1)  The relationship between colonialism and imperialism/forms of imperialist influence

a)      colonies (political, economic, and cultural dominance, direct control of colonial power)

b)      protectorates (political, economic, and cultural dominance, often with “shared” political control)

c)      spheres of influence (economic dominance, often with indirect political control)

d)      markets for targeted investment

e)      “markets” for cultural dominance (example--missionary activities)

2) Contemporary arguments explaining imperialism

a)      necessary for national pride

b)      military-strategic necessity

c)      social Darwinism (combines elements of Darwin’s theory of evolution with theories of racial superiority and justifications of social and political inequality; leading proponent, Herbert Spencer)

d)      the “missionary imperative” and the “White Man’s Burden” (Christian duty/obligation of the “advanced, superior races” to “civilize” the “child-like,” “savage” non-European peoples)

e)      Economic imperialism  (markets for surplus goods, markets for surplus capital, way to generate “super-profits” to “buy off” the domestic working class)

Specific arguments:

i)        Hobson.  Imperial markets for goods and investments serve the class interests of the domestic rich are against the national interest; imperialism can be ended by establishing real domestic democracy

ii)      Conant.  International capitalism is weakened by a glut of surplus capital (surplus savings, surplus capacity), which drives down the value of investments and causes depression.  Imperialism is a strategy to find markets for this surplus capital and surplus production.  The US should promote free trade (not colonialization) so that it can gain access to markets world wide (the “Open Door Policy”).

iii)     Lenin.  The capitalists use markets abroad for goods and investments to prevent depression (here his views are similar to Conant) and then they use the “super-profits” from imperialism to “buy off” the highly-skilled elements of the working class—this divides the workers and prevents revolution.  The solution to this, Lenin said, was for a socialist revolution to overthrow capitalism and end imperialism.

Imperialism in Practice

1. Asia:  example, the “spheres of influence” in China.

2. Latin America:  example of the USA in Cuba (which also involves the USA in the Philippines).

3. Africa: in 1850, there were only two significant European colonies in Africa (Algeria and what we now call South Africa); between 1870 and 1914, European powers divided all of Africa up into colonies and only two independent countries remained (Liberia and Ethiopia).  This was hastened by the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference on "rules" for colonial expansion in Africa.


Imperialism and the acceleration of great power tensions.

1.  Germany as a late-comer to imperial expansion, but with economic and domestic (political) need for empire.  By 1900, the German leadership was discussing the great need for a German colonial empire in Africa and in Asia. 

2. German perception that it was being "shut out" of imperial expansion by the British and French.

3.  German hopes that the British and French would turn against each other in the Sudan are dashed by a British-French agreement on Africa in the 1890s, and the new alliance system of England-France-Russia accentuates German fears of "encirclement."

4.  Germany twice used the threat of war over Morocco (in 1905 and in 1911) in an effort to split the French-British alliance, but in both cases this failed.  By 1912, the German government's inner-circle of leaders (the Emperor and his closest advisors) had decided that war was the only way that Germany could spread its power in Africa and break its "encirclement" at the hands of the British-French-Russian alliance.