Imperialism

Chapter 8 talks about imperialism, colonialism, and in a sense, racism. Painter and Jeffrey explain these concepts using the standard example of, of course, Europe. The general idea and process of imperialism then, is as follows: One civilization explores until it meets another, then generally finds something they want from this new civilization, and lastly, finds a way to take it, using any of a multitude of possible ways. The Iberian peninsula, made up of Spain and Portugal, is the first to try its hand at overseas imperialism, and as such, is the first example given, and using their phrase “God, Gold, and Glory”, then, one can understand the imperialism of nearly every state throughout time.

The first of the three Gs, God, is a common reason for expansion into a country, as it provides not only a reason for expansion into a new country, but an uplifting message that one is doing the right thing. This is used many ways throughout history, some without even realizing it. The common example jumped to is the Iberian peninsula converting every possible Latin American person they could to Catholicism, but when turned just so slightly, justifies European expansion into America as well, in that it calls on the escape of religious persecution, or turned again, a reason to slaughter your enemies, because of faith, letting Europeans see themselves as superior, rather than inferior. Samuel Huntington discusses this subject, noting that, while it helps to form unions, such as the Economic Cooperation Organization, a group of non-Arab Muslim countries, it also provides a reason to fight, as “the cultural division of Europe between Western Christianity, on the one hand, and Orthodox Christianity and Islam, on the other, has reemerged.” (Huntington 29) While Europe was justified then, though, it is now that the problems appear, the divergence of peoples based on these religions that were forced on them in the past.

Speaking of economics, though, gold is always relevant when talking about imperialism. Traditionally speaking, this was the Spanish taking advantage of Latin America’s resources, or the fur trade that brought so many people to North America. A better example, though, is that of Africa’s long list of natural resources, which were so great in number that the continent itself was split into individual nations by Europe, so that no one claimed another country’s colony. This is a good idea in theory, until it is remembered that no one actually represented Africa in making these borders, and that even after said African countries gained independence, often after decades of infighting due to badly drawn borders, they still rely on their colonizers, because those are the only trade routes that have been established. Speaking in a postcolonial sense, then, they are still functioning as colonies, as because of the many years of being held up to European standards, the ideology has stuck, and they have yet to be completely “decolonized”.

Glory, lastly,  deals with something fairly simple, at least compared to God and gold. Glory deals with the idea that having discovered a new place makes the explorer country that much more important, and the race of the people who discovered it, then, also more important. Racism in Latin America, apartheid in South Africa, and the idea of terra nullius in Australia, all of these have their roots in glory. India, for example, works well here as an example of this postcolonialism, as it is given two versions of its own history, one a “modern, secular history” given by the Britain, and the other a “nationalist historiography”, used by traditional Indians.

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