Imperialism, in all its contours and shades, has certainly changed the world even though the question of whether the change has been for the better is still to be debated. When one considers Imperialism, it is always better to start with Ancient Rome, for ancient Rome, with all its trappings of Majesty was but a classic example of Imperialism, for both good and negative reasons. While Imperialism was often thought to be an expansion of one’s territories through physical subjugation, this definition has since then evolved to include colonialism, as with the British Raj which was but an expression of imperialism.
It can be hard to quantify the positive impacts of imperialism but the fact is that imperialism did have positive impacts, some of which are listed below.
Positive impacts of Imperialism:
Take Ancient Rome for example, it was founded on a notion of equal rights for all which soon developed a monarchy which in turn was overthrown, as the republic reasserted itself and its motto of equal rights for all – something which we may have to take with a pinch of salt. But the notion of the republic did not last long and soon, Rome to all intents and purposes became an Imperialistic power with the subjugation of Egypt, by Augustus Caesar. Rome reasserted itself, saw fit to conquer surrounding territories for little or no reason other than the primary one of robbing the victims blind. The ancient Romans saw it in terms of money and that was the primary causative factor behind most imperialistic regimes since then. However, these did have a positive effect on the nation as a whole.
Economy: Thanks to Ancient Rome, reasserting itself as an imperialistic and global power, the local economy got the much-needed boost and as a result, roman businesses became more competitive and started flourishing. It should be pointed out that through history, whichever nation saw fit to adopt the imperialistic model, it did result in a cascading effect on the local economy.
Stability: While many may decry the end of the republic, in Ancient Rome the fact is that Rome saw glory and riches along with stability under its emperors than it ever did under any of its consuls. Again, most regimes, often introduce a period of stability which in turn helps the local economy to flourish.
Centralization: In most cases, especially in Ancient Rome – the period of the imperialistic rule did help to centralize governance, and set into place various rules and regulations to help govern the same. Some of these laws have been incorporated into various constitutions, which in itself should point out that while Imperialistic rule comes with negative connotations, it still had a positive effect as far as providing a centralized form of governance to help rule the various provinces under its banner.
Negative impacts of Imperialism:
And of course, Imperialism was not exactly a bed of roses either, at least for its subjects. Check out some of the negative impacts of imperialism
Corruption: Take your pick; choose any regime that was imperialistic in nature and you’ll find that corruption was indeed rife. This is not to claim that corruption is not endemic in nature in many nations today but generally, with so much power being centralized, this led to rampant corruption. Heard of the saying, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”? Well, that particular saying was coined after the blatant power abuse, practiced during most regimes including the British Raj.
Basic facilities: As a result of centralization of power, not all enjoyed equal access to some of the most basic facilities
Civil rights: Most Imperialistic regimes opted to suspend civil rights or what went for in it, during those times, to consolidate power and for other reasons as well. This often led to situations where the common man had little or no rights and could not do much to protect his family.
Healthcare: While some of the imperialistic regimes were instrumental in introducing advanced technology including medical advancements, this was more to do with the profit margin than anything else. When it came to dire need, especially during health outbreak, such as plague, those in power sought to isolate those in need in order to protect themselves. In short, the common man’s welfare was the last thing on their minds.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of Imperialism which should certainly be an eye-opener in more ways than one. This is why it is critical to take a closer look at some of the imperialistic regimes, and their various policies so that we can learn from our past.