How did European imperialists justify their imperialism
1. How did European imperialists justify their imperialism, between 1880 and 1914?
2. What were the main causes of, and the main developments in, the women’s movement of the 19th century?
3. Discuss Karl Marx’s analysis of history, economics, and politics.
4. What were the chief causes of the secularization of European culture in the 19th century?
5. Discuss the rise and nature of nationalism as it affected the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The term empire, derived from the Latin word imperium, contains at least three overlapping senses: a limited and independent rule, a territory embracing more than one political community, and the absolute sovereignty of a single individual. All three of these components were in play when the European overseas expansion gathered speed in the late fifteenth century. And all three senses of the term would figure prominently in European justifications for empire.
Although it opened a Pandora’s box of philosophical disputes, the original justification for Spanish colonialism was found in the bulls issued by Pope Alexander VI (1431–1503). These conceded to the Spanish monarchy the right to occupy the newly discovered Americas and to undertake the conversion of the indigenous population, thus making the Spanish monarchy the vicar of God in the New World.
If the initial encounters with the inhabitants of the New World corroborated with the Christian hope of evangelizing to the entire world, it also lent new force to a more secular aspiration that focused on the increasing civilization of all humankind. Evangelization and this mission of civilization were the two complementary ideals that underpinned most justifications for European empire for nearly 500 years.
This essay traces the many manifestations of these ideas and convictions in the imperial trajectories of the Western powers.
For conquest to serve as adequate proof of the righteousness of the Spanish cause, the conquest itself had to be justified. The wide-ranging debates that preoccupied generations of jurists who debated the legality of the conquest may be condensed into a single question: Had the wars with the indigenous population of the Americas resulting in European conquest, been just ones?
In On the American Indians, Francisco de Vitoria (1486–1546) argued that war with native populations could not be justified on the basis of the jurisdiction given by a papal bull, or even a purported right to compel natives to obey natural law. Conflict could be justified in defending the innocent, however, especially in cases where cannibalism and human sacrifice were practiced.
War resulting in conquest also could be justified, according to Vitoria’s logic, if indigenous rulers refused to allow missionaries to preach, or discouraged conversion by killing converts. The defense of the latter might instigate war in which the Spaniards could legally occupy the native territories and depose their governments. While critics of the Spanish wrangled over the legitimacy of the conquest of America and the dispossession of its inhabitants, other European powers were embarking on their empire-building missions and would devise different justifications to support their rule.
It must not be forgotten that one of the main justifications for imperialism was that of gaining advantage in the competition among the European powers. The European empires watched each other constantly. They measured their behavior against each other and borrowed from each other’s practices.
As Portugal’s Marquês de Pombal (1699–1782) observed in the mid-1740s: “All European nations have augmented them-selves and are augmenting even today through reciprocal imitation, each one carefully keeps watch over the actions taken by the others (and), through their ministers, they take advantage of the utility of foreign inventions” (Carvalho e Melo 1986, p. 158).