Imperialism

Imperialism seems to be a central theme in almost every human geography class I have taken to the day, but there are so many different ways to go about looking at it. Chapter eight seems to be an extension of the topic of nationalism, in many ways I think we can view imperialism as a part of nationalist ideals. The authors start by discussing how thousands of aborigine children were taken from their parents in Australia, and then forcibly reeducated. It is crazy to think that the British Empire viewed Australia as a terra nullius, or a people less land. Essentially the natives of Australia were viewed as as being less than human, for not residing within European culture. This same sort of treatment could be seen all across the British Empire, and even after its fall (such as the Apartheid).  This textbook chapter is essentially the chronicle of the most horrific type of nationalism in world history.

Early colonization and expansion by European powers, according to the book, were done for economic and religious reasons. European nations including the Spanish, and Portuguese initially sought increased trade and mercantile exchanges, but they also did missionary work amongst the non-European people they came into contact with. According to the authors, this imperialistic conquering and subjugating of people continued with the British Crown eventually leading to the subjugation of Africa by European powers in the late 1800s. According to the authors modern Geography in many ways has its roots in imperialism, something I never really thought about until now. The mapping and explorations of new land masses probably was quite a boon for a Geographer of the time, but for the native peoples it was a horrible tragedy.

The culmination of all this colonialism and imperialism of the past few centuries has shaped the political landscape of the world today. The end of colonialism (post colonialism) has led to many wars and political disputes worldwide. In Africa, old political boundaries set by Europeans do not usually correlate with ethnic and cultural boundaries already established before their arrival. Africa today is a hodgepodge of multi-ethnic states that often experience brutal civil wars and genocides. In many ways the nationalist tendencies of imperialism, gave birth to a new type of nationalism in Africa. The book talks a lot about “imperial economics”, and how colonial powers exploited their territories for supposed economic gain.

The chapter ends by mentioning that in many ways the U.S. invasion of Iraq as an example of modern day imperialism. I agree that it likely is, we found out that their were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the Bush administration toppled a government that it had long despised as standing against U.S. “national values”. I think this idea is an interesting prelude to the next chapter on geopolitics.

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