Thursday, March 11, 2010

A thought about the age of imperialism

The age of western imperialism is generally thought to be about the 19th century when Western European powers created empires in Africa and Asia. It occurs to me that American "Manifest Destiny" might be seen as an example of the imperialistic impulse that drove Europeans.

A relatively small population of European-Americans concentrated on the east coast of North America expanded to a nation reaching to the Pacific. European empires of the 19th century were built on small numbers of Europeans living in and administering the periphery which was inhabited primarily by the indigenous populations. The U.S. imperialism was built on immigration of large numbers of people, mostly Europeans, who were over time acculturated into U.S. political and economic institutions; the immigrants conquered and replace most of the indigenous population which had been greatly reduced by diseases after the Colombian exchange.

The course of European empire building and U.S. western expansion building are quite different in many ways. Still, there seems to have been a perception among the founding fathers that European Americans were to dominate a large geographic area which in their time was occupied by indigenous people by a process of expansion and colonization.

The European empires disintegrated in the 20th century, while the United States went from strength to strength during the 20th century.

I wonder whether the experience in Canada, Australia, Argentina and Brazil could be seen similarly as examples of imperialism by European marginal populations seeking to create imperial domains over areas sparsely populated by disease decimated indigenous populations.

No comments: