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What is New Imperialism?

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What is New Imperialism? The study of imperialism forms an important aspect of history. It is crucial in understanding the world as it is today because without it we cannot fully understand issues of identity, culture and difference. It is particularly important with respect to how it has shaped culture and social relations. It is necessary to define imperialism and new imperialism. Historically this has been difficult to do. Said argues that the idea of imperialism is very controversial and so is fraught with all sorts of questions, doubts and ideological premises (Said, 1993). In simplest terms imperialism can be used to describe the domination by persons of one nation over another nation (Seton-Watson, 1961). The term new imperialism refers to events which took place within a certain period of history. Although there is no agreement on the precise period, there is some general consensus that the era of new imperialism took place between 1870 and 1914 and this is the period I will focus on in this essay. In order to answer the question 'what is new imperialism? I will approach it from four different viewpoints. Firstly I will look at new imperialism as a period of history, that is, the dates and events which form a backdrop to the changes which took place. Then I will describe the changes in the balance of power between Britain and Europe. ...read more.


Military power was also consolidated with the prizes of Empire being the supply of soldiery (Kiernan, 1995). The events which took place during this era of expansion are open to many interpretations and forms of explanations. When looked at in terms of a political and economic system, different and often conflicting theories can be used to explain its development. Many theories and literature link imperialism to capitalism. Capitalism, that is the process where capital is invested in production, can be thought to have begun in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Kiernan, 1995). Thus it is evident that imperialism is especially relevant to the Marxist theory, which sees new imperialism as the economic and political dominance of monopolistic finance capital in the most advanced countries and the control of the means of production in the less developed regions (www.nationmaster.com). Marxists use new imperialism to describe and explain the spread of British and later European capital throughout the world (Brown, 1972). Lenin is one of the key Marxist theorists who emphasised the connection between imperialism and capitalism. According to Lenin "imperialism is due to capitalism, and when capitalism is removed, by the abolition of private property over the means of production, distribution and exchange, imperialism must cease to exist" (Seton-Watson, 1961 pg 9). ...read more.


This coupled with white man's accumulated pride in From this essay it is evident that there are many ways of looking at and different theories to explain new imperialism. This essay shows that the period 1870-1914 saw the development of a different kind of imperialism, one with ruthlessness driven by increased competition. Imperialist advances which created huge changes to the social and political systems is a relatively brief period. The same forces and attitudes are leading social and political changes today. This can be identified in the recent war on Iraq. This essay explains new imperialism in terms of the balance of power between Britain and Europe. It is evident that Britain's position was central. It is not unusual then, that British society, class system and culture are heavily influenced by this period. Explaining new imperialism as a political and economic system is the area in which there is the most confusion and debate. Despite some who argue otherwise, there is much evidence to suggest that it was capitalist tendencies which led to new imperialism. Finally the idea of imperialism as a civilising mission involves the idea of oppression and exploitation. The behaviour during the era of new imperialism was so in human that a cover story was needed. This was needed in order to convince people that what was happening was acceptable. It is visible that new imperialism occurred as a result of previous conditions, of which the influence can be seen in present day. ...read more.

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