What are the effects of imperialism on our world today?

The main effect of imperialism in our world today is the lack of economic development in formerly colonized nations. For centuries, countries in the developing world were exploited by their imperial overlords. This meant that when independence was finally achieved, nations in the developing world were economically weak and constantly needed to play catch up with developed countries.

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There are a number of effects of imperialism on our world today. Let me detail a few of these effects for you.

Firstly, you might want to mention that it is thanks to imperialism that there are certain European languages which are spoken across the world. English is probably the best example for this, as people in most countries which were British colonies at one point still use English as an important language, if not even as their main language. This can be seen in countries such as India, for example. The same applies to Spanish and French. For example, French is still widely spoken in Morocco alongside Arabic, and many South American countries still have Spanish as their main language.

Another effect of imperialism that you might want to mention is the fact that the establishing of colonies often led to a rather artificial drawing of country borders. Countries were created in a way that did not make any sense to the local people; for example, with one tribe's land being given to a neighboring tribe. Sadly, even today this is still a reason for civil unrest and fights for independence in certain regions, especially in some African countries.

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One of the most notable, and least savory, aspects of imperialism was systematic economic exploitation. The imperial powers saw the lands they occupied as little more than cash cows to be exploited for their mineral wealth and natural resources. Very little, if any, of the wealth extracted from imperial territories ever directly benefitted indigenous people. Instead, it was used to enrich colonial powers.

When erstwhile imperial territories finally gained their independence, it was invariably the case that their economies were in a damaged state after years of exploitation. This immediately put these newly independent states at a serious disadvantage to the powers who had exploited them for so long.

Although such states may have enjoyed political independence, they quickly found themselves having to enter into disadvantageous trade and financial deals with the world's richest countries. With little or no leverage, and with their economies almost ruined, states in Asia, Africa, and South America found themselves with little choice but to allow rich countries to dictate the terms of any future economic relationships between them.

Even today, the legacy of colonial exploitation lives on, with countries in the developing world left with little or no choice but to give generous concessions over trade and mineral rights to Western countries in return for tax revenue and the creation of much-needed employment opportunities.

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Africa and Latin America are the most stark examples of colonial legacy, in my mind.  Because of the imposition of artificial borders and an influx of weapons (accelerated by the Cold War) Africa is still a war torn place with a lot of misery to go around.  Latin America still suffers from huge disparities of wealth between wealthy descendants of imperial settlers and landowners and the agricultural peasantry.  Only recently have countries from either continent been able to harness their own resources for ther own benefit, and then only sometimes.

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I think that one of the most compelling effects of imperialism is Africa. Africa was sliced up like a pizza by different European countries. It is still suffering from poverty and instability, and likely will be for a long time. The effects of imperialism on Africa also spread to slavery in the United States and the Caribbean. There is still a lot of pain there.
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I would say that Imperialism generally ends up being a negative thing in most cases. In the beginning it may seem better for the country that is being colonized as they may experience new found rights and maybe even wealth. However in the end the country that is in control of the colonies is only interested in what is going to help them and are not concerned with how it may harm others.

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You might also like to think about the legacy of imperialism in such countries as Afghanistan, which has been used as a war ground for stronger nations during the cold war and now has a bitter legacy of unrest and rebel movements vying with the recognised government for power. It appears that imperialism is still felt today. One only has to look at Africa, known to some as the graveyard of imperialism, to see how nations are still held back by their colonial past.

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There are many things that can be cited as effects of imperialism that we see today.  I will mention two of these:

  • Many countries have problems that can be blamed on imperialism.  For example, Iraq has issues between its Sunni Muslims, its Shiite Muslims, and its Kurds.  The only reason they are all together in one country is that the British set the boundaries that way.  This ethnic/religious strife can, one can argue, be blamed on the British.  One can also blame imperial powers for not preparing their African (for example) colonies for self-government, leaving them with the sorts of instability many now have.
  • Imperialism  has also created animosity between countries that were once imperialists and the countries they once colonized.  For example, South Korea and China both still have somewhat shaky relations with Japan because Japan colonized parts of both countries in the early 1900s.
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This is a somewhat controversial topic.

There are those who argue that the effects of imperialism are all negative.  These people argue for ideas such as dependency theory.  This idea holds that the problems experienced today in places like Africa and Latin America are due to imperialism.  Such people argue that imperialism ruined the countries it touched by orienting their economies to the needs of the imperial powers and by denying them self-government.

Others, however, argue a more nuanced view.  These people (Niall Ferguson is perhaps the biggest name among these) argue that imperial powers actually helped their colonies to some degree.  They claim, for example, that European countries brought modern medicine to countries that would not otherwise have had it.  They often make the same claim about Western education and democracy.  They argue, overall, that countries are farther ahead today than they would have been without imperialism.

In these ways, there are different views about the effects of imperialism on our world today.

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