Between the 19th to 20th centuries, western imperialism had (and still has) an enormous impact on many regions all over the world. Not only was the effect of this popular imperialism felt in Africa, Asia, and some parts of North America – where the imperial powers were able to successfully establish their powerful control – alone, it was also reflected in the continent of Europe, where the actual sovereignty resided (Nadel, & Curtis, 1969; Stuchtey, 2011).
The region of Europe was able to sell itself to the world, literally and figuratively (Elliott, 2002). They were able to exert their great influence and dominance in many aspects of life, ranging from religion to technology and so on, over others, and, in turn, hugely benefit from the whole process (Nadel, & Curtis, 1969).
In order to fully understand the topic of imperialism, arguments over the effects of imperialism have arisen among many historians in the past few years. This is why the primary aim of this article is to briefly and explicitly examine some of the effects of imperialism in Europe.
According to Hancock (1940), the term imperialism “is no word for scholars”. This is because there is a “chaos of definition”; there are so many varieties of meanings by different researchers. Most of these definitions have failed to completely capture the actual meaning of the term (Harrison & Wright, 1967).
Nevertheless, a few scholarly definitions will be provided in this article to help us better understand the twin concepts of imperialism and colonialism, if not fully as some historians would like us to, but enough for us to at least form a foundational basis of understanding on the subject of this article.
Lake (2001) defines imperialism as “a form of international hierarchy in which one political unit, or polity, effectively governs or controls another polity.”
Hubson (1902) also explains in his book, Imperialism: A Study, that “colonialism, in its best sense, is a natural overflow of nationality; its test is the power of colonists to transplant the civilization they represent to the new natural and social environment in which they find themselves.”
According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, “imperialism is defined as a state policy, practise, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas.”
Worthy of note in these aforementioned definitions is the use of the keywords “control”, “power”, “dominion” and “civilization”. Imperialism can then be viewed as a process of “civilization” (Falser, 2015), whereby a powerful state sets up the policy of asserting dominance or control over other regions by firmly establishing its social, economic, religious, and political systems all around.
THE SPREAD OF EUROPEAN SYSTEMS
The influence European imperialism had, generally, can be said to be mostly cultural (Encyclopedia.com, 2020; Falser, 2015). Hence, the European powers were able to successfully spread and establish their systems across the globe. Imperialism made Europe the most powerful and most developed continent all over the world. Christianity, the religion of the Europeans, also became the most popular religion in the world.
At the same time, European languages became widely spoken. Languages like English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese are presently more popular because of the huge influence the imperial powers were able to establish in different regions of the world, especially in Asia, Africa, and North America.
European culture, religion, education, and political systems have been widely adopted in many regions around the world (Falser, 2015). Many of the colonized countries have integrated the democracy and political ideals of Europe into their own political systems.
Similarly, just as the European powers were conquering regions and establishing their influence across the globe, they were also surreptitiously adopting some of the cultures and ideas of the conquered nations. Fruits and foods were imported into Europe. Certain styles and languages of the colonized regions also found their way into the cultures of the European people. Some Afro-lingos have now been adopted into the Oxford English Dictionary the, words like “trek”, “howzit”, “k-leg” and so on (Hirsch, 2020).
In addition, Indian words like “thug”, “pajamas”, and “bungalow” were also adopted into the English language (Encyclopedia.com, 2020).
In light of the European industrial revolution of 1760 to 1840, the countries that later took imperial control over certain regions in different parts of the world began to travel far distances for trade purposes (Acemoglu, Johnson & Robinson (2005). For the transitioning of manual operations to technological applications, different European merchants travelled over waters in search of the necessary material resources they could utilize for manufacturing machines and developing their institutions.
In order to gain unlimited access to the natural resources of the colonized regions, the European powers had to first, by exchanging fascinating items with locals, persuade the natives to allow them to exploit the domestic materials. Consequently, they also provided the natives with the defence and security they needed against foreign attacks, before eventually taking over the full control of the natural materials (Acemoglu & Johnson, 2017).
This cheap access to natural resources, in conjunction with the heavy taxation, levied on the locals helped the European powers to be more productive in the development and modernization of their overall economy (Kindleberger, 1961). The current prosperity of many European nations can also be described as one of the evident effects of imperialism on Europe as a whole.
The scramble for land between the European powers also led to diplomatic crises and an international conflict that shook the world over (Payind, & McClimans, 2015). For example, the two Moroccan crises of 1905 and 1911 are two important crises that arose as a result of imperialism and the clash between the world powers at that time.