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Western Colonial Empires
by Claywoman   

Last edited: Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Posted: Wednesday, July 02, 2003

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My final paper in World Civilization. It is boring but not too bad considering I had one night to write it, because my puter dumped it the night before that....

Western Colonial empires collapsed in the decades after World War II, and the Soviet Empire collapsed in the 1990s. Now, technically, imperialism does not exist. However, many parts of the world continue to struggle economically, socially and politically. What impact did imperialism have on societies? What difficulties do newly independent states face? What advice would you offer them?

Imperialism is defined as the expansion of European powers and their conquest and colonization of African and Asian societies, mainly from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries (G-4). Its impact on globalization in the twenty-first century is many-fold. However, before you can talk about the impact and the difficulties facing those nations under imperialism, you must show just what happened in the countries affected.

Imperialism left those countries unable to function independently because they were not used to self-rule after years of suppression. After World War II, England, and France did not have the manpower or the monetary resources to support imperialism any longer. England especially, lost most of its colonies and in that loss, it became a much smaller nation with only Canada and Australia as colonies with self rule. The countries that obtained independence after World War II were in the Near East, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Most of these countries are still trying to find their way to independence and self-government. The Cold War put pressures on various countries to align with either the communists or with the US. Without this alignment, these countries suffered monetarily. When the Soviet Union collapsed, and communism faltered, the economy of that nation became almost nonexistent and the people are now learning to live in a capitalistic world. No more does the Soviet government pay for the housing, the jobs are now competitive, and crime is rising. Trying to keep their nation as one nation, is pitting country against country and causing turmoil over most of Europe.

India was one of the countries that is a success story. Because India had some self-rule, when England allowed it to become independent, it did not have the same problems as most of the other countries. It had strong leadership with first Gandhi and Nehru after the assassination of Gandhi. The biggest problem facing India was the division of India into two countries. It was divided because the Hindus and the Muslim could not work together to find a compromise, Gandhi was assassinated because of this conflict and because he tried to find that compromise. India and Pakistan are still uneasy with each other, with each of them feeling that they should rule both countries.

George Orwell wrote a book, Burmese Days, which is a story about imperialism in that country. Orwell showed just how subjugated the Burmese people really were and the attitude of the English toward the populace. They were as afraid of decolonization as the Burmese were of freedom, the English know that if they returned to England they would be just lower civil servants, while in Burma, they had status. The Burmese could not remember a time when they were not under the control of the English and feared what would happen if they left. Both accepted what was to come, and the Burmese are now self-governing.

Vietnam was under the protection of France, but it was under many other rulers during its history as well. France was interested in Vietnam for its rubber; most of the rubber plantations were French owned. When the communists tried to move from the North to the South and Ho Chi Min gathered a guerilla army which attacked and then withdrew, France after fighting this guerilla war for more then twenty years, withdrew from Vietnam while still keeping hold on the rubber plantation. When South Vietnam asked the US to send ‘advisors’ to train its troops to fight against the North, it brought the US into a very unpopular war. Most Americans were for the war until the casualties mounted with no end in sight for a guerilla war. The Americans had more troops, but the guerillas had the advantage of knowing the territory and blending into the countryside, because the Viet Cong were your neighbors. When the US withdrew, Ho Chi Min drew the country together and is getting the country back on its feet economically and with national pride.

The African countries had a multitude of problems to overcome when they gained independence. Because of the practice of apartheid, the Africans had no real idea of what it was to be self-governing nations. With the exception of Nelson Mandela and Rev. Desmond Tutu, there were no strong leaders. Both of these men were jailed when they spoke out against apartheid, but both became national heroes and ultimately national leaders. Unfortunately, not all African nations had strong leadership, most were military takeovers, and many have had many turnovers in governments, many are also corrupt, and do not really care about their own people. However, most of it stems from again, apartheid and the subjugation of the populace. These countries are still going through growing pains and it may take many more years before they are considered anything but third world nations. The Middle East is another story.

Formed into countries after World War I, these countries still had economic ties to the West through their oil leases. The Middle East was also forced to accept part of their lands were given to a people not of that area, people they considered enemies. Most were not Arab, and they came from Europe after World War II. Israel was formed to solve the problem of what to do with the millions of homeless Jews after the war. The Jews themselves wanted to live in the Middle East in their own country, so in 1949, the UN approved it as a country starting the crisis that goes on into today.

Because of the frustration of the Palestinians over the loss of land, they considered theirs, they tried many avenues of diplomacy and negotiations but those efforts were rebuffed in favor of Israel. When Israel fought the Six-Day War and won within that period, the Palestinians hated and the growth of terrorism was born. Terrorism is not a product of a country any more then Timothy McVeigh blew up the Muir Building under orders of the President of the United States. Most terrorists belong to splinter groups that have their own agenda, their own hatred of various countries. This hatred has been ongoing since the formation of Israel and will continue to be ongoing until the two entities view each other as people rather then nations. The Palestinians want their own land, they want to live by their own laws in their own nation. Israel does not want to give up what lands they have nor the lands won during the Six-Day War.

