Compare and Contrast Paper on Nationalism and Imperialism

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1371 Words
Date:  2022-07-27


Nationalism is an ideology that bases itself on the premise that the loyalty of a person to his or her country surpasses other interest, both at individual and group level. Historically, nationalism has been expressed through people getting attached to their native traditions, soil and territorial authorities (Snyder, p.7). On the other hand, imperialism refers to a state, practice, policy or advocacy involving power extension mainly through direct territorial acquisition or by gaining both tight and territorial control of other countries or areas (Quinn, p.10). People have considered imperialism morally repressive because of its application of power, primarily through aggressive forms. The industrial revolution played a significant role when it came to matters of imperialism.

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Similarly, the enlightenment helped in creating a sense of superiority among the intellectuals of Western Europe and governments well. They decided to go abroad, spread their 'superior' culture. Also, the industrial revolution created an economic incentive for imperialism because industries needed raw material and cheap labour. The fact that these raw materials were available overseas forced the European nations to conquer and colonize various states to acquire the cheap labour and raw materials for their industries. The idea of nationalism also made the European nations believe that their countries are better than others. By the 19th century, various governments decided to utilize this idea and conquer other places. This paper focuses on the relationship between imperialism and nationalism. It also explains how these motives forced various states and empires when it came to relating to other people from different parts of the world.

Origins of Nationalism

The nationalism initially, grew as a European ideology, whereby they considered themselves better and superior to other people. They viewed their culture as better than others and decided to spread it to make the world better and more developed. The Europeans saw imperialism as the best technique for spreading their culture to other parts of the world. By the 17th century, the European governments had already established direct colonies worldwide. This kind of imperialism was a way of instituting scientific revolution and enlightenment aspects in the 'backward' places in the world; for instance, the African Continent.

The imperialism was taken as an intellectual and economic undertaking. The European governments had a lot of interest in those areas where they could acquire resources like minerals and productive areas where they could do farming through cheap labour from the indigenous population. They could then sell the finished products after manufacturing. A practical example is the cotton, which English investors purchased from India, manufactures clothes and eventually exports the cloths again to India, then sells there at a profit. The European private companies used a particular chain where they extracted raw material, manufactured and then transported them to Europe. Some of these colonies included Asia and America. The Spices are good examples because they were picked, cured and transported to Europe by ships. Spanish also mined silver, refined and utilized it to purchase manufactured goods from China, like silk or porcelain.

Imperialism as an Intellectual Undertaking

In the earlier eras, imperialism was based on technology and religious beliefs. But by the 19th century, it was also based on empirical perspective. The countries with the highest enlightenment levels were considered to be the most powerful and advanced on earth. This feeling was not solely on European countries alone. Other empires like the Chinese dynasty considered themselves more advanced compared to their neighbours. For instance, in the 18th century, the Chinese Qing Dynasty imagined that it was the most civilized and progressive kingdom on earth. Their emperor refused to allow for free and open trade with the English Kingdom because they thought that they were superior. They could not interact and associate with 'backward 'people. Therefore, the letter by King George III concerning the open trade and creation of embassies between the two empires was termed as impractical by the Chinese emperor. That means, Chinese were proud and could not allow interchanging of culture with Europe.

The superiority complex played a great role concerning how this Qing Dynasty and European empires reacted. They thought it was impossible and impractical to handle the inferior people to their levels. For the Qing Dynasty, it was impossible to educate inferiors to their standards. However, European empires believed they could teach people about their culture and assimilate them. The Europeans thought that it was possible to civilize people. At the same time, they wanted a share of resources from various parts of the world. That means the imperialism experienced in the 19th century was both intellectual and economic base.

The Connection Between Nationalism and Imperialism

The relationship between imperialism and nationalism advanced in the 19th century. The combination of enlightenment ideas and Napoleonic wars experiences created a lot of change worldwide. After the Napoleonic wars with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the European borders stabilized. The Concert of Europe of 1818 also strengthened the monarchical power. After that incident, the monarchy could be assisted by allies in case of an attack by another. These moves could prevent arising of another French revolution and Napoleon Wars.

The Enlightenment political ideas clashed with the focus on political stability based on repression. The political ideas included freedom, liberty, and representation. Various intellectual personalities wanted new identities to be created. These identities would focus on linguistic, religious, ethical and spatial categories. The desire for the national greatness in the 19th century led to the creation of overseas colonies and exploitation of resources from these colonies. The European nations, as well as the United States, achieved their ambitions through imperialism. They attempted, and to some extent, civilized people in various parts of the world. The Ruskin's speech shows an active link between nationalism and imperialism. He argues that no matter where citizens are born, they need fair and equal treatment ("The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The 20Th Century: Topic 1: Texts and Contexts").

The Imperialism in 15th-19th Century

There was a change in the 19th-century imperialism compared to the earlier period. The number of colonies and the method by which they were integrated into the imperial powers changed significantly in the 19th century. In the 19th century, the European powers decided to control their colonies or spheres of influence directly. They neglected the application of simple trade treaties. They utilized their technological superiority and eventually demanded allegiance from these colonies. However, they faced a lot of issues because of various resistances, some of which took years to suppress.

At the end of the 19th century, the competition for colonies by European powers increased. By 1882, the British had taken Egypt as their jurisdiction from the Ottoman Empire. More so, they took over the Suez Canal, making it easier to transport people and commodities from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. These acquisitions enabled the change of power balance within the globe. Various European countries reacted swiftly and took over both strategic and less strategic areas as their jurisdiction. The scramble for colonies led to the taking the place of the Berlin Conference in 1884 because various countries almost fought for the acquisition of territories. For instance, Britain nearly went to war with Germany because of Congo concerning the right to free trade on the River Congo.


Nationalism entails the loyalty of a person to his or her country. Imperialism refers to a state, practice, policy or advocacy involving power extension mainly through direct territorial acquisition. Some empires and Dynasties believed that they were highly advanced and could hardly relate to others. For instance, the Qing Dynasty in China refused to exchange embassies with the English empire. More so, European empires believed they could civilize other people to their level. They, therefore, utilized imperialism and colonized other parts of the world, including the whole of Africa. They also exploited resources from these colonies to benefit their home countries. The scramble for colonies by European powers almost resulted to war, leading to Berlin conference of 1885.The conference aimed at resolving these conflicts.

Work Cited

"The Norton Anthology Of English Literature: The 20Th Century: Topic 1: Texts And Contexts". Wwnorton.Com, 2018, Accessed 28 Aug 2018.

Quinn, Riley. Imperialism: A Study. Macat Library, 2017.

Snyder, Louis. The new nationalism. Routledge, 2017.

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