The Successes of European Imperialism
At the height of their power, the British Empire consisted of half the world. But how did it get there, and where exactly is “there”? With Europe having just undergone the Industrial Revolution, it needed resources to fuel its economy. The fact that Europe had gone through an Industrial Revolution and nowhere else had gave them an advantage over the rest of the world. The successes of European imperialism were many. It gave a few power over many, it fuelled Europe’s economy, and it spread Western influence across the globe.
Above all, it Westernized the world, a fact that remains today, while the rest do not. It is easy to tell at a glance, how much the world has been Westernized. The easiest way to tell is the widespread English language. Once upon a time, there was only one country who spoke this language – an island in Europe. But now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a country where no one speaks English. Even in China, you can easily get English interpreters. English is one of the official languages of dozens of countries around the globe.
Another influence from Europe that has now proceeded to sweep the globe is Christianity. It started out as a predominantly European religion, and is now the most common religion in the world. This was another marvelous success of the spreading of western influence. There was also a flood of other, minor, western influences that have traversed the planet. People all over the world dress like Westerners, do business like Westerners, do science like Westerners, and many other things. This is significant because it unified the world to a degree. Why? Because of imperialism.
These few Europeans spread their way of life to the many around the world. Secondly, it is astonishing how a few small countries in Europe could hold sway over dozens of larger countries around the globe. This in itself is a remarkable success. Controlling the world the way the Europeans did is no easy feat. Regardless of how powerful the army, if enough people rebel, they will break free. Eventually it happened. After WWII, the British hold on their empire, especially their African one, crumbled, and with it, all of European colonialism collapsed.
But for a hundred years, Europe was the boss. Why Europe is a question for another time, but the fact is that they did, for better or worse. To begin with, it is hard enough to imagine that a small island in the western part of Europe could control even one large country like India. But control it they did. Furthermore, they controlled many other places as well. Africa to name but one. While they didn’t control all of Africa, the Europeans controlled almost the entire continent. Again, they lost it after WWII, but for many years, the owned it.
They needed the resources of half the world to fuel their factories and their economies. Lastly, fuelling their economy in and of itself is an achievement. Their colonies gave Europe vast markets to sell to, and the colonies’ resources gave Europe the fuel it needed. The Industrial Revolution was driving imperialism, and imperialism was driving it. This relationship between the Industrial Revolution and imperialism was making Europe the masters of the world. They sold opium to China, driving their economy, and China complained.
So they crushed them. No country had yet succeeded at resisting. After WWII, the African countries rebelled, and eventually they broke free, but for a long time, Europe had succeeded at fuelling its economy with the riches of its colonies. Leaf subsides to leaf So Eden sank to grief So dawn goes down to day Nothing gold can stay. –Robert Frost While there is a difference of opinion on weather or not European imperialism was gold, it certainly didn’t stay. WWII caused its demise, and it hasn’t come back since.
China bounced back, is a major world power, and is set to overtake the US economically. India is independent, and also has a large economy. Africa threw off European rule, and is now a patchwork of independent countries from Angola to Zimbabwe. Japan managed to industrialize in time, and has a strong, modern economy. And, lastly, South East Asia became independent and is playing an ever-larger role in the world’s economy and politics. European imperialism was enormously successful while it lasted, and its effects live on to today.