Chapter 25 Summary
Western European industrialization fundamentally altered the nature of European overseas expansion. In previous times, Europeans sought desired material goods or moved against threats from external enemies. Industrialization brought new motives for expansion. Raw materials were needed to fuel industrial growth, and markets were required for manufacturing. Christian missionaries sought converts, but private initiative replaced state direction. Another change was that the increased power of the West made it fear European imperial rivalries more than indigenous opposition. Europeans had gained the capacity to push into and occupy territories once closed to them by disease or local resistance.
The Shift to Land Empires in Asia. The early European partition of the world occurred in haphazard fashion. The authorities in Europe were little interested in acquiring expensive and unstable distant possessions. But men on the spot were drawn into local struggles as they sought to advance or defend their interests. The slowness of communications allowed a great deal of freedom for those in the field. Their distant governments could do little to control their actions.
Prototype: The Dutch Advance on Java. The Dutch in Java initially were content to pay tribute as vassals to the ruler of Mataram. They worked to secure a monopoly over spices. During the 1670s, the Dutch were drawn into conflicts among rivals for the Mataram throne. Their support for the winner gave them territories around Batavia to administer. Thereafter the Dutch regularly intervened in succession wars in Mataram. They recruited armies among the local population, forming disciplined forces that usually brought the Dutch victory. They continued to gain land, and by the 1750s the Dutch were paramount in Java.
Keystone of World Empire: The Rise of British Rule in India. The British experience resembled the Dutch process in Java. Agents of the British East India Company were drawn into local wars as the Mughal Empire disintegrated during the 18th century. Following a pattern begun by the French, they relied on Indian troops (sepoys) trained in European military style. Successful intervention in disputes between Indians brought the British increasing territory. The rise of the British also owed much to their global rivalry with the French. Five major wars were fought during the 18th century. During the late 1740s, the British secured initial victories over the French and their Indian allies. The great victory of Robert Clive’s British and Indian troops over the army of the ruler of Bengal at Plassey in 1757 gave the British control of the rich Bengal region.
The Consolidation of British Rule. The British were involved in continuing hostilities following the victory at Plassey. The decline of the Mughal Empire and Indian disunity contributed to British success. Three presidencies, centered at Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, directly governed the territories the British gained. Other regions were controlled through agents at Indian rulers’ courts. By the beginning of the 19th century, India was becoming Britain’s major colonial possession. It contained the empire’s largest colonized population. The willingness of Indians to serve in British-led armies contributed a powerful land force to the empire. Indian ports were vital to British sea power. During the 19th century, India became the major outlet for British manufactured goods and overseas investment as well as a major supplier of raw materials.
Early Colonial Society in India and Java. The Europeans at first were content to leave Asian social systems intact. They formed a new class on top of existing hierarchies. The previous rulers performed most of the daily administrative tasks. The Europeans had to accommodate themselves to indigenous culture in order to survive. They adopted local styles of dress, food, housing, work habits, and political symbols. Since most Europeans were males, they lived with and married indigenous women.
Social Reform in the Colonies. The British and Dutch were not interested in changing local social or cultural life until early in the 19th century. Rampant corruption among British East India Company officials in the 1770s, which contributed to a disastrous famine in Bengal, forced reform. The company was made more accountable to the British government. More sweeping reforms came during the 1790s; besides reducing corruption and the power of local British officials, they severely restricted Indian participation in the administration. At about the same time, forces building both in Britain and India caused major shifts in policy regarding social reform for subject peoples. The Evangelical religious revival worked to end the slave trade and Indian social abuses. Utilitarian philosophers advocated the introduction of British institutions and ideas along with the eradication of social abuses. Both groups were contemptuous of Indian learning and agreed that Western education in the English language was the key to reform. The ending of the ritual immolation (sati) of Hindu widows was a particular focus of reform. The reforms enacted were a watershed in global history. A broad range of the essential components of Western culture were introduced into the Indian world. The British wanted to remake Indian society along Western lines.
Industrial Rivalries and the Partition of the World, 1870–1914. The ongoing development of the Industrial Revolution increased Western military superiority over the rest of the world. By the end of the 19th century, Western nations were the virtually unchallenged masters of other civilizations. They extracted wealth from overseas possessions and diffused what they considered their superior cultural attributes. At the same time, increased European power augmented economic competition and political rivalries. Britain dominated overseas commerce and empire building during the first half of the 19th century; from then on, Britain was challenged by Belgium, France, Germany, and the United States. Quarrels over colonial spoils contributed to the arms races and alliance formation that culminated in World War I.
Unequal Combat: Colonial Wars and the Apex of European Imperialism. By the close of the 19th century, Europeans were the leaders in the ability to make war. New, mass-produced weapons, especially the machine gun, rendered the massed charge suicidal. Railroads and steam ships gave Europeans greater mobility. Africans and Asians still fought fiercely against the imperialists, and a few won signal victories or long-delayed conquest. The Zulu, for example, defeated a British force at Isandhlwana in 1879. Religious leaders mustered magic potions and sought divine assistance against Europeans, but conventional warfare almost always resulted in indigenous defeat. Guerrilla tactics, as in Vietnam, prolonged, but did not defeat, the European advance.
