Imperialism

The most basic definition of imperialism, as stated in the chapter, is the control of one state over other territories. These expansions to other territories, more often than not, began with the encounters between different peoples. On one side were the imperialists, or colonizers. The ones on the other side were the “lesser,” or ones to be colonized. Inevitably, between these clashing groups, one will declare to be the superior, and one default to inferior. Historically, the Europeans, in every case, were the superior standard. The Europeans were always the measuring stick, and anything less was seen as inferior, less sophisticated. While at the time of expansion they saw these colonized territories as lesser or intellectually primitive, we now know that the differences in cultures and values determines who sets out to rule. The idea of expansion and the necessity to do so does not define superiority, but in the time of colonization, this was very much so the case.

Also discussed in the chapter, modern geography could be considered a product of imperialism. There were a few main points to this argument. Knowledge of the earth’s surface gained through the process of expansion enabled possession, and more importantly the idea of possession. These knowledges of exploration and settlement were recorded in the process of map-making and planning. Through the practice of imperialism, the colonizers became more familiar with the world. Through a deeper understanding of the world, it enabled imperialistic expansion to happen more rapidly and effectively. This can be seen somewhat as a cycle, as both are needed in the process of understanding what we know as modern geography.

Another important topic discussed was environmental determinism, which in a nutshell states that the natural environment predicts the progress of societies. It was argued that different societies’ capabilities were suited to different climates, and every climate had a different mentality. This concept at one point in time was a determinant of racial inferiority and superiority. Along with this, according to the chapter, there was a sense of a feministic world outside of Europe. This made the colonization of the new world seem easier, as a feminized world was thought of as an inferior world.

History, along with other disciplines like geography, have always been written from the view of the colonizer, never the colonized. Would our view of the world be different if this had been reversed? Would Europe still be seen as the superior, much like it still is today? This logic clearly has its flaws, as we know in present day, there are many other countries outside of Europe that have created their own success and wealth (who we would consider “superior”), but the need or desire for expansion is not needed to prove this. Our understanding of importance, power, etc. comes from our distinct characteristics of culture, which determines what we consider “superior” and “inferior.” These terms are both relative to context.

 

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