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Nationalism and imperialism in British africa 1850-1960 - Essay Example

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The term 'imperialism', which was coined in 1858 to mean 'despotism', changed in 1881 to take on the meaning 'principle or spirit of empire and advocacy of imperial interests' in 1881 (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 1959). To this could be added Lord Rosebery's definition, 'greater pride in Empire' (Eldridge 1978:3)…
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Nationalism and imperialism in British africa 1850-1960
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Nationalism and imperialism in British africa 1850-1960

Download file to see previous pages... Identity is another issue in settler societies. Louis Hartz, in his seminal work, "The Founding of New Societies" (1964:11-13, 53-4)1, observed that identity formation by European settlers in a new land is a complex process. Changes in Europe and the presence of 'native' peoples in the new land make it difficult to maintain identification with the old country. The 'racial element' becomes an integral part of settler consciousness and national identity in a way that does not occur in Europe.
Colonial presence became established first, in the West African Settlements (Sierra Leone, Gold Coast etc.). It brought, as a by-product, Christian missionaries (White and Black!) and Enlightenment ideas of freedom and self-determination to Africa. However, it also brought the idea of the "Other" with it and dispossessed the Africans from their sense of the "Self". Edward Said in his "Orientalism" (1984) focused on the idea of discourse. He categorically explained the discursive practices of the "West" since the beginning of the Renaissance and their "Humanist" attempts to situate themselves into a historically, anthropologically, socially, psychologically and economically dominant and "subject" position that would forever dispossess the native "orient" being from their own history and claim to history within the Western canon. Not only that Fanon in his "Black Skin White Masks"2, talks about the psychological dislocation of the native due to the complete eradication of African identity from educated native. Incase of the masses the dislocation was physical - through the dislocation of their lands. Thus, anthropologists such as Madison Grant or Alexis Carrel built their pseudo-scientific racism, inspired by Gobineau's "An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races" (1853-55). This ruse of superiority was used from the nineteenth century onwards, to begin the 'civilizing mission' which legitimated imperial conquest and control brought to the fore the issue of 'native policy'. The 'white man's burden' meant that, in imperialist theory and to some extent in practice, 'native policy' involved the role of the Colonial Office as guardian of 'racial' minorities and 'backward' peoples. In the mixed colonies, however, it continued to mean principally the legalized theft of 'native' land and the use of 'natives' as a source of cheap labor. Settler societies were therefore quick to seek political autonomy in order to deal with the 'natives' in their own way and acquire what territory they wanted. Hence, the nineteenth century saw a further divergence between colonial and imperial ideology. Two contradictory sets of principles were on a collision course within the settlements: the concept of trusteeship within the imperial philosophy of a non-racial empire, and the settlers' determination to create a 'White Man's Country' (Huttenback 1976:21)3.

After the 'scramble for Africa' in the 1880s, there was a brief age of self-conscious imperialism when the British empire was vaunted as the strongest, largest and most benign the world had ever seen, and flags and banners became sacred symbols of the nation. However, this could not hide the savagery of the war that was being used as an appropriate civilizing mission. In South Africa, three groups struggled over the land. In the early 1800s, the Zulu chief Shaka fought to win more land. Meanwhile, the British won control of the Dutch colony on the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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