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Imperialism, and How It Affected South Africa

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Imperialism, and how it affected South Africa

The industrial revolution is the foundation of today’s society. It was also the single biggest reason that made the late 1800s to the early 1900s so incredibly violent. This period is usually called imperialism. During the epoch the Europeans took over large parts of all lands on the globe - an example is the Dutch and the Brits colonising South Africa.

Imperialism happened due to a number of factors. There were both conditions that enabled Europeans to do what they wanted against the rest of the world, driving forces that made them have the will to do what they did, and ideas that justified their actions.


One of the two major direct causes was industrialism. With the industrialisation of Europe, Europeans had the ability to transport armies at a much faster rate than all other peoples from all parts of the world, in addition, they had new weapons like full auto machine guns. This made European countries military superior to the rest of the world.

The second premise was how far the medical progress had come in comparison with other countries. Europeans who previously tried to conquer small parts of Africa had not managed so long because of diseases that hit them, such as Malaria. Now that they had medication against many of these tropical diseases, they could stay without dying.

As the Europeans were superior, it meant that if they wanted, they could take over much of the world - as we know today, this is what happened. These were the conditions, but what were the driving forces?

Driving forces

The biggest driving force was the increased economic demands of industrialism. Because Europeans started mass-producing products, they needed more commodities to produce more goods, and when they had more goods, they needed more people to sell the goods. They thought if they colonised land, they could sell the goods (which are made of the indigenous commodities) to the natives. There were not only economic drivers but also strategic. If the British were to sail to their other colonies in India, for example, they would have a relativley safe time as they had a checkpoint at half way - where they could do what they had to do to ensure a safe trip. This checkpoint also served as a roadblock for other empires to stop them from trying to invade British India.

Justifying ideas

There were also some ideas that made Europeans think they had the right to take over the world. One of the ideas is the so-called civilization mission. Since the Europeans have come so far in development, they believed they should help other undeveloped peoples to become as civilised as the Europeans, and live like them.

Biological racism is also one thoughts the Europeans had. Carl von Linnaeus was a great advocate of this. He divided animals and plants into groups and families, giving names to all species. Futhermore he divided people into races - white, black, yellow and red. He felt that all races had individual characteristics. The white race had the best qualities, for example, that they were strong and smart while the other races were considered lazy or hypersensitive. Another idea that is connected to Biological Racism is Scientific Racism, the science of races and the measuring of skulls to identify the least as well as the most developed race. It was believed the Blacks looked like monkeys and, therefore, were considered less developed and smart, unlike the white race, which was considered the ‘ultimate’ race.

I think this is quite awful because it is us - the human race - that has divided us into races, there is no genetic evidence they exist. Individuals in an ethnic group necessarily have no more genes in common with individuals in the same group than individuals from other ethnic groups, with an exeption of things like hair as well as skin color. Categorising people in races is the same as categorising them by length for example. Skin colour, skull shape, length, or hair colour has nothing to do with cleverness.

Social Darwinism was also one of the ideas the Europeans had during

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