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What are the Two Important Modes of Imperialism?

1. Cultural Imperialism

It is the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture of one society into another. It is usually the case that the former belongs to a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter belongs to a smaller, less important one.

Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude.

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2. Imperialism of Free Trade:

Hobsbawm describes the Industrial Revolution in Britain as that unusual moment in world history when the world’s economy was built around Britain; when she was the only world power, the only imperialist, the only importer, exporter and foreign investor.

The description of Britain as the workshop of the world was literally true in the middle of the nineteenth century when she produced most of its coal, iron and steel. The Industrial Revolution was followed by the single liberal world economy (in the 1860s possibly because of the monopoly of Britain) and the final penetration of the undeveloped world by capitalism.

The early British industrial economy relied for its expansion on foreign trade. Overseas markets for products and overseas outlets for capital were crucial. The cotton industry exported eighty per cent of its output at the end of the nineteenth century. The iron and steel industry exported forty per cent of its output in the mid nineteenth century.

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In return Britain bought specialized local products such as cotton from the US, wool from Australia, wheat from Argentina, etc.

Britain’s trade also increasingly became greater with the empire. In cotton Latin America Imperialism accounted for thirty five percent of British exports in 1840. After 1873 the East absorbed over sixty per cent of British cotton exports. Thus there were sound economic reasons for Britain opposing these areas being opened up to others.

By 1815 Britain had already become the preeminent world power, combining naval mastery, financial credit, commercial enterprise and alliance diplomacy. The following decades of British economic hegemony were accompanied by large-scale improvements in transport and communications, by the increasingly rapid transfer of industrial technology from one region to another, and by an immense increase in manufacturing output, which in turn stimulated the opening of new areas of agricultural land and raw material sources.

The age of mercantilism was over and with it tariff barriers stood dismantled. The new watchword was free trade and this brought international harmony rather than great power conflict. Europe’s military superiority continued.

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The improvements in the muzzle loading gun, the introduction of the breechloader, the Gatling guns, Maxims and light field artillery constituted a veritable firepower revolution, which the traditional societies could not withstand. The decisive new technology was the gun, the symbol of European superiority in the armament factory. As Hillarie Belloc said, “Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not.”

In the field of colonial empires, Britain brooked no rivals. The empire grew at an average annual rate of 100,000 square miles between 1815 and 1865. One group of colonies comprised those acquired for strategic and commercial reasons like Singapore, Aden, Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and Lagos. A second group was that of settler colonies, such as South Africa, Canada and Australia.

With the spread of industrial capitalism the need grew for colonies as markets for manufactured goods especially textiles and suppliers of raw materials such as cotton and food grains. The colony emerged as a subordinate trading partner whose economic surplus was appropriated through trade based on unequal exchange. This international division of labor condemned the colony to producing” goods of low value using backward techniques

Between 1870 and 1913 London was the financial and trading hub of the world. By 1913 Britain had 4000 million pounds worth abroad. Most international trade was routed through British ships at the turn of the twentieth century. After World War I Britain lost this position to the US.

The US became the major dominant capitalist economy. She was now the world’s largest manufacturer, foreign investor, trader and banker and the US $ became the standard international currency.

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