What advise would I have for the nations in turmoil, the nations still trying to find their own way in a world more advanced then they? My advice would be to turn to their history, look for the words of those who went before them, listen to those words with their hearts and learn from them. History repeats itself and if you do not learn from your mistakes, you will repeat them. Look to the people for it is in their faces and the faces of your children that you will find your future. Learn to live with your neighbors, because in the words of Hillary Clinton, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In the world, it takes a village, and then a province, and finally a government that is working for the people to create a nation. You must learn to live with your neighbors and yet, retain the part of you that makes you different. It takes hard work and dedication to obtain what you know you can become. Take help when help is needed but do so sparingly so you are not overwhelmed with favors owed to another country. Finally, have pride in where you came from and pride in where you are going. Pride in your nation is something intangible but important.

Learn to grow your food, learn to dig your wells, and teach your children to become doctors, nurses, and good politicians concerned for the people as a whole. Look into the faces of your children, from the poorest child to the wealthiest child and ask which one needs the most help. A country is only as strong as its weakest and poorest member. Grow, but do it slowly, do not tear apart what is in place right now, but slowly take that dependence away and put in its place something better.



Finally, this may not have as much to do with imperialism, but it does have to do with the feelings of one young man during the ending of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. I include it because this young man is a friend of mine who took the time to send me this so I can make a story from it about his family. Nothing in this message was changed except I capitalized some of the words that did not translate well for easier reading. This was from the memories of Albert Schmuck, Berlin, Germany 2003.

1989 - I was just 10 years old, and far from knowing what’s going on in the political world. In Leipzig were the famous "Monday demonstrations", where people peacefully demonstrated against the GDR and the leaders, calling to hear the voice of the people. My dad's family lives in Leipzig, and we knew they were with them. My mum's brother was on his duty this time - army. He was stationed in Leipzig, standing against the demonstrations. Many rumors were around, no one knew if they would get allowance to shoot or not. This gets even into the head of a little boy. one uncle demonstrating and one uncle standing on the other side with a gun ready to shoot at his own family. Thank god not a single shot was fired in Leipzig.

Lets come to the main point I’m going to tell u about - the end of the Berlin wall. 9th of November 1989 the first passage was opened, a bridge crossing the Spree, the river that runs through Berlin. My Family (parents, brother + sister + me) went there, and joined the masses to set our feet into West Berlin for the first time. This day is the only one that remained very significant in my remembrance - a incredible intense feeling filled the air .. the whole town was filled with emotion , and without understanding the political process fully at that time - you could feel something great is going on! People who were separated for 40 years ran into each other. 40 years of separation fell down . Energy was in the air, its really hard to describe it. We made it into the "West" .. and while we were walking around you could see people running around everywhere, tears of joy in their eyes. We met people we had never seen in our lives before, they ran up, embraced us, wished us all the best things, and people from the west learning we were from the east gave us presents, money, hugged us.

Everyone was moving, crying, extremely emotional happiness of a whole city maybe hits the point. We went into a West Berlin shop, saw some fruit we hadn’t seen before.. and hey - we got all we wanted for free. This feeling was so intense I didn’t forget till today. I have never seen or felt this again. it was really amazing, this first day when the two people were re-united in Berlin.

The wall-hammering event I mentioned in the forum was a bit later, many people tried to help tearing the wall down, the wall had a strong symbolic meaning, so not much was left soon after. But I don’t remember this day so much. Some parts of the wall are still standing in Berlin, artist have painted on it and put the many feelings of this time on it, expressed through their art and ideas. If you ever come to Berlin, stop by the East Side Gallery, its great.

okay, that’s about it. I read in the newspaper that the Anti-Iraq-War demonstrations in Berlin created a feeling that was the first which came near to 1989.. Don’t give up your fight for peace, many, many people are on your side and with your thoughts!


Albert Schmuck from Germany


Jerry H. Bentley, Herbert F. Ziegler, Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. ( New York, McGraw Hill, 2003)

George Orwell, Burmese Days. (

David Grossman,. The Yellow Wind, trans. Haim Watzman. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988, 17-33; 51-64; 77-97; 145-160.

Desmond Tutu, “The Question of South Africa,” in Modern History Sourcebook,, accessed 1/16/03

Francis Fukuyama and Nadav Samin, “Can Any Good Come of Radical Islam?” Commentary vol. 114 no. 2, 34-38.

Albert Schmuck, Sun, 30 Mar 2003 21:10:04 +0200

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead
nice presentation
Reviewed by Lawrance Lux
Good paper, CW; but: One risks of expressing only one side of an Argument in a Paper. Jews have been at least twenty percent of the Population of Palistine, since long before Christ; enjoying the same rights as Blacks in America before 1940, under Islamic rule. Their claim to the land is equal to the Palistinian claim. lgl
Reviewed by Judith Bailey
This is an interesting article... and especially good is the personal story from one who lives there... we in this country have little idea of the reality of the Berlin Wall. Now, if we can just tear down the 'invisible' walls that divide people...
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader)
You write good articles. You might want to sign up for my newsletter, to see some of the markets where you can sell your articles. Also, be sure to download my free MARKETING & PROMOTING YOURSELF doc. under books. There is tons of market information and leads [75 pages]. Time to make some money on this good stuff, girlfriend. [smiles]
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