I am writing in response to your incredibly interestingarticle on the ‘Case for Colonialism’, published in ‘Third World Quarterly’. Fromyour article, I understand that you believe that colonialism caused a positiveimpact in the world and should be restored due to the fact that many countriesthat are less developed would struggle to govern its own people.
Meanwhile, youconsider anti- colonialism to be a ‘preposterous’ ‘ideology’ which should beabandoned due to the fact that arguments for anti-colonialism are oftenincoherent as they hold colonial governments responsible for all its issues,instead of considering what would have happened if those governments had notbeen put in place. In addition, you touched on the fact that in order for Westernpowers to control governments of countries that are less developed, a newprogramme of colonialization is required. I understand that you would like theidea of colonialism to be seen as legitimate and that conquering andcontrolling people is not something that is intrinsically wrong. Although I respectyour opinion on the fact that there needs to be a ‘case for colonialism’, Ialso completely disagree with this idea and believe that colonialism caused adetrimental impact on the world, in which to some extent, people are stillexperiencing the effects of colonialism that took place over the last 100years. In response to your article, I will touch on the positive and negativeeffects of colonialism in continents such as Africa and Asia, as well as theeffects of colonialism on state building.
In addition to this, I will alsoexplain exactly why I take the standpoint that a ‘case for colonialism’ shouldnot be made. In order to objectively understand the idea of colonialism,it must be defined. Colonialism can be defined as “The policyor practice of acquiring full or partial political control over anothercountry, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.” (1) , “Colonialism is the practice by which a powerful country directly controlsless powerful countries and uses their resources to increase its own power and wealth.” ,”the policy andpractice of a power in extending controlover weaker peoplesor areas” or “the system or policy by which a country maintains foreign colonies, esp. inorder to exploit them economically” (2). Throughall of these definitions, it is undeniably clear to see that the word’colonialism’ has negative connotations. The word colonialism is associatedwith the idea of unethical wealth as well as exploitation, control, and powerover countries who are vulnerable and have less economic power, all of whichhave can have negative impacts on the world.
So therefore, from the definitionalone, I do not think that it is logical to say colonialism would contribute tomaking the world a better place if it was reinstituted. Moreover, I think thata case for colonialism should not be made for these reasons. To examine whether there should be a case forcolonialism and to be able to come to a justifiable conclusion, both itspositive and negative effects should be considered equally.
It cannot berefused that colonialism was good in Africa to a certain extent. Colonialismdidn’t only affect Africa economically, but it also had political and social impacts.Positive impacts included more opportunities for religious missionaries as aresult of the introduction of Christianity. For example, education wasestablished by a majority of the missionaries, whereby these missioninstitutions enabled the locals to gain knowledge on their society and culture.The Europeans who had colonised the Africans protected them from their rivalsby equipping them with armaments to guard themselves.
This reassured Africansthat they would be free from harm under the security of the Europeans. Inaddition to the protection that the Europeans gave the Africans, in terms ofarms, they were also provided with new technological machinery such as agriculturalequipment as well as new harvests, including cassava and corn-starch, from theNew World. More infrastructures such as medical institutions, transport,schools, established plantations for the increase of cash crops, for examplelike cotton, tea, cocoa and coffee were established by the Europeans for theAfricans. Africans gained new linguistic skills by cultivating and embracingthe languages of their colonial rulers such as Portuguese, French and English. Thisskill has positively impacted Africans all over the world even till thispresent day as they are able to converse confidently with many peopleinternationally. Colonialism can also be seen as having a positive impact onAfrica as it exposed Africa to have a prosperous culture all across the world,despite the fact that their culture was heavily influenced by the Europeans.
Itwas bountiful in mineral and natural resources like oil, gold, iron and silveras well as individual African countries being heavily involved in trading tointernational countries. There was an increase of occupations in Africa, withmany acquiring a new trade and in turn making them wealthier and moreprosperous. Improved organisations were put in place in order to rule over thecivilians, which is still very prominent in many African countries today.Therefore, to an extent, I agree with you in the sense that colonialism didhave a positive impact, however I only believe that that this was short- term andmore so for the benefit of the Europeans than the Africans themselves. As aresult of this, I do not think that a case for colonialism should be made.
