By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Feb 28, 2023, 11:08

Imperialism is a policy where a country influences or expands its power over other countries or territories, either through force, deception or other means of power-grabbing. The word imperialism comes from the Latin 'imperium', which means 'to rule' or 'sovereign power.'

Imperialism can have far-reaching consequences on the territory or country that has been conquered, as it impacts its political, economic, cultural and military aspects. This article will look at the types and consequences of Imperialism in the global context.

Types of Imperialism

Imperialism was mainly carried out by European powers, with Japan being the only Asian superpower to practice Imperialism.

The different types of Imperialism are -

  1. Colonialism: Where a region or country is governed directly by foreign rule. India was a colony of the British until it gained independence.
  2. Protectorate: Where a country or region is under the protection of a foreign power. Example: The British protectorate of the Niger River delta.
  3. Sphere of influence: An area where an external power claims exclusive rights and privileges. E.g., Central Asian nations were under the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Impact of Imperialism

The Impact of Imperialism includes -

  1. The subjugation of the local population and enforcement of foreign laws are often instituted to favour the cultural and economic needs of the imperialist country.
  2. The exploitation of local resources. A large section of the subjugated population was driven into poverty which often led them to be enslaved by their colonisers. Africa and the Asian population suffered due to slavery and the burden of their imperialist rulers.
  3. Local goods, craftsman and the agricultural environment was destroyed. An example of this is British laws that forced Indian farmers to grow crops like cotton, indigo and tobacco. These crops were bought at lower rates and led to constant famine in India due to the lack of proper food for the local population.
  4. Imperialism created differences and long-term conflict in local religious and ethnic groups. For example, India was divided by caste, creed and religion, which eventually led to its partition. Tutsi and Hutu tribes in Kenya were turned against each other and led to ethnic wars even after the imperialist powers had left.
  5. Imperialism had a few positives, as the local population was introduced to modern ideas, and technology and brought cultural change. For example, in India, practices like Sati and child marriage were banned by the British and led to a reform movement that introduced education for all, women empowerment and removal of the caste system in the country.

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Imperialism in India

India was a British colony until 15th August 1947, when it gained independence. The British and other European powers, who came to India as traders, were soon enticed into expanding its reach politically and militarily, given the vast natural resources, raw materials and superior goods that were manufactured in the country. Indian territories were mainly under British Imperialism, while there were small colonies under French and Portuguese rule as well.

Till Independence, India remained the 'Jewel of the British Crown.' It was the major source of opium, tea, cotton, and other raw materials, while also serving as a market for its finished goods. British Imperialism robbed India of its riches and led the country's population into poverty, while its opportunist regulations hurt India's agricultural and local produce in a big way.

Consequences of Imperialism

While Imperialism has significant political and economic consequences on the subjugated territories, it has always been debated, bringing technology and cultural advancement to the local populace. However, the small positives outweigh the major impact imperialism has had on various nations and territories worldwide. The imperialist country always benefited from Imperialism, as the cause of Imperialism is greed, human aggression, pride, prestige and overtly nationalistic fervour.

The negative consequences of Imperialism have been accepted by the subjugated nations and the imperialist nations. Today, imperialist countries have paid reparation or made efforts to create an environment of peace, and humanity is moving towards a better society for all.

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FAQs on Imperialism

Q.1. What is the concept of Imperialism?

Imperialism is a state policy or practice of extending one's power of reach or dominion over other territories or countries using the military, political or economic means.

Q.2. What are three examples of Imperialism?

Some examples of Imperialism are -

  • Greek conquests and control of Euesperides and Naucratis (Egypt), Sinope (Turkey), Odesa (Ukraine), Thrace (Bulgaria), Torone (Macedonia), and Syracuse (Italy)
  • British annexation of territories in India, South-East Asia, Africa and Australia.
  • Portuguese control over Goa (India), East Timor (Indonesia), Macau (China) and Brazil.

Q.3. What is the main purpose of Imperialism?

The primary purpose of Imperialism was to gain political and economic access to a country or territory, which benefits the imperialist country to gain additional resources, increase political power and exploit the local population.

Q.4. Which countries practised Imperialism?

Most European and Asian powers practised Imperialism, including England, France, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Russia, The United States of America, Germany, Italy, Japan, Belgium, and Turkey.