free trade and imperialism

Imperialism refers to government policies that encourage conquests of other people or territories in order to increase economic and political influence (Clarke 308). European imperial interests expanded geographically from the New World and the United States to other areas such as Asia and Africa. Whereas the British took possession of India, the Dutch took control of Indonesia, but the British maintained colonial supremacy. They extended their influence with the aid of free trade imperialism. The expansion of the political and economic interests of the Europeans to other regions in the 19th century meant that foreign countries had to allow the trade of manufactured goods from outside in their territories which enabled Europe to improve its economies.

According to John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, the 19th century had three periods which included: 1750-1815, 1815-1850, and 1850-1914 (Gallagher and Robinson 5). During the imperialist period, the Federationists attributed all the occurrences to foreign investment, and this happened after 1880 (Gallagher and Robinson 7). Therefore, it becomes apparent that the approach adopted was a preoccupation similar to one that seeks to explain how the British expanded their rule. However, Hobson and Lenin have refuted the claim by asserting that the late-Victorian imperialism acted as a shift of the British expansion from the static liberalism to an innocent one (Clarke 308). Apart from the Soviet Union working towards putting an end to imperialism, it was clear that Western Europe and the United States had no authority over choosing or rejecting imperialism but were only to comply with the “international system.”

It is important to note that the territories formed during the imperialism of free trade were not part of the actual settlements. Therefore, those who immigrated to these locations were not forced laborers but rather the region formed an effective area for occupation. Moreover, there was the motivation that made locals from Italy to emigrate following the formation of overseas colonies of settlements. There are claims that imperialism after 1880 did not intend to carve up colonies but rather create spheres of influence (Grocott and Grady 556). However, after some years, there was the scramble for Africa that involved entering into agreements with local leaders and using them to exercise governance. Thus, there was an increase in mercantilism, wealth from colonialism and a boom in the cotton production.

There was the perception that imperialism would cause erosion of democracy not forgetting norms, institutions, and culture among other things. On the contrary, it contributed to the bolstering of different economies. Imperialism of trade led to the expansion of the European political and economic interests on a global scale which after the 19th century improved democracy in India, Japan, Australia, South Africa among others (Saccarelli and Varadarajan 21). It is important to note that there was the use of informal imperialism by allowing weaker nations to retain independence while at the same time lowering sovereignty in these states.

In conclusion, viewing the Victorian imperial history, we realize that even after the end of imperialism and the beginning of anti-imperialism, more spheres of influence arose as the imperialists retained their colonies. Therefore, it is evident that the “informal empire” played a major role in the expansion of Great Britain.

Works Cited

Clarke, Patrick. “Hobson, Free Trade, And Imperialism.” The Economic History Review, vol. 34, no. 2, 1981, p. 308.

Gallagher, John, and Ronald Robinson. “The Imperialism Of Free Trade.” The Economic History Review, vol. 6, no.1, 1953, pp. 1-7.

Grocott, Chris, and Jo Grady. “Naked Abroad’: The Continuing Imperialism Of Free Trade.” Capital & Class, vol. 38, no. 3, 2014, pp. 541-562.

Saccarelli, Emanuele, and Latha Varadarajan. Imperialism Past And Present. Oxford University Press, 2015.

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