Essay on Colonization's Impact: William Easterly's White Man's Burden

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1703 Words
Date:  2023-01-16


Many resources, both current and from the past, have continued to highlight the impacts of colonization on the Rest. The colonizers, in a bid to establish their power in their colonies, dismantled the existing traditional systems of governance and forced their subjects to adopt new modes of governance. There exist significant disparities in the conditions of these countries before, during, and after colonialism. The following is an analysis of William Easterly's "White Man's Burden: From Colonialism to Postmodern Imperialism" to further understand the impacts of colonization, especially on the administration and economy of the colonized states.

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Bad Governance System Inherited from Colonization Period

The White man's burden depicts the type of leaders that were sent to rule the colonies of the respective colonizers. They received no training, no prior probation period; they were young men who were never prepared for the task they were asked to undertake (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). These heads of the colonies had to rely on the help of local rulers to effectively impose their rules and designs on the people. Before colonization, there existed democratic systems of governance in Africa. The colonizers, however, were bent on demolishing these systems and they instead imposed an authoritarian and bureaucratic system of ruling which only served their interests.

The state of affairs in the colonized countries to date is as a result of a colonially imposed system. The colonizers did not interest themselves in the development of the democratic system nor the proper education of the subjects to effectively govern themselves in the post-colonial era (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). The instabilities experienced in these governments result from the adoption of their colonizers' systems of government without adequate knowledge of how those systems operate. Colonizing powers, including Europe, French, and British scrambled for dominance and power in the colonies. This fight for control can be seen today in the governments of the Rest despite the attempts to restore democracy.

Heads of the colonies appointed chiefs to help them rule the territories in what is commonly called indirect rule (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). In most of these colonies, the chiefs were unsupervised and their powers unlimited. They were put in charge of collecting taxes, recruiting, and enforcing forced labour. These chiefs took advantage of their powers to exploit the people by taking extra taxes as well as labour for themselves (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). This is a practice that has persisted in the contemporary post-colonial countries of the Rest. Reports everywhere indicate that selfish leaders loot public resources. Leaders in some of these countries have been to eliminate those who hold different opinions from theirs, just like colonial masters removed chiefs who fail to cooperate with their demands.

The colonizing powers did not consider the subjects of their colonies when they made important decisions affecting them. In the post-colonial era, it is evident that these countries adopted this monopolized method of ruling as can be observed through the party systems most of the countries rule by. Ethnic divisions and marginalization are consequences of such modes of government. The imperialist policies of administration introduced by the colonizers find deeper roots in the contemporary countries post the colonial era - this fuels corruption and inefficiency in the systems of government.

Ineffective Development Plan set by the White Man

It has been established that the West is complacent with imposing ideas, regimes, designs, and notions on other countries, especially their colonies, from above. They set out to implement development plans they made for these countries without their involvement, consent, or contribution (Sylvester, 2006). Most of the colony leaders did not even make efforts to see to it that the goals for these plans were achieved. They set shallow standards which they found excuses to blame for their lack of realization.

The colonial officials, under the theory that "whites know best" resorted to imposing development schemes on their colonies regardless of what their economic choices were. For instance, the Tanganyika Groundnuts Scheme of the 1940s (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). This project was imposed on the colony in a bid to cater for shortages in cooking oil used by the British colonizers. The project consumed a lot of energy and time going above the proposed limits, but it was only after it was running on losses that the British resolved to terminate it.

Most of the development plans introduced by the white man are grandiose; they lack specificity, which contributes significantly to their ineffectiveness and lack of realization (Sylvester, 2006). Also, the implementation of these plans lacks accountability other than the fact that they come from above. The white man's development processes are riddled with corruption, and the set goals are immeasurable. Also, the governments or states in which the development is proposed are led by corrupt officials. These factors, coupled with the fact that most of these plans are imposed, are among the limitations of the effectiveness and efficiency with which the plans are carried out (Sylvester, 2006).

