US History – early 20th century
US History – early 20th century
Western powers dominated countries and territories by occupying them and ruling them directly. Scholars refer to this as formal imperialism. In contrast, informal imperialism is marked by indirect rule. The dominant country exerts pressure or influence without physical conquest. Informal imperialism is often economic in nature, but it can also include force or the threat of force, and cultural imperialism, or influence. The informal version of imperialism, often called hegemony, was the type most often wielded by Western powers in Latin America.
Independent Politically but Not Economically
By 1830, nearly all of Latin America had gained its political independence. Yet many issues remained unresolved. They ranged from the clash of liberal and conservative ideals to power struggles waged by military strongmen.
In that volatile atmosphere, even resource-rich nations in Latin America failed to industrialize. They remained largely dependent on Britain, France, and other Western countries for manufactured goods. Political turmoil and economic dependence opened these Latin American states to imperialism, both formal and informal.
Western Economic Control Through most of the 1800s, Britain remained the most highly industrialized nation on Earth. As such, it needed easy access to raw materials as well as markets for its goods. In its own economic interest, therefore, it favored the removal of all barriers to trade. As applied to Latin America, scholars call this “free-trade imperialism.” It involved both trade and capital.
Britain viewed the Latin American revolutions as a way to strengthen its commercial ties with the region. The economies of the new Latin American countries produced mainly raw materials. They depended on industrializing nations, especially Britain, to buy those goods. Argentina, for example, based its economy on the export of meat, hides, and grain into the early 1900s.
British capital added to the control that Britain exercised over Latin America. British investors saw potential profit in expanding the ability of countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay to export their raw materials and foodstuffs. British business people migrated to Latin America to oversee these investments, which included the raising of sheep and cattle and the building of facilities to transport goods. British banks financed the capital expansions through loans. Managing those loans gave the banks further influence over Latin American economies.
As they industrialized, France and the United States duplicated Britain’s approach to Latin America. French and American businesses and banks invested in Latin America and provided loans for capital expansion. The United States, however, also got politically involved in the region.
United States Foreign Policy During the 1800s, the United States came to view Latin America as its personal sphere of influence. In 1823 President James Monroe put forward the Monroe Doctrine, which banned the nations of Europe from further colonizing Latin America.
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt extended the Monroe Doctrine in an address to Congress that became known as the Roosevelt Corollary.
Roosevelt noted that the Monroe Doctrine was designed to prevent European meddling in the Americas. Yet he pointed out that nearly a century later many countries in Latin America were still too weak to defend themselves. Roosevelt stated that the United States therefore must use “international police power” to preserve peace and order in the hemisphere and protect American interests. The Roosevelt Corollary implied two things. Europe had no reason to interfere in Latin America, and the United States was now powerful enough to police the entire region.
Western Aggression Much of Western imperialism in Latin America was informal, but not all. In spite of the Monroe Doctrine, Britain and France continued to practice imperialism in the region. Britain established or formalized its control of British Guiana in 1831, the Falkland Islands in 1833, British Honduras in 1859, and Jamaica in 1866.
France tried to conquer Mexico in 1862. Mexico’s failure to pay its debts to European banks had led Britain and France to send a naval force there in 1861 as a threat. France ended up occupying the country and installing its own emperor. Mexican resistance and pressure from the United States forced France out in 1867.
In 1898, the United States itself engaged in formal imperialism. After winning the Spanish-American War, it occupied Cuba and seized Puerto Rico. Later, under the pretext of ensuring stability, the United States intervened militarily in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. It also helped Panama break away from Colombia in order for the United States to acquire the right to build the Panama Canal.
By 1900, powerful Western states controlled half the continent of Asia. They ruled some nine tenths of Africa. Their influence extended over a quarter of the Americas. The actions of these imperialist powers had a complex mix of positive and negative effects on colonized peoples.
Imperialism killed people, especially in Africa. European armies used force—often brutal—to secure and hold on to territory. One example is the rebellion by the Herero and Nama people in German South West Africa. In 1904, the rebels killed about a hundred traders and farmers. The German response was to try to exterminate the two African groups. Only a quarter of the original population of 100,000 Herero and Nama survived the slaughter that followed.
At the same time, imperialism had some humanitarian consequences Through the 1800s, European societies developed a sense that slavery was morally wrong. It went against their ideals of liberty and equality. By 1888, all Western nations had abolished slavery. They used their wealth and superior military power to try to root out this evil not just in their colonies, but everywhere. As a result, slavery declined markedly in Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, and elsewhere.
Many other aspects of Western society found their way into distant colonies, in a process known as Westernization. The imperialists imposed their own legal systems, taxes, and political administration. They introduced Western education, medicine, technology, languages, and dress. They worked to convert native peoples to Christianity.
Colonizers also improved their colonies’ infrastructure. This supported their key economic goal—expansion of a colony’s exports. Europeans built railroads to transport goods from plantations and mines to the nearest port. There they constructed warehouses to hold the goods and harbor facilities to serve the cargo ships that carried the goods. However, they stopped short of encouraging their colonies to industrialize. In general, colonized lands continued to serve solely as sources of raw materials and a few consumer goods well into the twentieth century.
In two paragraphs, summarize the impact of new imperialism on the following four areas:
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