Today many people believe that it is wrong for a nation to have colonies.  How does this view contrast with that held by the British in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s?   

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This view contrasts very strongly with that held by the British (and other Europeans) in the 1600s and even as late as the early 1900s.

To the British, any land held by those who were less powerful than they were was fair game to be colonized.  The British essentially believed at that time in the idea that "might makes right."  If the British had the strength to come to America and to take land away from the natives who lived there, they therefore also had the right to do so.  (The British, though less so than some other people, tried to argue that colonization and conquest was acceptable because it was a way of bringing Christianity to those being colonized.  I believe that this was merely a rationalization and not a serious motive for most colonizers.)

The British also believed that colonization was legitimate as a way to economic gain.  They believed that it was right for them to take territory simply because they could and because they felt that it could do them some economic good.  In addition, they believed that a desire to have more power relative to other colonial powers was a legitimate reason to colonize.

Today, we see colonization as an immoral act.  In those days, by contrast, it was seen as a legitimate way of gaining economic and military/political power.  Any country that had the power to take a colony also had the right to do so.

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