A typical depiction of Africa and other developing countries as inferior has served as a platform through which the West can further enforce development plans on countries to which they give donations. As can be deduced from the White Man's Burden, it is evident that Western countries take it upon themselves to play a paramount role in the initial developmental planning of the recipient countries as opposed to engaging in the planning of their economies (Rosaldo, 1989). Bureaucracies, corruption, authoritarian rules, and imposed free market capitalism by the West in what it terms as planned development only digs a deeper hole for these countries than actually developing them.

"The White Man's Burden" before and after Imperialism

During the colonial period, white imperialists believed that they had the best interests of the colonies at heart. As a result, they took it upon themselves to improve the living conditions and better the quality of necessities such as health and infrastructure. However, Easterly argues that "the white man's burden" was only an excuse for their imperialism, which the white man implies that it was meant to uplift the people he ruled (Easterly & Easterly, 2006).

This burden, the imperialists imbibe, included the provision of education to erase illiteracy from their colonies. For instance, these imperialists transformed the Filipinos by introducing education, better farming techniques, improved infrastructure- both rail and road and improved healthcare (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). In Africa, public money was used to build railways, and cash crop plantations set up (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). These developments significantly improved the per capita of the colonies. In reference to the white man's burden, the white man believed that the colonized nations were his responsibility and that he was the one with the solutions to their problems.

Modern day white man's burden is evident in his over-confidence in bureaucratic systems, imposed development plans, inadequate feedback from locals, and he has deficient knowledge of the conditions in which the locals live (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). It is evident from every information provision channels that the world is wallowing in poverty and hunger. The West believes that making huge aid donations to the affected countries will solve these issues eventually. However, if that were the case, the overwhelming amounts of money reported to go into providing solutions should have been able to eliminate them. The West uses these donations as a channel to exercise control on the recipient countries attempting to dictate what the donation should be used to develop.

Empirical Studies of the Nation's Divide

It was hard being under the leadership of the colonizers, but what was even more difficult was the reconstruction of a nation after independence. The post-colonial era was challenging for many countries as they struggled to find a footing in governing themselves considering that they had no training to enable them to maneuver the new systems of governance imposed on them by their colonizers.

Sudan vividly exhibits this. It is not precisely clear what happened during the drawing of borders in the creation of independent countries so that Arab Muslims and African Christians from different colonies were put together in one state (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). It is believed that British bureaucrats gave in to the pressure from the educated northerners and made decisions without consulting the southerners. As a result of feeling left out, the southerners resorted to civil war in attempts to make their voices heard. The Southerners are reported to perceive the Northerners as their traditional enemies, a fact not oblivious to the British rulers (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). Additionally, the Northerners raided the Southerners and captured them as slaves, which further fueled the animosity between the North and the South.

The West also played a part in the continued feud between the North and the South by choosing to align itself with the Northerners just as the British had done. Aid agencies, including the World Bank, are also documented to offer aid to the North while neglecting the South (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). Consequently, the country's economy was collapsing with a reported per capita income that was even worse than it was at independence. This separation pushed the country further into a civil war which halted economic development and destabilized the political system (Easterly & Easterly, 2006). These shortcomings only serve to strengthen the fact that not all the problems experienced by the Rest are caused by the West, but it played a significant role in how the colonized states turned out after independence. Furthermore, the post-colonial error proved to be as challenging as the colonial period, and only the problems were different.

From the above analysis, it is evident that the white man's burden did not ease with the end of colonization. However, this imperialism only acquired a different face that some analysts say is foreign aid. Additionally, it is essential that the West should take a step back and analyze it colonial history because only then would it realize that its indulgence in neo-imperialist efforts did not work during that era, and chances of them working now still gleam (Easterly & Easterly, 2006).


Easterly, W., & Easterly, W. R., (2006). The white man's burden: why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. Penguin.

Rosaldo, R. (1989). Imperialist nostalgia. Representations, 26, 107-122.

Sylvester, C. (2006). Bare life as a development/postcolonial problematic. Geographical Journal, 172(1), 66-77.

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Essay on Colonization's Impact: William Easterly's White Man's Burden. (2023, Jan 16). Retrieved from

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