Imperialism: The Giving Hand Essay

1787 words - 7 pages

Imperialism, which is the domination of a country by another one, was an astonishingly powerful force when it first appeared. New imperialism rose like a tidal wave out of still water, focusing primarily on Asia and Africa. By the 1900s, one fifth of the world’s land was under European control. New imperialism broke its crest by 1945, but by then it had already affected its colonies irreversibly, affecting material, politics, culture and society. Walter Rodney claims that this effect was a “one-armed bandit” that only left negative impacts. It is not to say that Rodney is wrong in saying imperialism exploited and oppressed its colonies, simply that he is not correct in saying that imperialism is a “one-armed bandit.” A valid description of imperialism must include both the debts and the credits, and there were both. Walter Rodney’s description of imperialism is invalid, because although he addressed impactful ‘debts,’ he completely denies the important ‘credits’ of material, political, social and cultural change in the colonies.
Walter Rodney’s view on the self-serving and greedy capitalist is inaccurate in its rendition; those who took an interest in colonization often also created material benefits for the colony. Capitalists were mainly driven through selfish interest, leading many people to believe that their impact on the colonies were entirely negative. Indeed, the economic power wielded unfairly by the imperialists left many colonies impoverished materially. Many Indian industries were broken up. Inequality in markets was common; in Africa, any African-owned businesses during the 1920s and 1930s were being paid far less than they deserved for the raw materials they supplied to the European manufacturers. Also, colonies were often heavily taxed as to force the population into growing cash crops to, again, feed Western manufacturers. It was “an increase of exports without adequate compensation; [it was a] loss of manufacturing industry and skill” (Naoroji). As portrayed in the movie Gandhi, there was often a grand divide between the way the rich and the poor lived; the British lived in their own, separate estates that mirrored the style and quality of living back in Britain while the ghettos starved. This shows the unfair divide of materials caused by imperialism in India (Attenborough). However, there were also material benefits that were created. “Means of communication [had] been developed [in India]. There [were] great numbers of bridges, more than 40,000 miles of railway, and 70,000 miles of paved roads” (Marriott 94). The same increase in communication happened in Africa; there were railroads that reached every corner of the country. These roads helped the increase in exports which also arose under the influence of the imperialists while connecting places that originally were thought of as unreachable. In India, “irrigation works on a very large scale brought 30 million acres under cultivation. This added greatly to the agricultural...

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