European Imperialism and Its Effects on Africa, Asia, and Latin America

European Imperialism and ItsEffects on Africa, Asia, and Latin America

One of the motivating factors forEuropean imperialism during 15th to 18th century was wealth creation.They arrived in Africa as salt, textile and gold traders. The EastIndia Company was also primarily to do trade in India. The Europeanscame from a poor background and desired to make money. “Genoesemerchants on a narrow shoreline hemmed in by mountains, or Portuguesenoblemen deprived of fertile land, had to reach out beyond the hometerritory to fulfill their aspirations” (Birmingham, 2000, p. 2).They were also motivated by a desire to conquer other worlds. Theyconquered in terms of culture, religion, and resources. They alsointroduced the agricultural technologies in the foreign and overseascountries. For instance, in Latin America, the Europeans destroyedthe religion and the people of Aztec. They were motivated byadventure and curiosity. Most of the first explorers returned toEurope and ignited the curiosity of others by telling tales of theexotic people.

In the New imperialism, politicaland economic power motivated Europeans. From the 15th to18th century, trade links had been established overseasand now there was a need to expand these markets. With thismotivation, imperialists sought to colonize and get cheap rawmaterials from America, Asia and South America for their factories.As the Europeans conquered foreign countries, rivalry among theEuropean nations erupted. They fought each other for territories andthis led to establishing individual empire powers in these conqueredterritories (Phimister, 2003). The Europeans also felt they had theresponsibility to civilize ‘backward’ people. They saw themselvesas superior and therefore imposed their form of government on them.


In the 15th century, theEuropeans did not have much influence in the foreign countries. Astime went by, Europeans conducted themselves ruthlessly with littleregard to the culture, religion, and even human life of theirsubjects. In Latin America, the Europeans destroyed severalcivilizations such as those of the Mayans, the Olmecs, and the Incas.In Africa, they took 100,000 slaves and cruelly carried them into anexile filled with hard labor and devoid of all freedom (Birmingham,2000). In the New Imperialism, the Europeans imposed their systems onthe people and gained more economic and political powers. Theybrought civilization to their territories regardless of thewillingness of these people to accept it.


In the 15th through the 18thcentury, there was little influence of the Europeans in foreigncountries. In the New imperialism, Europeans ruled over theirterritories and introduced their religion, education systems andculture. In Latin America, Catholicism was introduced and hasremained the main religion in the continent to date. Most the SouthAmerica cultures disappeared as they integrated with the Europeans.During this period, the Europeans built their empires with theirtechnology. Such landmark buildings are still present in thecolonized countries. Languages spoken in today’s world are also asa result of imperialism (Morton &amp Lewis, 2004). For example, theLatin Americans speak Spanish and Portuguese as a result of havingbeen conquered by Spain and Portugal.

Factors that led to a mixtureof formal and informal imperialism

In the formal imperialism, theEuropeans used direct political power to control their territorieswhile with the informal imperialism, they used indirect power. Theinformal imperialism was mostly practiced by the British Empire. Somehistorians argue that the British and other Empires practiced amixture of formal and informal imperialism because of the presence ofa good political structure that allowed trade made it unnecessary forformal imperialism (Fernandez-Armesto 2006). This allowed empiressuch as Britain attain economic benefit from a country at noadministrative costs and with no political responsibility. Where thetrade stability of an empire was threatened by political structures,a formal type of imperialism was applied.

Where the Europeans felt thatthey needed to financially aid their activities in a formalimperialism, informal imperialism was created. For example, tofinance the East India Company in India, the British traded withChinese. They traded with opium which generated money to rule India.The military strength of a country determined whether a formal orinformal imperialism was applied. Where the Europeans found weakmilitary, they used informal imperialism. Once in a while, militarycoercion was used on a country to make them open up their markets orsign trade agreements.

With globalization, the Britishbecame more sensitive about international economies. Some Britonsadvocated for free trade. The British, therefore, allowed free tradeand was only involved in the economic benefits from a territorywithout taking political control over them. Where the British usedinformal imperialism, its economic growth increased as much as in theformal imperialism territories (McLeod, 2002). For example, the tradebetween Latin America and Britain prospered in spite of the informaltype of imperialism. As the other empires saw British use less moneyand gain economically from their informal imperialism territories,they emulated them. Thus, they also incorporated the informalimperialism in their territories.


Birmingham, D. (2000). Tradeand empire in the Atlantic, 1400-1600. London: Routledge pp.1-91.&nbsp

Fernandez-Armesto, F. (2006). TheAmericas: A hemispheric history. New York, NY: Random House.pp.99-188.

McLeod, J. (2002). The Historyof India. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 65-99.&nbsp

Morton, W. &amp Lewis, C.(2004). China: Its history and culture. New York NY:McGraw-Hill. pp. 148-175.&nbsp

Phimister, I. (2003). Empire,imperialism, and the partition of Africa. In S. Akita (Ed.),Gentlemanly capitalism, imperialism, and global history (pp. 65-83).London: Palgrave-Macmillan.&nbsp