Imperialism has been a hotly debated subject and with good reason; often the nations that subjugated others in their quest for glory and riches thought that they were doing the natives a favor and if you were to ask any of the descendants of those natives today, you are bound to get a colorful phrase and an expletive, all rolled into one. The fact of the matter is that imperialism is when one nation subjugates another nation and takes over the governance of the said nation and creates a colony of the other, in the process. Several European nations, from Britain, France, Spain, Nordic states, Belgium all took part in various imperialistic endeavors across the world. It is hard to imagine tiny Belgium as an imperator but that is exactly what happened. It is time that we took a closer look at some of the positive and negative impacts of imperialism, in all its glory.
The positive impact of imperialism
- Centralized governance: The ironical thing about imperialism is that they are often touted as the cure, as the magic elixir that would cure all ills or so the supporters of imperialism would have us believe. But it should be pointed out that most of the states that were subjugated were broken into various realms, each governed by its own king and subjugating them became easy. As a result of imperialism, several breakaway republics were enjoined together as a single nation and in the process, a centralized form of governance was introduced which made for efficiency and productivity. With a centralized form of governance, the conquerors were able to better control the natives and as a result, turned the nation into a very productive one, with due benefits being accrued to the conquerors.
- Education: It is true that of all the imperialistic powers, Britain was instrumental in spearheading education in its colonies, namely in India. As a result, India today stands legs and shoulders above all other colonies when it comes to education. In fact each year, several UK students to apply for a seat in the various IITs which is rather ironical.
- Infrastructure: Most of the nations that chose to subjugate others chose to develop the nation’s infrastructure. While their investment in building this infrastructure was minimal at best, it was the host nation that paid for the infra development in the form of exorbitant taxes. But they did help build the infrastructure, more as a means to facilitate the transport of goods out of the country than out of any chivalrous nature on their account.
The negative impact of imperialism
- Loss of freedom, civil rights: Often the colonists were not allowed freedom to express their opinions, were often worked hard as slaves, and paid little by way of salary. But what was worse, is the fact that many of the imperialistic nations that sought to subjugate others for the greater good, often suspended civil rights at the first instance of any trouble. Case in the example would be British Africa (1920s) where colored citizens could be held without any recourse to legal representation. Furthermore, their rights were severely restricted in the face of any rebellion or independence movement.
- Cruelty: To state that the imperialistic powers were cruel to the natives would indeed be an understatement. To these imperialistic powers, the natives were less than animals and were treated as such. During World War 2, when most of Bengal was in the grip of a serious famine, Churchill ordered the extra stockpiles of rice stored in the various storage centers in Bengal to be shipped overseas right away. And when Australians offered their help, Churchill nixed the idea and because of Churchill and his Imperialistic manner, over three million Indians starved to their deaths. This is why Churchill is reviled to this day, in India.
- Trade: as a result of the rather humiliating conditions under which most of these subjugated nations were governed, the imperialistic nation in question takes the cream of the crop and often left the natives with little else. You could claim that they ravaged the country and you would not be wrong indeed.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of imperialism. Countries like Britain have a lot to answer for the various excesses it committed in India and other colonies. Despite all this time passing under the bridge, Britain is yet to issue a heartfelt apology to its various colonies or for that matter, any of the other imperialistic nations.