Since the conception of imperialism in ancient times, powerful countries have dominated and abused weaker countries. Imperialism is a fearful force that destroys countries, their economies, and their cultures, for the satisfaction of another country’s greed and honor. Imperialism destroyed our mellow, peaceful world and plunged centuries into dark, depressing ages. This ruining force destroyed more than it gained, hurt more than it helped, exploited more than it benefited, and killed more than it could save. Imperialism was harmful to the colonies; it destroyed political frameworks and created a power struggle once freedom was achieved, it destroyed the colonies’ economies in many harmful ways, and completely obliterated rich cultures and beliefs, often with the aid of forceful missionaries.
To begin, imperialism destroyed the political frameworks of many weak, but stable, countries. To do so, imperialists occupied the country they targeted then installed their own government in the colony. By doing this, imperialists’ take over political and financial aspects of the country by force and then eventually take over its governmental system to rule the people and organize labor. A perfect example of this chaotic political destruction is the British colonization of India by the East India Company, “In order to conquer, then hold, these possessions [colonies] an army was needed; in order to administrate them, a civil service was required; and that in turn implied the existence of a body of law. Further, to rule the company’s domains, a government was required: a business had thus created a state.”
This example shows how imperialism slowly “grew” within the country under the pretext of establishing safety and trade opportunities and then indirectly controlling its military and political systems. Moving on, imperialism typically led to power vacuums in colonies, so even after freedom was achieved, there was political struggles between democracy and military dictatorships. When colonizers finally granted their colonies freedom, they cut ties and left the now independent countries on their own. Having their previous political systems wrenched from them, the people of these free colonies raced to develop a stable, efficient, and democratic government. However, the brief void of a government system often presented opportunities for greedy and powerful people to establish themselves as dictators.
Most of these want-to-be-dictators had military forces of their own, so it was hard to oppress and overthrow them – leading to even more trouble and poverty in the peasantry class. A very supportive example would be the power struggle in South Africa. The apartheid, a facet of imperialism, was formed as a racial segregation between blacks and whites in South Africa. This apartheid led to the dictatorship of whites over blacks. A man named Nelson Mandela who dedicated his entire life to gain freedom for all people in South Africa stated, “I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” Independence was finally gained in 1994, decades after freedom was achieved. This example demonstrates how hard it is for ruined colonies to reestablish freedom.
To continue, imperialism was harmful to the affected colony’s economies and eventually the world economy. The most significant cause for global and local economic depressions was this disruption of industrialization. Disrupted industrialization resulted in massive decrease of trade and export of manufactured goods decreased to nearly nonexistent. Once freedom was obtained, the colonies could not sell anything because they could not make anything. On the other hand, the demands for goods in colonies consequently increase so imports increase. In short, the countries expenses would exceed the countries profits – which leads to debt and other economy slowing factors.
A chart showing the export of manufactured goods of the countries involved in imperialism (both taking over and being taken over). Depicted in this table, colonized countries such as India had high export and manufacture rates before imperialism. However, after being colonized, manufacturing rates decreased until they became nearly nonexistent – certainly not enough for the country. Another factor contributing to the utter obliteration of the colonies’ economies was the cruel and harsh exploitation of labor and raw materials. One of the main reasons for imperialism was to exploit the abundant supplies of labor and raw materials of the colonies to manufacture goods and services and sell them at incredibly high prices – to the people of these colonies!
The exploitation of labor and resources can be seen in Belgium’s imperialization of Africa. King Leopold had made the district of Congo his own personal state (with the support of Belgium) and eventually it became a colony of Belgium. However, the awful crimes he committed for his greed cannot be undone, “Between 1885 and 1908, there were between five and eight million victims of Leopold’s personal rule, under a barbarous system of forced labor and systematic terror.” So, the colonies’ economies were affected because industrialization was halted and the labor and raw materials were exploited on a large scale.
Finally, the most damage done to the colonies was cultural imperialism. The damage done politically and economically will remain as a light fingerprint and can slowly be undone, but cultural imperialism was the worst – it remains to this day as a reminder of the heinous acts of imperialism. One of the main reasons imperialists’ were found dominating and changing the cultures and customs of natives was their belief that they were the superior race. This racism compelled colonizers to convert natives, “From this fundamental reaction, [seeking the simple primitives and their own achievements] it was but a small step to assume that the primitives thereafter must move inexorably out of their backward state, towards the twin blessings of Western science and the Christian faith.”
In account of this perspective, the colonizers did not believe they were doing wrong by spreading their own culture and forcing natives to convert, they saw it as an act of benevolence on their part and forcing was merely to enlighten them. Missionaries were the heart of cultural imperialism. Set out with the mindset that their religion was the only right religion, they used ruthless, terrible methods to force people to convert – sometimes for their lives and other times for loved ones. Christians and Muslims justified their cruel, sinful actions with the thought that Christianity or Islam, respectively, was the only right religion. Christian and Muslim missionaries found ways to convert people either willingly or unwillingly. They took advantage of poor and needy people by first providing help then leading them to convert.
As Lamb states: “However, once initial assistance is given [to the poor], then conditions are often added for subsequent help… For those who do convert in order to receive needed care, they may well be pressured to then convert other family members or else lose whatever aid they are receiving.” Moreover, these missionaries converted large parts of imperialized locations through these ruthless methods. The majority of Africa was either Muslims or Christians opposed to traditional religion (which was all of Africa previous to cultural imperialism).
In conclusion, Imperialism was one of the worst things embraced by humanity. Any positive effects resulting from all the damage imperialism caused, was short lived and ephemeral. First, imperialism destroyed political systems, caused chaos, and then led to the rise of military dictatorships, more terror, and poverty. Additionally, imperialism halted industrialization, which led to debt and unstable economies, and looted all colonies of raw materials and the labor force. Finally, industrialization led to cultural changes, destroying rich heritages and forcefully introducing new religions, usually with missionaries. Although some people argue imperialism improved the world, it was not worth all the misery it caused.