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Western Civilization History and Culture 19th Century

Western Civilization History

Judith G. Coffin & Robert C. Stacey in their book, “Western Civilization: Their History and Their Culture, volume 3” give a major turning point in history. This is as far as the understanding of the death or the emergence of imperialisms in the culture of the nineteenth century is concerned. Their book helps in understanding the difference between formal imperialism and informal imperialism. According to Coffin & Stacey, imperialism can be defined as the establishment of unequal human and territorial relationship in developing empires. It is only based on the idea of superiority and practices that are intended to dominate and have extensive authority and control over others. This term has therefore been applied in understanding the Western political and economic dominance culture in the 19th century. 

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Formal Imperalism

Formal imperialism is the practice where one country extends its authority, control, or rule over areas outside its borders. This is usually occasioned when one country establishes a government that dominates over the people of another country through military rule. This was evident when British set out government administration in India in order to control its people (Coffin & Stacey, 2009). On the other hand, informal imperialism does not involve the establishment of a direct control over others. Instead, it uses other tools such as economic incentives or disincentives in manipulating the political structure of another country in order to receive many of the same benefits as did by formal empires. 

Imperalism in Western Countries

For instance, technological superiority and free trade has continuously been used by Western nations for economic power and cultural imperialism. This is well captured in the manner in which the use of English language in other nations is typically devised in furthering the political and commercial interests of the Western countries. In addition, informal imperialism is seen in how the United States exerts considerable influence over certain Third World nations. This has especially been achieved West domination of certain international financial organizations such as World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that offer financial assistance to other countries. Even though, U.S and Britain have not formally established direct colonial rule in the Third World countries, they continuously use informal diplomatic and economic means in expanding their influence.

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Historians such as Coffin and Stacey agree that there are three distinct aspects that encouraged imperialism in the 19th century. One of them was the economic motive.  Coffin & Stacey (2008) argue that the reason why certain western states dominated others was to expand their economic base. They achieved this through gaining control of additional territories which enabled them to acquire additional labor and raw materials for their industries. In addition, they found outlets for surplus capital as well as markets for their surplus good. As a result, their economy would grow.  This explains the European capitalist expansions and U.S economic imperatives into the Third World countries in 19th century.

Politically Motivated Imperalism

Secondly, imperialism in the 19th century was politically motivated. Coffin & Stacey (2008) argue that the 19th imperialism such as that practiced by the French was motivated by the desire for power, prestige, security, and diplomatic advantage. It was out of the need to restore France’s international prestige.  Similarly, Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe after 1945 was based on the need to protect the nation from another invasion of its western borders (Coffin & Stacey, 2009). In addition, ideological motives were also seen as the cause of imperialism in 19th century. In this case, western countries, such as Britain, saw the need to colonize the black countries in order to civilize them. To such countries, imperialism was a missionary activity.

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In conclusion, whether formal or informal, imperialism usually makes some countries to have control over others. In this regard, countries should not use their economic, political, and ideological morals as ways of having control over others just to front their national interest.


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