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Imperialism And Nationalism: The Greater Impact

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Nationalism for an individual is identifying with their nation and supporting its interests, even if that means disregarding the interests of other nations. “nationalism” The pride the individual carries for their nation puts the nation on a metaphorical pedestal. Imperialism is a policy where the nation in question expands their influence through diplomacy or force exhibiting power normally to obtain more power typically for resources to better their economy. “imperialism” From a thorough investigation of detailed accounts in history, this essay will explain why imperialism has a greater impact on the world as opposed to nationalism.

The British are notorious for implementing policies and efforts that exercised imperialistic motives. Evaluating European history, their success in colonizing so many territories relied heavily on the fact that they were the first to industrialize and this allowed their societies to accelerate faster than their competition. Technology, advances in science, a stable government, and a workforce that made relatively modern tools, ships, and weapons put them in a very comfortable position to obtain what they wanted from other countries whether they acquired it through diplomacy or war. As the Europeans were the first to establish large manufacturing operations and businesses also ahead of the race in terms of mass production in products to trade and sell bettering their economy. However, with the industrial revolution underway, this fueled the British’s appetite for expanding and the need for raw materials. They used their power to gain footholds in Africa and China.

Europeans and the Chinese have a complicated history as imperialist efforts were pursued by the Europeans in the 17th century left China in a delicate state. China is notorious for its ideals and refusal to adopt western culture as a means to protect its own. With China being the lead supplier of various goods, made trade very important to the British. With the Port of Canton, European merchants were permitted to trade but the only item they had that the Chinese were interested in was Opium. Unfortunately, Opium was later discovered very addictive and left many crippled by their addiction. This being bad for the people of China, the leaders felt it necessary to halt the trade and stop the flood of opium resulting in a war that was easily won by the Europeans superior military. Matters worsened for China losing many political and economic rights leading up to a series of events where foreign invaders continued to take a bite out of China until the Chinese had a revolution in 1911 and Dr. Sun Yat-Sun proclaimed a republic and advocated changes in China.

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In Africa, the greatest colonial empires belonged to Great Britain and France. The British occupied Africa since the 16th century to set up trading posts but wasn’t until the 19th century they completely dominated the territory. “The European ‘Scramble for Africa’ and the expansion of Great Britain’s swathes of red on a political map are the traditional archetypes of this kind of imperial relationship, with possessed countries being subsumed under the banner of their colonial conquerors.” In attempts to colonize Africa in the past, the Europeans failed due to diseases they were susceptible to, poor weaponry, and were not able to commit to colonizing Africa until the 19th century until their technology was advanced enough to destroy the Africans retaliations. Medication, large ships, and guns were the recipe for their success. The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and was crucial to the British as a trade route and came under their control in 1882. Originally built by the French company, but protected by the British when civil war broke out in Egypt. The British wanted the canal as a trade route to access India more efficiently by water as opposed to traveling through Africa.

The United States is no stranger to nationalism and imperialism. The European settlers that came to North America acquired their territories from the Native Americans much like the British did Africa. The colonist brought along with them diseases that severely damaged the Native American’s chance to win and their lack of superior weaponry make it much more of a challenge to defend their land from being seized. Later on, Mexican also lost their sovereignty after 1848 in the Mexican-American War where the United States acquired California and Texas. In the 19th century, the American settlers felt it was their destiny to expand and move across the continent to spread their traditions and institutions, as a means to enlighten more primitive nations. Sounds very similar to their English brethren motives to justify the domination of the civilizations they came in contact with that had resource that could be utilized to strengthen their own country. This Manifest Destiny philosophy is textbook nationalism, and the imperialistic means in which it was pursued exhibits some morally questionable ideals but to 19th century Americans was a belief they clung too and it is interesting to imagine what the US would be had westward expansion been approached differently. (“Manifest Destiny”) Upon expanding westward, Americans were eager to make a larger impact on foreign trade but to do so, a canal would be necessary to ship goods quickly and cheaply between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. (“Building the Panama Canal, 1903–1914”) During the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the construction of the Panama Canal was underway and eventually completed in 1914 symbolizing “technological prowess and economic power.”

Nationalism was a factor in European society as Europeans wanted bragging rights to most colonies. They desired the title to have the most control over various territories. The British had an ABC nursery rhyme song that read, “ C is for colonies. Rightly we boast. That of all the great countries Great Britain has the most.” Nationalism seems to be the mentality of thinking you’re superior and have pride whereas imperialism is the physical action taken to conquer to prove why one’s nation is superior. A strong nationalism belief amongst the British and later Americans was strong naval artillery. Naval nationalism revolves around the possession of large ships and having a reputation of maritime dominance that reflects great power and ambitions. The same ideology was implemented by Theodore Roosevelt in his personal interest in ships and “with a nationalist impulse to promote American great-power status in world affairs.” In the US, in 1895 Congress funded construction for first-class American battleships, and during the Roosevelt presidency, the Navy commissioned twenty-one battleships. “By 1902, Great Britain began a strategic withdrawal from the Western Hemisphere, conceding US maritime superiority, and it soon welcomed American expansion, both in its colonial presence in the western Pacific and in the form of the construction of the Panama Canal.”

In conclusion, when looking at the Europeans and later Americans, imperialism was being practiced heavily as a part of their conquest to advance. Imperialism is the advocacy to extend a national power with a goal to gain political and economic power. I feel that physically dominating an area changes history drastically because in most cases results in stripping away the culture and potential of one society to build and better the stronger at the time. Nationalism can be considered the fire or notion behind bringing the masses of society together to produce the success of imperialistic ventures. But considering the course material and research presented in this paper, imperialism makes a greater impact.

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Imperialism And Nationalism: The Greater Impact. (2022, February 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Imperialism And Nationalism: The Greater Impact.” Edubirdie, 26 Feb. 2022,
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Imperialism And Nationalism: The Greater Impact [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 26 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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