is fair play and justice.
Document C: Jules Ferry
The following is from a speech Ferry delivered before the French National Assembly on July 28,1883.
Nations are great in our times only by means of the activities which they develop; it is not simply ‘by the peaceful shining forth of institutions . . .’ that they are great at this hour. . . . Something else is needed for France: . . . that she must also be a great country exercising all of her rightful influence over the destiny of Europe, that she ought to propagate this influence throughout the world and carry everywhere that she can her language, her customs, her flag, her arms, and her genius
This 1882 American political cartoon, titled “The Devilfish in Egyptian Waters,” depicts England as an octopus. Notice that Egypt is not yet one of the areas controlled by the British.
1. According to Hobson (Source A), what mistake did European imperialists make in Asia?
2. What position on imperialism does Jules Ferry take in Source C?
3. In Source D, what does the representation of England suggest about the cartoonist’s view of British imperialism?
4. In what way does the view of imperialism in Source B contrast with that in Source D?