The Rationalizations of British Imperial Rule

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Last updated: April 12, 2019

Rationalization is the name of the game. For that is exactly what western imperialist states had to do in order to keep expanding and holding their control. One of the largest players in this game was Britain. Several of their reasons included economic, political, and cultural stances. As understandable as all these reasons are, they are not quite convincing in my eyes.

Great Britain learned back in the beginnings of the global economy that they needed to seek natural resources outside their island.Mainly agricultural goods and luxury items were desirable at first, but with the new demands of industrialization, these needs turned to rubber, tin, and copper. This opened up for unbelievable business opportunities that could not be ignored by any good entrepreneur. Cecil Rhodes is a perfect example of this. In the late nineteenth century, the gold and diamonds of Africa made him a very rich man. Realizing that his fortune could not have been possible without Britain’s expansion into Africa, he began campaigning in the favor of British imperial expansion into Africa and Asia (Traditions and Encounters, 936).Britain’s explanation for moving into these areas, imposing imperial rule, and essentially attempting to eclipse whatever the people of these areas once knew with European laws or values, was mostly in the name of seeking natural resources (Traditions and Encounters, 941). Really, I think it was that, but it was more along the lines of cutting out the middleman so that profits could be maximized for the individual as well as Britain.

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This kind of greed mixed with an attitude of superiority is never a justifiable reason to barge in to another country and start calling the shots (or trying to anyway).However, control equals power and power leads to money, so in the search for money Great Britain tried (and did a pretty good job) to take control of as much of Asia and Africa as possible. It’s no wonder either, because if Britain didn’t do it, then another western power would have.

It was this political competition with other western powers that added fuel to the race for Britain to take control. The competition (or “great game”) went beyond the desire for natural resources and into an almost territorial obsession.Britain and other European countries continued to occupy coastal regions even if there wasn’t a significant profit being reaped, solely on the basis that they might be useful someday (Traditions and Encounters, 936). A large problem I have with Imperial rule is that the British (like many other Europeans) did not care for the native people of the occupied lands. In India, when a massive famine and bubonic plague epidemic broke out during the late nineteenth century, British efforts were existent but useless (Traditions and Encounters, 961).On top of being insensitive, the British (like other Europeans) were also racist. Using Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, Darwinists helped justify and defend Imperial control over what they considered ‘less fit people’ (Traditions and Encounters, 960).

Although many British rationalized that Imperial rule was needed because these ‘less fit people’ were incapable of managing their own resources, I think that Imperial rule was just a way to keep the native people from having a chance to manage and become competition.This deliberate oppression is in no way justifiable to me, but it just is the way things happen. The people that did not support Imperialism for economic or political reasons did so for cultural reasons. This group of people mainly consisted of missionaries who opposed the political and economic aspects of imperialism but embraced the fact that they could get people to convert to Christianity (Traditions and Encounters, 936). Much like the Darwinists, missionaries were so egotistical that they felt that their influence was ‘bettering’ the natives of Imperialist controlled areas.I, myself, am always a little skeptical of organized religions because there is more than one way to look at something.

I find it extremely dangerous when people demand that there is only one right way to live. It is actually my biggest issue with Imperialism. Having economic and political control is one thing, but having total control over them is another. Trying to take over the religious beliefs of these people is like the last nail in the coffin for having total control.

It’s almost like pretending to take care of them when really your just distracting them from the rich people getting richer off their lands. It just seems so wrong to me, but reality is and that’s that. Defiantly, the economic and political components will get more attention than the cultural.

Regardless, all of Britain’s rationalizations add up to a system of total control. Because of this, Imperialism is equivalent to invasion. That’s why, as understandable as all these reasons are, they are not quite convincing in my eyes.

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