In support of my argument that a case forcolonialism should not be made, it can also be seen that despite all of thepositive changes that colonialism brought to the Africans by the Europeans,there were still negative effects. For example, Africans were used as slaves inthe New World, whereby it was mandatory for the to work on the plantations, withoutreceiving any pay in return. In Africa, the Europeans took over the land thatbelonged to the Africans in order to develop plantations, which would be usedfor the cash crops and then forced the Africans themselves to work on them forlittle to no money or resources in return.
Socially, Africans became distant astheir traditions, cultures and values all changed drastically. The traditionalAfrican language also ceased to exist after the Europeans colonised Africa andtheir religion was replaced by Christianity. Although the Africans were able tospeak the foreign languages of their colonial rulers, this wasn’t by choice,rather, they had no choice and had to learn it by force. They were forced wearclothes like the Europeans did and to eat Europeans foods, which led to thespread of infectious diseases as the European food they were eating couldn’thelp them to fight off diseases like their naturally organic African foodscould. African culture and tradition very rapidly became non- existent. Inaddition, as a result of the divide of Africa, whereby new boundaries wereformed, families were also separated, causing wars between each other that are stillongoing today as well as the slave trade which completely broke families andseparated individuals from their loved ones and homes for life.
The Europeans tookpossession over a majority of their resources like diamonds and gold inparticular. Politically, the Africans could only work the inferior jobs incolonial workplaces and would never be able to climb up to higher positions inparliament. They were never allowed to have a safe or give their opinion ongovernment matters in their own countries. Even the Africans who had inferior roles incolonial workplaces would classify themselves as higher than the otherAfricans, consequently leading to inequalities within the colonies, socially.Therefore, it is clear to see that Colonialism did more to destroy than improvethe African continent, socially, politically and economically. It was thecatalyst to many conflicts across African boundaries that still occur today.Clearly, a case for colonialism should not be made if it will cause more havocthan peace.
Specific evidence to show that colonialism had anegative impact on Africa can be seen through the case of British colonialismin West Africa – Nigeria. Politically, colonialism created disharmony andcorruption. The “Britishofficials did not have nationalistic political interest of Nigeria at heart”(3).
Rather, a “divide andrule” (4)policy was incorporated, without any regard for the ethnicdifferences, which is why even till today, Nigeria still undergo many political issues. Inaddition to this, although some Nigerians were given the opportunity to workwith their country’s government, but they were restricted to all the inferior roleswhich had no relevance to making political decisions. The British were at theforefront of all political matters relating to Nigeria, to the fact that theydidn’t consult the people of any political decisions they made. Socially, therewere also negative impacts of British colonization of Nigeria.
For example,western education that the colonial rulers taught the Nigerians was a “sort of cover in that left tothe imbalance of education in Nigeria” (5), between the North and Southas a result of the various educational policies that were taught andestablished in each area. Therefore, the case of British colonization inNigeria is solid evidence to show that it mainly had negative social andpolitical impacts that are still very prevalent in today’s Nigerian society.Therefore, a case for colonialism should not be made.
Despite my argument that a case for colonialismshould not be made, I will not ignore the fact that there were a few positiveeffects that colonialism had in the world. A good example to show this isthrough the case of British colonization in India that occurred between 1853 and 1947(6).Transportation was first established by the British in India, creating “paved roads, cars, trains andpostal networks (7)”. As a result of this, India experienced an economicboost, with higher standard living standard, as well as an increased flow ofinformation.
In addition, progressive machines were created in order to producegoods such as cars, steam engines and steel all contributed to the industrialisationof India. India’s population grew rapidly due to the fact that there was ahigher standard of living, whereby sanitation and hygiene improved. Also, therewas a better supply of vaccinations and medicines, as well as a larger foodsupply. All in all, Britain opened the people of India’s eyes to a world of “science, technology, medicineand modern ideas”.(8).
