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Struggles for Independence
Dickson CollegeSemester 2, 2013Struggles for IndependenceWhat is colonisation?Coloniseverb[with object]send settlers to (a place) and establish political control over it:the Greeks colonised Sicily and southern Italysettle among and establish control over (the indigenous people of an area):they sought to discredit the peoples they were colonising(as plural nounthe colonised)an organisation seeking to protect the rights of the newly colonisedappropriate (a place or domain) for ones own use:a small town in a part of the Hudson Valley fast being colonised by weekendersEcology(of a plant or animal) establish itself in (an area):mussels can colonise even the most inhospitable rock surfaces
What is imperialism?Imperialismnoun[mass noun]a policy of extending a countrys power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means:the struggle against imperialismfigurativeFrench ministers protested at US cultural imperialismchieflyhistoricalrule by an emperor:in Russia, imperialism had developed alongside a semi-feudal agrarian structure
Comes from Latin word Imperator, which was originally a commander in the army, but became a title used by the Roman Emperors.European ColonisationAlthough there are several suggestions that the Vikings (or perhaps even the Carthaginians) found America by accident, neither of these resulted in mass European colonisation.In 1492 Christopher Colombus was commissioned by the Spanish to find India. He discovered the Caribbean, mistaking it for India (hence why they are sometimes referred to as the West Indies).His discoveries were immediately capitalised on by Spain, followed shortly by Portugal, and a little later on France and England.Division of the New WorldThe New World was decreed to be split evenly between Spain and Portugal in the Inter Caetera Papal Bull of 1456.This only worked for so long. England converted to Anglicanism, and the French just ignored the edict.This map shows the division of the New World by 1800, with late comers the Dutch and the Russians grabbing what little they can.
Imperialism in AsiaEven though America is the best known case of European Imperialism, it was not the original reason for explorers being commissioned.The Portuguese were the first to send out explorers, commissioning Vasco De Gama to sail around the horn of Africa and find India.
The Spanish had hoped to beat the Portuguese there by going around the other side with Columbus, not knowing America was in the way.While the Spanish failed to reach India, the Portuguese succeeded and set up trading posts that gave them a monopoly for years.Eventually, Spain, France, Britain and the Netherlands would reach India too, ending the monopoly, but in the end Britain managed to drive all other Europeans out (except a small Portuguese trading post in Goa) in the late18th Century.Imperialism in AsiaThe two major sites of competition early on were America and India, particularly the latter.As the Dutch were late to the game of colonisation (only becoming an independent republic in 1648), they lost out on the opportunity to get a foothold in either of these spots.So the Dutch went further East, to discover the East Indies, and they became the primary colonisers of this region.
An example of the impact of Imperialism
Imperialism in AsiaThe French, while beginning strong in their efforts in America and India, began suffering significant defeats and reversals.After being driven entirely out of India, and losing Louisiana during the Napoleonic Wars, they were eager for new regions to colonise.They followed the Dutch into East Asia, and invaded the Vietnamese and Cambodians, in the region that the Europeans referred to as Indochina.French IndochinaThey first invaded Saigon in 1859, conquering the surrounding area in 1862.They slowly expanded control across the Cambodian, Vietnamese and Laotian people for the next 31 years, formalising the borders of French Indochina in 1893.These borders were expanded again in 1907 after a deal with the King of Siam (Thailand).
The Scramble for AfricaWith France and Britain carving up Indochina, the East Indies in Dutch hands, India in British hands, and America now independent, the last part of the world left for the Europeans to divvy up was Africa.This created a hectic and violent scramble for the European powers to establish colonies, with newcomers Germany (unified in 1871) and Italy (unified in 1870) wanting a piece of the pie.Although there were already some small colonies in Africa (particularly South Africa), up until this point it wasnt considered important enough to colonise, because there were fewer exploitable resources, more diseases and inhospitable climates, and more dangerous indigenous populations.The scramble totally divided Africa up (excluding Ethiopia) amongst European nations over the period from 1881-1914. Just 33 years!Africa - 1876
Africa - 1914This is another example of the effects of colonialism. What do you notice about the lines that divide the countries up compared to the previous map?
DecolonisationAfter World War II it became increasingly difficult for the Europeans to maintain control of their colonies, for several reasons, including economics and a growing sense of nationalism in the colonies.As revolts broke out throughout Africa, and the costs of maintaining the colonies skyrocketed, the Europeans began withdrawing, either via tactical choice or by being defeated by the locals.In many cases Europeans set up informal systems of control (i.e. the British Commonwealth) in the decolonised countries.Decolonisation was not a consistent policy. Some countries took much longer to gain their independence than others.How were indigenous people treated?Here is an excerpt from Bartoleme de Las Casas A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, written in 1552:
These People were found by them to be Wise, Grave, and well disposd, though their usual Butcheries and Cruelties in opressing them like Brutes, with heavy Burthens, did rack their minds with great Terror and Anguish. At their Entry into a certain Village, they were welcomed with great Joy and Exultation, replenished them with Victuals, till they were all satisfied, yielding up to them above Six Hundred Men to carry their Bag and Baggage, and like Grooms to look after their Horses: TheSpaniardsdeparting thence, a Captain related to the Superiour Tyrant returned thither to rob this (no ways diffident or mistrustful) People, and pierced their King through with a Lance, of which Wound he dyed upon the Spot, and committed several other Cruelties into the bargain. In another Neighboring Town, whose Inhabitants they thought, were more vigilant and watchful, having had the News of their horrid Acts and Deeds, they barbarously murdered them all with their Lances and Swords, destroying all, Young and Old, Great and Small, Lords and Subject without exception.How were indigenous people treated?What does this narrative tell us about how people were treated?What about this drawing, also from Las Casas book?
Think it through!Can you think of any ethical or moral problems with colonisation and European Imperialism?
What kind of an effect do you think it would have on local populations?
How would you feel if you were to have your country colonised by another culture? Would you want to do something about it? What do you think you might do?