Sample donated: Florence Shaw
Last updated: October 1, 2019
After the industrial revolution created a social and economical boom within Europe, it triggered a much more international phenomena and that was imperialism.
The success and mass production from the industries in Europe provided them with multiple needs to expand and take advantage of other countries. Europe needed both things like agricultural extension and resources from other countries to fuel their revenue and industry, and more nationalistic things like reaching abroad and converting others to European ideals and religion, along with the necessity to outcompete European rivals in terms of ownership. Thus imperialism seemed to be a clear solutions by the challenges offered by the industrial revolution, as well as being a way to maintain eurocentrism.
Europe branched out to places such as most prominently, Asia and Africa, were there large populations would provide enormous market potential, thus it was much more profitable to invest beyond Europe. Upon fostering and developing these foreign colonies, three new elements of what was perceived as “European superiority” arose; nationalism, the “civilizing mission”, and scientific racism. Nationalism, the “civilizing mission”, and scientific racism all fueled Europe’s existing sense of preeminence over the rest of the world initially fostered by the industrial revolution, and made imperialism an “inevitable” overtaking where the contingency-rooted supreme civilization could fertilize the idea they would bolster but mostly dominate the rest of the world. Nationalism, (to support and share ideology and societal concepts), was enforced upon the new colonies by the Europeans with motives of expansion as an immediate socially territorial act. Aside from benefiting industrialization and revenue, another goal of imperialism was to expand the a country’s “name” and their culture, to nationalize the foreign countries, as mean of representation.
The countries within Europe were in a sort of competition between one another in terms of dominance over other non-European countries, so along with the natural gain from converting external masses to their national culture, nationalism was seen as a way to gain power and status within European countries. “Colonies and spheres of influence abroad became symbols of “Great Power” status for a nation, and their acquisition was a matter of urgency, even if they possessed little immediate economic value.”(pg.882). In some ways it was more important to the separate European countries to gain status as a nation compared to the others of Europe. They gained this status by colonizing and enforcing new nationalism upon foreign countries, and whether or not this mean of status had economic value, it granted the European country a new interior form of power within Europe.
Social power could be just as good as economic power because usually one implied the other. Therefore when Europeans could achieve both social and economic power over the foreign countries by exercising and enforcing imperialism but more specifically social power was provided through nationalism. Since enforcing an entirely different nation upon a country is a somewhat extreme operation, the Europeans used what they called the “civilizing mission” to justify their action for a reason besides blunt economic and social power. The civilizing mission was the idea that Europeans, being ultimately “superior” had a supposed duty to colonize and bring civilization to the alleged backwards foreigners of the places they colonized such as Asia and Africa, and was used to justify imperialist actions overall. The civilizing mission arose from the combined European beliefs that first, Europeans saw themselves as dominant for many historical reasons and therefore believed it was their destiny to civilize the lesser, and second that it was the “biological” destiny of the foreigners to lose all attempts at personal leadership. “For they were predicated on the notion that weeding out the “weaker” peoples of the world would allow the “stronger” to flourish”(pg. 884).
“These ideas influenced how Europeans viewed their own expansion. Almost everyone saw it as inevitable, a natural growth of a superior civilization”(pg.883). The interesting thing about this quote is that the word “weeding” does not necessarily mean to exterminate.
To completely remove the alternate races would be tedious and unnecessary, therefore the Europeans utilized best solution which was to use the “lesser” as tools for revenue and Nationalist expansion, which was another, possibly more significant way to “allow the stronger to flourish”. This collective European belief then gave birth to the “civilizing mission” which is exactly what it sounds like, the Europeans mission to civilize the “lesser” which was seen by the Europeans to benefit both parties justifying the imperialist idea, but really only offered an advantage to Europe because they had now expanded their nations and harnessed more sources of production.One of the most foundational concepts in the civilizing mission was that Asians and Africans were of less quality and ability and therefore “required civilizing support”, without that idea there would be almost no other logical reasoning behind the civilizing mission. Therefore “Inferior biology” was the one of the main ways Europeans rationalized their mass imperialism. This makes the civilizing mission “directed” at the foreigners.
The subjects of the civilizing mission were “factually/biologically inferior” people such as Asians and Africans who Europe previously had racial biases against, and were now used as tools for revenue, though at the same time being converted to nationalism, european ideology, and proper civilization by the Europeans who believed they needed “owners”. The Europeans were extremely reluctant to offering the foreigners any independence because of “inferior composition” and previous biases paired with their necessity to maintain dominance for revenue and status purposes. “Europeans were exceedingly reluctant to allow even the most highly educated Asians and Africans to enter the higher ranks of the colonial civil service”(pg.891). The whole concept of imperialism would have been completely useless if the Europeans knew they would lose all power and become equal with the rest of civilization. The point therefore of imperialism was to gain world power, and granting any other race or country a leadership role would destroy the initial intentions. Europeans needed to carry out all methods of keeping the members of the foreign races they were civilizing below them in status.
This included keeping the colonized citizens out of any decision making power, even if they were more than capable. Europeans needed to keep the foreigners at a lower status at all times and their “excuse” for doing so was “biology”. Scientific racism paved the path for a great deal of Europe’s success in the industrial revolution and therefore the age of imperialism. If Africans and Asians were not so dehumanized Europe would have a much more difficult time dominatinating their civilizations.
Nationalism, the “civilizing mission”, and scientific racism ignited Europe’s already extant impression of predominating over surrounding countries, and made imperialism an “inevitable” overtaking where the contingency-rooted supreme civilization could fertilize the idea they would bolster but mostly dominate the rest of the world. Nationalism was enforced upon the new colonies by the Europeans with motives of expansion as an immediate socially territorial act. The civilizing mission fostered idea that Europeans, being ultimately “superior” had a supposed duty to colonize and bring civilization to the alleged backwards foreigners of the places they colonized such as Asia and Africa, and was used to justify imperialist actions overall. The subjects of the civilizing mission were “factually/biologically inferior” people such as Asians and Africans who Europe previously had racial biases against, and were now used as tools for revenue, though at the same time being converted to nationalism, european ideology, and proper civilization by the Europeans who believed they needed “owners”.
The industrial revolution and imperialism both fed off each other in the overriding purpose of Europe exercising capitalism and mass rule. While within Europe, countries were competing with each other for whoever could gain the most power and effectively represent a well functioning civilization. The transitioning expansion from industrial to imperial served as yet another opportunity for Europe to strategically, socially, and economically perpetuate eurocentric ideals.