The last major wave of imperial expansion in world history developed in earnest after 1875. It came to an end, more or less, with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The rationale for empire was, as we saw in Unit 6, diverse. Economic motivations for markets, labor, and raw materials, evangelical religion, racism, and an Enlightenment-inspired visions of a civilizing mission were among the principal arguments public officials gave for their imperial projects. There was not one argument, of course, but many. The real world does not exist in black and white. Shades of grey are critical to understanding the past and present. The purpose of this essay is to encourage students to think critically about the complexity of official justifications for imperialism and to explore how these rationales could support or contradict one another.
For this essay, you will draw on the primary source documents linked below, especially the section entitled “Motives and Attitudes,” to explain the arguments European elites gave for their imperial projects at the end of the nineteenth century. Use a close reading of the online textbook to provide historical context for your argument. Your essay should explore the relationships among various arguments for empire, i.e., the way, for example, racism may have buttressed calls for civilization or how evangelical impulses may have undercut or supported economic arguments. Take at least two of the arguments you think are most important and explore their interaction.
Expectations and Criteria for Success:
You should base your discussion on the information in the Unit 6 course content module as well as the two sources linked above, but outside research is allowed if needed. Outside research should be supplemental to the two primary sources attached to this essay. DO NOT use Wikipedia as a source. As always, be sure to keep track of where you find your information so that you can provide citations in your final essay. Essays should be typed in 12-point font with a simple, clean font such as Times New Roman. Use 1″ inch margins on all sides and double-space the text. Your essays should each be around 1000 words.
Successful essays should be carefully organized, with strong thesis statements and specific evidentiary support. In your introduction, briefly describe the context of the documents that you are analyzing. The body of the essay will focus on analyzing/explaining two justifications that can be seen in more than one document/context. Combine evidence from multiple primary sources and context from the class text to make an argument about how Europeans justified imperialism. And note that the best essays will also explore the connections between the two justifications (how did they “support or contradict” each other?). Conclude by assessing how these justifications shaped 19th-century imperialism. Be sure to revise and edit carefully.
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