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10-08-2015, 16:05

THE HIGH TIDE OF IMPERIALISM: AFRICA AND ASIA IN AN ERA OF WESTERN DOMINANCE

In 1877, the young British empire builder Cecil Rhodes drew up his last will and testament. He bequeathed his fortune, achieved as a diamond magnate in South Africa, to two of his close friends and acquaintances. He also instructed them to use the inheritance to form a secret society with the aim of bringing about “the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom . . . especially the occupation of the whole continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia [Crete], the whole of South America . . . the ultimate recovery of the United States as an integral part of the British Empire . . . [and] finally the foundation of so great a power to hereafter render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.”1 Preposterous as such ideas seem to us today, they serve as a graphic reminder of the hubris that characterized the worldview of Rhodes and many of his contemporaries during the age of imperialism, as well as the complex union of moral concern and vaulting ambition that motivated their actions on the world stage. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Western colonialism spread throughout much of the non-Western world. Spurred by the demands of the Industrial Revolution, a few powerful Western states—notably Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States—competed avariciously for consumer markets and raw materials for their expanding economies. By the end of the nineteenth century, virtually all of the traditional societies in Asia and Africa were under direct or indirect colonial rule.

 

 

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