Patterns of Dominance: Continuity and Change. The European colonial world had two rough divisions. In African, Asian, and South Pacific “tropical dependencies,” a few Europeans ruled many indigenous peoples. In the other division—settler colonies—two paths of development emerged. The “White Dominions,” such as Canada and Australia, were inhabited mostly by Europeans and their descendants; indigenous peoples were few. Argentina, Chile, and parts of the United States had similar population structures. The second style, where large European populations lived among even more numerous indigenous peoples, combined characteristics of both settler colonies and tropical dependencies. They included Southern Rhodesia, Algeria, New Zealand, Kenya, and Hawaii. The European and indigenous peoples continuously clashed over control of local resources and questions of social or cultural difference.
Colonial Regimes and Social Hierarchies in the Tropical Dependencies. Europeans drew heavily on past precedents for ruling their millions of subjects. They exploited ethnic and cultural divisions; administrators made the differences more formal by dividing peoples into “tribes.” Minorities, especially Christians, were favored in colonial recruiting. A small number of Europeans, usually living in urban centers, directed administrations. Indigenous officials—some of the highest ranks were Western educated—worked at local levels. Western-language education in Java and India was state-supported; in Africa, Christian missionaries often ran the schools. European racial prejudices blocked higher education for most Africans and greatly stunted the growth of a middle class in Africa. Asians had more opportunities, but officials there feared the impact of such education and often denied graduates appropriate positions.
Changing Social Relations between Colonizers and the Colonized. The growing size and changing makeup of European communities in the colonies were critical factors in the growth of tensions between rulers and the ruled. Europeans increasingly lived in segregated quarters with their families. Relations with indigenous women were not favored. European missionaries strengthened the opposition to interracial contacts. The process was assisted by the peaking of notions of white racial supremacy in the decades before 1914. Non-Europeans were regarded as permanently inferior.
Shifts in Methods of Economic Extraction. By the late 19th century, colonial administrators attempted to introduce scientific agricultural techniques and to make their subjects work harder and more efficiently to produce cheaper and more abundant raw materials. Among the incentives employed were the introduction of cheap consumer goods, increased taxation, and harsh forced labor. The economies of most colonies were reduced to dependence on industrialized European nations. Railways and roads were built to facilitate export of raw materials. Mining sectors grew dramatically and vast regions were given over to export crops rather than food for local consumption. The profits went mainly to European merchants and industrialists. Raw materials went to Europe to be made into products for European consumers. Indigenous workers gained little or no reward.
White Settler Colonies in South Africa and the Pacific. Relations between indigenous peoples and Europeans in settler colonies, depending upon the numbers involved, varied widely. In the earlier colonies—Canada, Argentina, the United States, Chile—disease and conquest devastated sparse indigenous populations. Some, along with the later-settled Australia, became an integral part of Western society. Nineteenth-century settler colonies in Africa and the Pacific islands possessed larger indigenous populations who were either resistant, or were able to develop resistance, to European diseases. Enduring conflict resulted.
South Africa. The Dutch in Africa did not move far inland for decades. Afrikaners eventually moved into thinly populated, temperate regions. They enslaved and interbred with the Khoikhoi. When the British took control of South Africa, the culturally different Afrikaners resisted efforts to end slavery. The frictions caused many Afrikaners to move inland to regions occupied by Bantu peoples. The struggles between the two produced regional instability that led to British involvement. The Afrikaners formed two interior republics during the 1850s and remained independent until the discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1885) renewed tensions that culminated with Afrikaner defeat in 1902. Subsequent British policy placed the majority of the African population under Afrikaner control.
Pacific Tragedies. The coming of colonial rule in the South Pacific resulted in demographic disaster and social disruption. The local population lacked immunities to European diseases, and their cultures proved vulnerable to disruption from European goods and values. The continued survival of the peoples of Hawaii and New Zealand was in doubt.
New Zealand. The first Europeans—timber merchants and whalers—settled among the Maori during the 1790s. Alcoholism and prostitution spread. The Maoris suffered from the effects of firearms used in their endemic warfare and the devastating impact of European diseases. The Maoris survived and began to adjust to the impact of the foreigners. They followed European-style farming and cut timber for export. Many converted to Christianity. A new contact period commenced in the early 1850s, when British farmers and herders arrived. They occupied fertile regions and drove the Maoris into the interior. The latter faced extinction, but instead learned to use the European legal, political, and educational systems to rebuild their culture. A multiracial society evolved that allowed mutual accommodation of cultures.
Hawaii. The islands were opened to the West during the 1770s. James Cook and later arrivals convinced Hawaiian Prince Kamehameha to accept Western influences and create a unified state. With British help, he won a kingdom by 1810. Kamehameha encouraged Western merchants to export Hawaiian goods in return for increasing royal revenues. Hawaiian royalty began imitating Western ways; women rulers abandoned taboos subordinating women to men. Protestant American Christians won many converts; they changed indigenous customs and established a school system. Westerners introduced diseases that decimated the population, while they exploited the economy by establishing a plantation sugar system. The monarchy encouraged Western businesses and imposed Western concepts for landholding so that property once shared between commoners and aristocrats went to the Hawaiian elite and Westerners. Important population change occurred when American settlers and Asian workers arrived. American planters took advantage of weak rulers after 1872 to press for annexation; the last ruler was deposed in 1893, and Hawaii passed to the United States in 1898.