What methods did European countries use to rule their colonies during the last stage of European Imperialism in the late 19th century?  What affects did it have on the peoples they ruled and on the political, economic and social systems of Victorian Europe?



“Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast.  There wasn’t even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush.  It appears the French has one of their wars going on thereabouts.  Her ensign [A small flag] dropped limp like a rage; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stick out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts.  In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent.  Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech – and nothing happened.  Nothing could happen.  There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives – he called them enemies! – hidden out of sight somewhere." 

“You know I am not particularly tender; I’ve had to strike and to fend off.  I’ve had to resist and to attack sometimes – that’s the only way of resisting – without counting the exact cost, according to the demands of such sort of life as I had blundered into.  I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but by all the stars! These were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men – men, I tell you.  But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.  How insidious he could be, too, I was only to find out several months later and a thousand miles farther.  For a moment I stood appalled, as though by a warning.  Finally I descended the hill, obliquely, towards the trees I had seen.”

SOURCE:   Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1902.



“For it is always a question, when one speaks of imperialism, of the assertion of an aggressiveness whose real basis does not lie in the aims followed at the moment but as aggressiveness in itself.  And actually history shows us people and classes who desire expansion for the sake of expanding, war for the sake of fighting, domination for the sake of dominating.  It values conquest not so much because of the advantages it brings, which are often more than doubtful, as because it is conquest, success, activity….

Modern Imperialism is one of the heirlooms of the absolute monarchical state.”

SOURCE:  Joseph A. Schumpeter, The Sociology of Imperialism, 1918.



“It must, however, be remembered that the problem undertaken by the British rulers of India…is the application of the most refined principles of European government, and some of the most artificial institutions of European society, to a vast Oriental population, in whose history, habits and traditions they have had no previous existence…. That by enforcing these principles and establishing these institutions, we have placed, and must permanently maintain ourselves at the head of a gradual but gigantic revolution – the greatest and most momentous social, moral, and religious, as well as political, revolution which, perhaps, the world has ever witnessed.”

SOURCE:   Lord Lytton – Speech to the Calcutta Legislature, 1878.



The Benefits of British Rule for India:
Politically:  Peace and order.  Freedom of speech and liberty of the press.  Higher political knowledge and aspirations.  Improvement of government in the native states.  Security of life and property.  Freedom from oppression causes by the caprice or greed of despotic rulers, and from devastation by war.  Equal justice between man and man… Services of highly educated administrators, who have achieved the above-mentioned results.”

The Detriment of British Rule:
Politically:  Repeated breach of pledges to give the natives a fair and reasonable share in the higher administration of their own country…an utter disregard of the feelings and views of the natives.  The great moral evil of the drain of wisdom and practical administration, leaving none to guide the rising generation.”

SOURCE:  Dadabhai Naoroji, The Benefits of British Rule, 1871.



“The decades of Imperialism have been prolific in wars; most of these wars have been directly motivated by aggression of white races upon ‘lower races,’ and have issued in the forcible seizure of territory.  Every one of the steps of expansion in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific has been accompanied by bloodshed…cliques of business men…that are antagonistic; that these cliques, usurping the authority and voice of the people, use the public resources to push their private businesses, and spend the blood and money of the people in this vast and disastrous military game, feigning national antagonisms which have no basis in reality.”

SOURCE:  John Atkinson Hobson,  An Early Critique of Imperialism.



“Indeed, it has been rightly asserted by both Africans and Europeans that the European occupation of Africa, although it deprived people of their independence, helped to direct the minds and activities of the native peoples away from destructive to constructive programmes of action.

…The reader should note these four things, among others, that the coming of the European power, brought to Africa:  the coming together of different tribes; better communications; a new economic system; and the creation of new classes among the African people….”

SOURCE:  Ndabanangi Sithole, Imperialism’s Benefits by an Anti-Imperialist African, late 19c.



“The future and wealth of France depend above all on the extension and prosperity of our colonies.  When factories produce more than consumers need, work must stop for a time, and workers, condemned to inactivity for a more or less long period, must live off their savings and suffer without there being any possibility to institute a remedy for the evil.  The reasons for the abnormal situation can be boiled down to a lack of markets for our products.  Once the French genius is put to colonization we will find a draining of our overflow of our factories, and at the same time we will be able to secure, at the source of production, the primary, materials needed in our factories.”

SOURCE:  "Imperial Conquest: The Nation’s Savior", Le Petit Journal, 1883.



“the first condition of our action must be to provide for the necessary maintenance of our sway, to guard against invasion from without, and repress disorder within.  The tide of conquest…must be stayed:  the wholesale lawlessness…must be efficiently repressed…

            At present India pays nothing, and is to pay nothing, to the ruling power.  The salaries of the officials, the interest on loans, the price of stores needed for the public service, make up a heavy annual payment.  But it is all for value received; and as regards a great deal of it, it would not be difficult to show that India has much the best of the bargain.  In considering the administration of the country, therefore, no other object but its welfare has to be taken into account.”

SOURCE: British Duties Toward India, 1882.



“Isn’t it strange how a man will change when he changes his locality?  A man will be ever so polite to blacks at home, but when he goes where they predominate he gets overbearing.  Take the condition of things in Congo today.  Of course, this commission, appointed by King Leopold, don’t amount to anything.  He is too well known as a domestic man, a family man, a King and a pirate to get his report accepted by any public.  But photographs don’t lie.  A missionary showed me pictures of children with their hands cut off as evidence.  King Leopold’s soldiers have done their duty, because the natives didn’t bring in rubber enough.”

SOURCE:  "Congo Free State Horrors" by Mark Twain – Boston Journal (Nov. 6, 1905).



“It is [the Africans] who carry the ‘Black man’s burden.’…In hewing out for himself a fixed abode in Africa, the white man has massacred the African in heaps.  The African has survived, and it is well for the white settlers that he has….

            What the partial occupation of his soil by the white man has failed to do; what the mapping out of European political ‘spheres of influence’ has failed to do; what the Maxim [machine gun] and the rifle, the slave gang, labour in the bowels of the earth and the lash, have failed to do; what imported measles, smallpox and syphilis have failed to do; whatever the overseas slave trade failed to do; the power of modern capitalistic exploitation, assisted by modern engines of destruction, may yet succeed in accomplishing….

            Thus the African is really helpless against the material gods of the white man, as embodied in the trinity of imperialism, capitalistic exploitation, and militarism…”

SOURCE:  Edward Morel, The Black Man’s Burden.




Chamberlain: "The lowest corner down yonder, must be painted red!"

SOURCE:  Lustige Blütte, late 19c political cartoon.




Percentage Controlled











SOURCE:  Percentage of Territories Belonging to the European/US Colonial Powers, 1900.



“The policy of colonial expansion is a political and economic system…that can be connected to three sets of ideas:  economic ideas; the most far-reaching ideas of civilization; and ideas of a political and patriotic sort.

In the area of economics, I am placing before you, with the support of some statistics, the considerations that justify the policy of colonial expansion, as seen from the perspective of a need, felt more and more urgently by the industrialized population of Europe and especially the people of our rich and hardworking country of France:  the need for outlets [for exports].”

SOURCE:  Jules Ferry (1832 – 1893): On French Colonial Expansion.


DBQ Question created by::

Catherine Beglan
Class of 2002
Maria Regina H. S.
Hartsdale, NY  10530