Justification of European Imperialism: Social Darwinism

by slee14

In the 19th and 20th century, European nations, such as the Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, expanded their empire building globally with their extremely superior military forces. They could very easily take over other “undeveloped” nations, since they had newly discovered quinine, which was effective in controlling attacks of malaria, and they had developed steamship and international telegraph.

White Mans Burden, Europeans’ claim that it was their responsibility as superior races to civilize and Christianize native peoples, was used by the Europeans to justify their act. White Mans Burden is based on the ideas of social Darwinism. It is an application of the theory of natural selection that says, “only strong survive”, to human issues that are social, political, and economic. Social Darwinism was emphasized by many scholars who promoted the idea of the white European race being superior to others, and thus, fated to rule over others. Would this qualify as a righteous justification for European imperialism?

Imperialism has a power to annihilate a history of generations in a decade. During the Japanese imperialism of Korea, Korean language, clothing, and culture were strictly forbidden. Older generations in Korea still Japanese words when having conversations and Japanese culture has lived in Korea for so long that it became a necessary part of it. If Koreans could not achieve independence for another two decades, they might have lost everything. Justification of the Japanese government was that they were highly developed comparing to Koreans and it was righteous for them to attempt to completely wipe out a nationality. Similarity exists in the justifications of Japanese and European imperialism. Yet, their fundamental theory, social Darwinism, seems lacking reasons to destroy a nationality.





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6 Responses to “Justification of European Imperialism: Social Darwinism”

  1. Charles Son says:

    This is the exact parallel to the point I raised about David’s post. Not only the Social Darwinism, but any other reasons shouldn’t be a reason for superior countries taking over other nations. This is especially the case if the country is doing immoral things to the colonists, or attempting to eliminate people’s culture.

  2. sfoley says:

    What do you think Charles Darwin would say about Social Darwinism?

    I can’t tell if your question about “righteous justification” is intended to be fecetious or not, could you clarify your thoughts there?

    The UNESCO Declaration of Race and Racial Prejudice might be interesting to relate to this – does it respond to the use of Social Darwinism as a justification for imperialism?

  3. I want to put a ding within the universe.
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