European Imperialism

Michael B. Bishku

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
European Imperialism

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Historically, the term “imperialism” refers to a process whereby countries that were militarily more powerful or technologically more developed took possession of territories—usually overseas but sometimes adjacent to the more powerful country—in order to exploit that territory’s resources or strategic location. In certain cases, permanent settlers were sent along with administrators; those territories were either considered to be an integral part of the mother country or were eventually given local self-government or independence. In the process, there could also be a conveyance of European institutions, such as parliamentary government or a unifying language. “Colonies” (territories directly administered politically) or “protectorates” (territories where foreign affairs and defense matters were controlled by the colonial power but that might have some local autonomy) were recognized by other colonial powers as formal parts of the controlling country's “empire.” Algeria, Mauritania, and Libya were colonies, for example, whereas Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt were protectorates. Thus, the word “colonialism” may be used interchangeably in many cases with the word “imperialism.” There were also other territories that had no formal connection with an “empire” but were nonetheless within the colonial power’s “sphere of influence.” Between the two world wars, another administrative unit, called the “mandate,” was organized under the League of Nations (the predecessor of the United Nations) to allow “mandatory powers” (the victors in World War I) to prepare former colonies of the defeated powers—or territories in the case of the Ottoman Empire—for eventual independence. This was the case for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. In effect, mandate status was the continuation of colonialism or imperialism under the guise of liberalism. Some of these “mandates” became “trusteeships” under the United Nations following World War II, when there was another transfer of colonies of the defeated states. At that time, Libya was granted independence, and Palestine was partitioned under the auspices of the United Nations. In the early 21st century, in the midst of the age of “globalization,” the term “neocolonialism” refers to Western countries’ indirect economic or cultural domination of independent states, as well as their political influence over these states, especially in the so-called Third World, which includes much of the Islamic world.

Article.  10128 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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