Imperialism in the name of Religion

Imperialism- the state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas. (Webster's Dictionary)

Imperialism is often excused as a way of liberating people from tyrannical rule or by introducing the policies of a "superior" way of life. It is based on the ground of a variety of causes ranging from economic pressures, greed, security, power, prestige, religion, and any other effective measures that can be taken given the circumstances. Arguments about the causes and morality of Imperialism can be classified into four main topics. The first revolves around whether or not Imperialism is economically beneficial. The second relates to the social aspect of Imperialism and the "natural" desire to rule others. The third is protection and security, building up navy and army powers around the world in order to help the mother country when trouble erupts. The last is morals and their religious aspects. Because Imperialism has its basis on power, it is often considered morally reprehensible. The thirst for power drove the European nations into a frenzy to control the continent based solely on the false belief that they were "superior", thereby inflicting numerous evils upon both the African land and its people.

Imperialism did benefit a small and favored group, but never the entire nation. For some people, capitalism and Imperialism are identical and they interpret Imperialism as a late stage of capitalism when nations are forced to depend on monopolies in overproduction and surplus capital so that they can compete with other nations.

At enormous expense [Imperialism] has procured a small, bad, unsafe increase of markets, and has jeopardized the entire wealth of a nation in rousing the strong resentment of another nations. (Hobson)

Survival of the British Empire was the main reason for Britain's interest in Africa. Britain's economy had always depended heavily on trade, and having colonies was the way to expand their trade. Before the 1870s, Britain had little to no competition for various colonies. Their first act was against France in 1869. By completing the Suez Canal, a route was opened into Asia, linking the two continents that were the most in demand. Britain feared that they would be cut off and India would be taken from them. To solve this problem, Britain gained control of the Suez Canal, then all of Egypt. Another country needed in order to protect India was South Africa. Its port at Cape Town was an essential stop en route to India. When gold and diamonds were discovered in other parts of South Africa, Britain faced a hard battle to take over all of South Africa. After all, keeping India was essential to Britain's survival as an empire, without which they would be just another European nation. At this time, neither Germany nor Italy was unified and the French were busy fighting with the Prussians. The European powers really had no interest in external affairs, so long as they did not concern their well being. Eighteen seventy-one changed everything. Germany and Italy were unified and France had just lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans. The French were the first to begin the annexation of Africa, mostly because they wanted to restore their lost sense of national pride. (Tucker) Because both Germany and France went for Africa, the English were suddenly faced with competition. An economic depression in Europe in the 1880s caused markets to become even scarcer than they were to begin with. In a futile attempt to right themselves, Britain began taking over land in Africa. After all, land was quite cheap. It was only afterwards that all the European powers realized what they had bought into, and had to face the fact that the whole ordeal was unprofitable, though they hated to admit to it.

Imperialism is also classified as a natural struggle for survival. Those endowed with "superior" qualities were "destined" to rule over others. This was a very twisted form of social Darwinism. Ruling others is not survival of the fittest, in order to appear as the fittest, one does not need to trample all over the cultures of other people. No matter how "weak" others may seem, it is not they that are weak, but the people who feel the need to rule over other others. These greedy and far from self-fulfilled people are selfish and have a severe superiority complex. The European nations raced each other for every bit of land they could snap up. The results were horrifying.

"British colonial acquisitions from 1870 to 1900 amounted to 4,754,000 square miles containing 88,000,000 people. During the period 1880-1900, France acquired 3,500,000 square miles, with 37,000,000 inhabitants; Belgium appropriated 900,000 square miles, containing 30,000,000 inhabitants; and the Germans took 1,026,220 square miles, populated by 16,687,100 persons. Most of these territorial additions were in Africa." (Tucker)

France acquired a huge empire in North and West Africa consisting of Algeria, Dahomey, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Tunisian, and other areas in western Africa. Although the French controlled the most territory, Britain ruled the greatest number of people including Egypt, Gambia, Gold Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda. Germany ruled Cameroon, Southwest Africa, Tanganyika, and Togoland. By 1914, there were two independent countries left in Africa: Liberia and Ethiopia.

These nations created a buffer zone for the main European powers. These new colonies also created "natural" barriers against other European nations. Actually, by obtaining new colonies, tension was built up between the countries, thereby bringing about the complete opposite of what they set out to do. This was yet another failed attempt. Britain was the country that relied the most upon this sense of false security because they had no allies. They believed that colonies would provide them with allies around the world, in case of the inevitable war, which seemed to be looming close in the future. Some even referred to Imperialism as gearing up for war. During 1897, France was still angry about losing the Suez Canal and Russia wanted India, so they were rapidly encouraging France to try to take it back from England. (Tucker) From 1869 until nearly the start of World War I, the British practiced Imperialism in Africa out of fear of losing their empire. They took South Africa and Egypt to keep India from being stolen, and they annexed other parts of Africa in order to compete economically with France and Germany. They also annexed land in order to have allies in case a war should start. The British claimed they were not, and did not, practice Imperialism. They kept up the claim that Germany and France forced them to do it so that they could keep their empire. Maybe so, but fear of losing the British economic status and the British empire to Germany and France, not Germany and France forcing Imperialism down the English people's throat, seems to be the better answer to why the British practiced Imperialism in Africa from 1869 to 1913.

Before the 1870s, thanks to the influence of Livingstone (Tucker), the main reason for British Imperialism in Africa was to bring Christianity, not to mention the European's idea of "civilization" to African countries.

This decade witnessed the heyday of self-confident, often self-congratulatory and always aggressive Imperialism in which Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States conquered and annexed in the name of civilization." (James)

If anything, Europe was doing the exact opposite of spreading Christianity, all under false pretences.

The British Empire is playing the devil in it as never an empire before on so large a scale. We may live to see its fall. All the nations of Europe are making the same hell upon earth…The Emperor of Germany gives the word for slaughter and the Pope looks on. In South Africa our troops are burning farms under Kitchener's command. The Queen and two houses of Parliament, and the bench of bishops thank God publicly and vote money for the work…The French and Italians for the moment are playing a less prominent part in the slaughter, but their inactivity grieves them. The whole white race is reveling openly in violence, as though it had never pretended to be Christian. (Blunt)

How can any nations claim to be spreading such horrors in the name of Christianity? It simply is infeasible and completely beyond anyone the comprehension of anyone with any sense to their names.

      Imperialism was not economically beneficial, did not protect the "mother" country by creating barriers, nor did it spread Christianity in mentionable portions. Nonetheless, Imperialism did bestow upon a small portion of the elite a sense of superiority, though falsely earned. The animosities of Imperialism did not help the people. Instead, it left them vulnerable after the European nations had departed, and left a void in their culture. Greed should never take over pride, and no war is justified solely based on the fact that it is in the name of religion.