Discussion Topic

  1. As you read the two texts below, analyze how perceptions of colonized people on behalf of these British officials and citizens reflected social, political, and economic developments at home. In short, how do they explain the method through which overseas colonization extended the process of nation building at home?
  2. What short-comings do these documents have in justifying colonization? Quote from the sources here, your textbook, or another internet-based source to support your observations.

Lord Milner, The English Occupation of Egypt 1890s

Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner, served as Undersecretary of Finance in Egypt for the British government between 1889 and 1892. He later served the British imperial administration in South Africa.

If it be admitted that to guide Egypt in the direction of civilized independence and to protect the various foreign interests which are bound up with her peace and prosperity, it is desirable that she should remain for a time under the guardianship of some great power, then there are obvious reasons why England should remain her guardian. The position that we occupy in Egypt may be said to be the result of accident.

But it has more than accidental justification. Alike by the nature of our interests, by the nature of our power, and by certain special qualities in our national character, we seem marked out for the discharge of this particular duty. Our interests in Egypt are absolutely identical with those of the Egyptian people. We are their principal customers and they are also very important customers of Great Britain. With the deficiency of outlets which threatens our vast foreign trade, the great and growing market of Egypt is evidently not a thing which we can afford to despise. And if Egyptian prosperity is British interest, so is Egyptian independence. We have no desire to possess ourselves of Egypt, but we have every reason to prevent any rival power from so possessing itself. The truth is that the idea of a definite date for the conclusion of our work in Egypt is misleading. The withdrawal of Great Britain, if it is not to end in disaster, can only be a gradual gradual process. If British troops were to be withdrawn, it would be more than ever necessary that the position of the British officers in the Egyptian army should be maintained. And not only the position of the British officers, but that of a limited number of high British officials in the civil service. No doubt, in time, even these safeguards might gradually be dispensed with; but that is looking forward to a more distant period than it is of any use trying to speculate about just at present. The circumstances must decide. As native governing capacity develops, as natives come forward who are fit for responsible posts now held by Englishmen, these posts should be resigned to them. Perhaps some British element in the government would always be necessary. Perhaps the British prime minister would always need to exercise some control on the most important questions of policy, but that control might be, in the end, very light and almost imperceptible.

Let us hope that there may be no more attempts to confuse the issue by antiquated tirades about bondholders. Financial swindling may have helped to produce the state of things which made our intervention necessary. But the interest of the bondholderthough, like every other legitimate interest, it has been benefited by England’s action has never been the inspiring motive of our policy, least of all our policy during recent years. Nothing could be more false than any suggestion to that effect. The inspiring, the predominant motive of that policy is the welfare of the Egyptian people. We have done much to promote their welfare, but there is something yet to do. The desire to complete the work is surely a worthy one. It is an effort in which, if we would be true to ourselves, we are bound to persist as long as we have the power.

Source: James Harvey Robinson, Charles Austin Beard, (eds.) Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen with the Purpose of Illustrating some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe during the Last Two Hundred Years (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1909). pp 454-456.

Joseph Chamberlain, “A Plea for Imperialism,” 1893

Joseph Chamberlain, a British manufacturer turned politician, was a consistent advocate of British colonialism during his career. He gave this speech to an audience of manufacturer and workingmen in Birmingham, England, in 1893.

We must look this matter in the face, and must recognize that in order that we may have more employment to give we must create more demand [hear, hear]. Give me the demand for more goods and then I will undertake to give plenty of employment in making the goods; and the only thing, in my opinion, that the government can do in order to meet this great difficulty that we are considering, is so to arrange its policy that every inducement shall be given to the demand that new markets shall be created, and that old markets shall be effectually developed [cheers]. You are aware that some of my opponents please themselves occasionally by finding names for me [laughter], and among other names lately they have been calling me a Jingo [laughter]. I am no more a Jingo than you are [hear, hear]. But for the reasons and arguments I have put before you to-night I am convinced that it is a necessity as well as a duty for us to uphold the dominion and empire which we now possess [ loud cheers]. For these reasons, among others, I would never lose the hold which we now have over our great Indian dependency [hear, hear], by far the greatest and most valuable of all the customers we have or ever shall have in this country. For the same reasons I approve of the continued occupation of Egypt, and for the same reasons I have urged upon this government, and upon previous governments, the necessity for using every legitimate opportunity to extend our influence and control in that great African continent which is now being opened up to civilization and to commerce; and, lastly, it is for the same reasons that I hold that our navy . . should be strengthened [loud cheers] until its supremacy is so assured that we cannot be shaken in any of the possessions which we hold or may hold hereafter.

Believe me, if in any one of the places to which I have referred any change took place which deprived us of that control and influence of which I have been speaking, the first to suffer would be the workingmen of this country. Then, indeed, we should see a distress which would not be temporary, but which would be chronic, and we should find that England was entirely unable to support the enormous population which is now maintained by the aid of her foreign trade. If the working- men of this country understand their own interests, they will never lend any countenance to the doctrines of those politicians who never lose an opportunity of pouring contempt and abuse upon the brave Englishmen, who, even at this moment, in all parts of the world are carving out new dominions for Britain, and are opening up fresh markets for British commerce and laying out fresh fields for British labor [applause].

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