So, to a certain extent, colonisation has had apositive impact on the world, as we have seen in the case of Britishcolonization in India, however, I still believe that it created moredetrimental effects than positive as although India experienced some benefits,it also experienced many negative effects. As mentioned above, despite the positive impactthat British colonization had on India, India also experience very manynegative effects which overshadowed the positive. For example, Britain worsenedIndia’s economy due to the fact that they forced India to bring their goodsfrom Britain and banned them from buying their own products from India. To bespecific, “Industries such as the handmade cloth industry,clock-making, metal, and carpentry industries”(9) crumbled due to the fact that Britain wascreating fabric that had better quality and cost less money because it wasbeing mass produced. As a result of colonization India started to becomeheavily reliant on Britain and its products.
India was used as a means byBritain to import goods and consequently India struggled to sustain itselfindependently because of the power and control that Britain had over India interms of business and trade. Politically, India was very much like Nigeria inthe sense that its British rulers completely took over their government anddidn’t give the people of the nation a voice to speak. They were seen as prisonersin their own land, who were not able to make political decisions and who had tosettle for the inferior positions in regard to politics.
Culturally, theBritish made the people feel inferior by making them believe that their culturewas less important than those of the British. In relation to the negative impacts of Britishcolonisation was the uprising of Sepoy Mutiny, an Indian rebellion in 1857against the British. During this rebellion, where the Sepoy Indians attemptedto seize Delhi, and rebel against Britain,(10) Britain defeated therebellion and murdered and tormented a large majority of the Sepoys. This isclear evidence to show that colonialism did not serve a good purpose in theworld, it created problems that were irreversible and created hierarchiesbetween different parts of the world, which led to different opinions of whowas more superior than others, despite the fact that everyone should’veconsidered themselves as equal to their neighbour or neighbouring country.Therefore, I believe that a case for colonialism should not be made at all. Lastly, in response to your article that there should be a case forcolonialism, I will be arguing against this by explaining the long -termlegacies of colonial rule in the area of state-building, and why this has ledto a negative impact of colonialism in the world. It is argued that colonizers didnot have efficient power over their territories.
Because of this, variations inthe types of colonial power are only can only be held responsible forexplaining how contemporary African states came to existence, to a smallextent. It can also be said that the role of colonization is mainly restrictedto border separations to quickened the creation of states with clearly definedborders. As a result, this further pushes states away from each other creatingdivides across the world. It is suggested that colonization and the indirectrule of British colonial administration in particular is very crucial regardingthe issue of state- building in this current day and age in Africa. Reasons forwhy the divide and rule tactic could lead to a long- term legacy and createissues to state- building in Africa is that there may be the building ofnational identity, consequently reinforcing a sense of solidarity within thecitizens of the nation, in which historical opposition within an ethnic groupcould pose a threat by making it problematic to be nationalistic.
For example, the use of Bugandain Uganda to take over other areas resulted in a continuing hatred betweenBuganda and the majority of Uganda(11). Therefore, it is fair to saythat colonialism can also affect long- term legacy in terms of state buildingnegatively, and so a case of colonialism needs not to be made. In conclusion and in response to your article on the Case for Colonialism,I have taken into consideration your viewpoint on the fact that there should bea case for colonialism, due to the fact that there have been some undeniablypositive effects that colonialism has brought into the world, especially intocontinents like Africa and countries such as India to be specific.
I understandthat colonialism has impacted countries in Africa positively by providing themwith arms, as well as technological and agricultural supplies. It exposed andembraced these countries to Western ideas and languages, but also to theirdisadvantage. Moreover, it also equipped India with transportation as well asimproving its standards of living by introducing improved medicines andvaccines.
However, I still personally believe that colonisation was more detrimentalto the world than it was helpful. The negative effects on colonialism in theworld completely overshadow the positives. In African countries, the peoplewould suffer as slaves, whilst they watched their culture and identity bestripped away from them and replaced by European values and norms. Specific evidenceof the British colonisation of Nigeria has been given in order to reinforcethis point, whereby the British governors completely exploited the people andtook over their government, only allowing them to work in positions that didlittle or nothing to improve the political wellbeing of their country.
In addition,colonialism has also had a negative impact on long term legacy in terms of statebuilding, whereby the creation of national identity and the reinforcement ofsolidarity led to a further separation and distance between states. Having takenall these arguments into consideration, I have come to the conclusion that acase for colonialism should not be made as will not contribute towards creatingharmony in the world.