What is the rationale for colonialism expressed by Kipling? 

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main rationale for colonialism that Kipling expresses is the idea that the colonizers will be improving and civilizing the natives of their colonies.  The French referred to this as their “mission civilisatrice” or their “civilizing mission.”  Kipling clearly believes that colonization can work to civilize the masses of natives who were, in his view, backwards.  In order to see this illustrated, let us look at his famous poem “The White Man’s Burden.”

In this poem, Kipling expresses his overall view of the purpose of colonization.  First, he constantly refers to the natives of the colonies in derogatory ways.  For example, he refers to

fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

In saying this, he is clearly showing that he does not think that the natives are equal to their white colonizers.  Later in the poem, he mentions the “sloth and heathen folly” of the people who live in the places that are to be colonized.  He is portraying them as lazy and foolish people, which goes well with what Kipling says in the previous passage that I have quoted.

Having said that the native peoples are backwards and in some ways inferior, Kipling goes on to set out the purpose of colonization.  He emphasizes that the role of the colonizer is to work hard at a very thankless task.  This is the task of bringing civilization to the natives.  The colonizers will have to “wait in heavy harness” (by which he means that they will have to work hard) to help others.  He says that the colonizers’ mission is

To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

He also points out that the purpose of colonization is to help others when he says that the colonizers will

Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;

From all of this, we can understand Kipling’s point of view quite clearly.  We can see that he believes that colonization is about helping those who are being colonized.  He believes that the colonizers are there to help the natives of their colonies.  They are there to civilize the natives and improve their lives.