How did industrialization affect the character of European overseas expansion? How did people in the countries and regions subject to various forms of imperialist control struggle to resist their subjugation by powerful foreign intruders? After answering these two very broad questions, provide a more specific account of one country (American) where the dynamic between control and resistance seems to you particularly illustrative or noteworthy. We are working on two skills here. First, you want to be able to provide a reliable summary of large historical processes (industrialization and modern imperialism). Reliable in this case means someone reading your summary would get an accurate description of the central developments that are occurring. Since it is a short writing assignment, you want to make sure you discern and describe only the main points emphasized by lecturer and/or textbook author. No additional sources or information are required!
Second, you want to be able to provide a detailed account of one particular setting where the larger processes just described can be seen in operation. The more specific information you supply here should be consistent with – help illustrate or flesh out – the broad generalizations made in response to the first two questions. Throughout, you should draw on lectures and readings. All historical explanations – reliable ones, at least – are exercises in zooming in and out from general trends to specific events. This assignment provides an opportunity to practice that skill so that we might better employ it in the assignments to come. Textbook point:
1. Notice too how the chapter ends – with a more detailed look at one nation (the United States) than the authors have thus far provided. The rise of the U.S. and Germany as major industrial powers and their aggressive entry into world affairs disrupted the balance of power that had prevailed during much of the 19th century. The rivalries and hostilities that resulted propel us into the second phase of the 20th century, one dominated by warfare and modes of violence of a more devastating variety than had yet been seen.
The United States will become a world power during this period, so the authors want to make sure we understand the back story. They also want us to consider a question that historians have long debated and politicians even today deem worthy of attention – whether the US is best understood as unique or “exceptional” in some way or as an offshoot of Western Europe.
2. In this chapter we explore the ways in which industrialization affected “the nature and impact of European overseas expansion.” Advanced weaponry and transportation systems allowed the industrial countries to subjugate indigenous people in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Ocean, leading to a nearly complete “partition of the world” between 1870 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 . You will want to make note of how the authors categorize the varieties of imperialist rule. These categories help us understand important differences but notice as well the features they shared as forms of colonial domination – the brutal suppression of resistance, the imposition of Western culture and religion, the development of labor systems based on coerced, and often unpaid, labor. The best land in the colonies was converted from subsistence to export agriculture, creating extraordinary profits for Western business interests and great misery for the indigenous population. Colonial rule also drastically affected the social structure and cultures of the colonized – the long “analysis” document (pp. 53-54) discusses the impact of educational policies on the middle classes in African and Asia. Why do the authors invest so much significance in the fate of the colonized middle class? They also provide fairly detailed histories of South Africa and Hawaii – you should know the basics of those histories and how they fit into the categorization supplied at the outset of the chapter. Finally, notice the growing importance of racism and class snobbery in the justifications Europeans invented for their domination of other lands and harsh treatment of other human beings. The white supremacist ideas that continue to plague us in the 21st century were deployed initially to sanction the imperialist systems of the 18th and 19th centuries. 3.“Precarious Sovereignty: Western Informal Empire and Constricted Development in Latin America, the Middle East, and China” In the longest chapter we will read, we confront what imperialism looked like in those parts of the world where formal colonization was not deemed possible or necessary. The authors provide an examination of “informal dominance” and show how these forms of control impacted the efforts by nations in these regions to maintain their sovereignty and pursue their own strategies of development. As with all accounts of historical change, we are distinguishing common patterns from distinctive features, then figuring out how to combine those in a way that allows us to make sense of important events.
The common patterns are revealed in the chapter title – the ability of all the countries discussed to control their own destinies is somehow “precarious,” their ambitions to follow the path of modernization blazed by the industrial powers somehow “constricted” or obstructed. As you read, make note of the forces that make sovereignty in these regions precarious and that constrict development. Compare these forces with the ones that operated in the formal systems of colonialism discussed in chapter 3.
The distinctive features are elaborated in a series of snapshots of various countries in the regions listed in the title. For Latin America, the authors make a comparative analysis of Mexico and Argentina . For the Middle East, they discuss the example of Egypt at some length. In China, the important dynamic is between a regime – the Manchus – either unable or unwilling to make necessary changes and a whole host of adversaries arrayed against them, from imperialist intruders to homegrown rebels. Throughout this chapter, pay attention to a) competing visions of land use, especially the widespread turn to export agriculture as a way of financing development schemes, b) the role of religion –
Christianity, Islam, indigenous belief systems – in these accounts, and c) the way gender and race relations figure in the various histories provided. Finally, we witness during this period the collapse of two major social systems – the Ottoman Empire and the Qing dynasty. How do the authors explain these momentous events?
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