Exploitation and Resistance

This lecture looks at the impact of empire on the colonizers and the colonized. In Europe, ideologies of imperialism emerged, increasingly mingled with racism. These had a material effect on the attitudes of political elites that helped push Europe towards war in 1914. Critics of imperialism argued that colonies were crucial mainly to ensure the continued existence of capitalist economies.

Economic exploitation was indeed a key part of imperial rule, as settlers grabbed land to farm, merchants, traders and planters sought profits in commodities such as rubber and coffee, and state administrators tried to minimize the costs of running the colonies by turning them into profitable enterprises. In many cases, notoriously the Belgian Congo, this led to horrific acts of cruelty against indigenous people conscripted as labourers. At the same time, economic imperatives led to attempts to develop the colonies, to provide a transport infrastructure, and to train and educate indigenous elites to meet modern economic needs. This sowed the seeds of later movements of national resistance and liberation.

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