How, and why, did the politics of european imperialists in West Africa and Southeast Asia differ? To what degree did economic motives explain these differences, and WHY?
HOW DID THEY DIFFER
WHY DID THEY DIFFER
WHAT ARE THE ECONOMIC MOTIVES
8 Answers | Add Yours
The major difference is that the imperialists took direct control of their African colonies while generally not doing so in Southeast Asia. Of course, there was some actual direct control as with France in Indochina, but not as much as in Africa. I would argue that the differences came about mostly because of how far away Asian lands were and how much more difficult they would have been (with more advanced states and such) to subjugate.
The economic motive was the same in either case. They wanted more land, powerful alliances with nearby countries to their "colonies" and whatever wealth the country possessed. There was also the need to imperialize period, and to have other countries under your control to prove you were important.
I have to agree with pohnpei about the direct take over of the African colonies. The Europeans wanted the gold, diamonds, and other minerals from the lands in Africa. Therefore, they had to take direct control over the lands in order to control the trade.
It would depend on what colony you were talking about. There was not that much difference between plantations in the Congo and plantations in Indochina. On the other hand, conditions in Egypt, for example, where imperialism was mostly economic, were much different than those in Indonesia. In all cases, it was propped up by financial and military power.
Japan and China were, for long periods, able to resist direct western colonization and imperialism. This was less true of Africa. As someone above has pointed out, this was probably due in part to the sheer prioximity of Africa to Europe. It was probably also due in part to the strengths of China and Japan as nations.
Definitely there is a real sense in which geography played a very important role in how colonial history in these two parts of the world worked itself out. We need to remember that we are talking about a very different time when it was immensely difficult, time consuming and at times dangerous to travel such long distances, and even journeying to Africa was considered a rather adventurous odyssey. The longer distances to SE Asia therefore were a key factor in shaping history there.
In both instances, the economic reason for imperialism was driven by the desire for raw materials to expand European economy. In Southeast Asia, Imperialists wanted cash crops like sugar, rice, coffee, cocoa, rubber, and fruit. Because all the rice was shipped away, Southeast Asians had less to eat even though they were growing more.
Imperialism benefited the European economy, not the Southeast Asian economy.
Similarly to Southeast Asia, European imperialists in Africa wanted raw materials and started plantations where they grew peanuts, palm oil, cocoa, and rubber. However, imperialists also took minerals from Africa, such as copper and tin. They even took gold and diamonds. Imperialism in Africa also differed from imperialism in Southeast in that Europeans considered themselves superior to Africans.
#8 hits it right on the head: when a stronger force is able to occupy a country and export goods lacking from their own country, they will inevitably leave the exporting country poorer and in worse shape. One of the biggest problems with European expansion is that many European countries are minerally and agriculturally poor; bad soil, muddy ground, difficult farming and mining, and so by importing goods, they raise their own standard of living. Until around the 19th century, occupying and enslaving a country for production was the status quo.
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