Friday, October 2, 2009

Age of Empire

Hobswam calls the era from 1875 to 1914the age of empire, because of the changes it brought on in the way the world viewed imperialism. He also associates it with a large number of world leaders calling themselves emperors, at least for the last time in world history.

This period is the era of a newer type of empire, one that colonized everything it touched, and only functioned to gather more land, resources, and power. In this era, about one fourth of the globe’s land was distributed between about six nations. For example, Britain attained four million square miles, and France acquired three and a half million. This was a new development in world history, one much different from the free trading environment of years past. In this society, instead of trading peacefully with smaller nations, the more powerful nations simply conquered the smaller ones, claimed their land, and the mined the goods they wanted from them. This economic expansion and exploitation was crucial for the development of these capitalist empires.

The agreed upon motive for this expansion by historians was the search for newer markets. Often, this search was disappointing for these enterprising nations, but nonetheless, they continued at a feverish pace. The wonder associated with the unknown, and its prospective resources as well as markets were something that fascinated merchants from every part of the globe.

The impact of this expansion is most interesting to Hobswam. There is no doubt that the relationship between the larger exploring and importing countries and the smaller exporting counties was unequal. A smaller nation might live and die by whether or not its sugar crop was purchased by Britain, but if the sugar crop from Cuba disappeared, or suddenly became more expensive, then Britain would simply acquire their sugar from another source, with little inconvenience.

Most interesting to me was how the larger nations viewed the smaller ones; as pathetic savages with backwards cultures who were helpless in the world until these larger countries came along. As these larger countries imported as much as they could, what they exported was their culture, especially their religion. They attempted to spread their god fearing ways as much as possible, and much of this was through fairly questionable methods.

The only question I have is about the cultural export from the smaller countries to the larger ones. They gave their goods, their people, and in many cases their rights, did any of their ideas ever rub off on the larger, more powerful nations?

-Dan Weingart


  1. I think you addressed the answer to your own question: the Europeans saw the colonials as less than human. Although the culture of the smaller countries might have been a novelty, it would not have been accepted by the "industrialized nations" at this point in time. Westernization also took over before the culture of the smaller countries really had a chance to spread. I can only be thankful that at least now we are more open to differences.

  2. I like your perspective on European elitism. They refered to their trade and civilization of these so-called savages as "the white man's burden." Sadly, we still see this now, in the US involvement in the gulf.