Enlargement and Resistance: Crash Course European Historical past #28

published on July 2, 2020

hi I'm John Green and this is crash

course European history so we've made it

to the 19th century and as European

societies are trying to build cohesive

political structures known as nations

many are also expanding or initiating

overseas empires and so while more

European nations were grounded in the

rule of law and constitutional

guarantees including property rights

life was very different in the empires

governed by those nations where there

were few if any rights

while many nation builders and citizens

supported rights and the rule of law as

a bedrock of their nations expansion

entailed taking away the rights of

others and understanding how that

contradiction functioned and who it

benefited is key to understanding not

just 19th century colonialism but also

the contradictions we still live with



so when we last looked at expansion the

British were moving forcefully into

India in part to compensate for losing

monopoly rights over trade with North

America while the Spanish and French

were losing their grip in the Western

Hemisphere but by the mid 19th century

Asia Africa and the Pacific Islands were

the focus of European Imperial activity

much of it to gain trading advantages

and acquire more raw materials like palm

oil for industry and much firmer

political control of territories was

established as in India North Africa and

Australia in the 19th century China

continued to attract European trade

because of China's excellent products

especially tea and silk the English were

leaders in industrialization but they

mostly made low quality products that

pretty much nobody wanted including the

Chinese but the British needed something

to sell in exchange for tea and silk and

they ended up focusing on drug smuggling

at any rate when the Chinese government

began to crack down on the opium

smugglers many of whose descendants are

today among the most respected and

wealthy families in Britain the

smugglers convinced the British

government to initiate the Opium Wars of

1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860 British

success in these wars forced China to

open new ports to trade and while China

had banned opium in 1799 the British

used the idea of freedom of trade to

keep opium sales going and increasingly

imposed their political and economic

will on Chinese rulers regions in

Southeast Asia and the Pacific were also

targets for a forced trade and takeovers

of land the French set up rubber and

other plantations in Indochina the

British took vast quantities of lumber

from Burma and the Dutch set up a

variety of plantations in Indonesia no

longer confining their interest simply

to trading posts Pacific Islands also

became weigh stations for ships to

resupply and obtain other raw materials

the French British and Belgians

meanwhile headed for the interior of

Africa now that they had quinine with

which to treat malaria infections while

the Portuguese maintained a toehold on a

part of southwestern Africa the French

took over much of West and North Africa

and the British took areas in the

south and east Belgian King Leopold

assaulted the Congo for its rubber and

yes we are using that verb intentionally

while Otto von Bismarck generally not a

fan of expansion outside of Europe

allowed German businessmen and

adventurers to head for regions in Asia

and South Eastern and southwestern

Africa he also allowed them to launch a

ventures in the Middle East especially

the Ottoman Empire but the largest and

most continuous Enterprise was one the

British built in India and Central Asia

they saw it manufactured goods and raw

materials but they were also motivated

by simple plunder like the British

invested very little in ruling India

instead using different Prince's

well-trained soldiers for conquering new

areas and policing governance of the

colony involved some 4,000 British

officials and tens of thousands of local

civil service workers who did the main

work and as in the past European

invaders relied on local people to serve

as informants and guides and go-betweens

and negotiators they were some of the

human tools of empire and while

explorers and colonial generals were

portrayed in European newspapers and

magazines as standard bearers of heroic

masculinity they required vast entourage

'as of local people to survive this was

especially true in Africa where from

village to village go-betweens and

guides had to lead and negotiate the

supposedly lone adventurers food and

safe passage and health care needs it's

well documented that many of these

romanticized heroes became addicted to

drugs and alcohol because of the

stresses but also because of the boredom

of the slow movement of hundreds of

animals and carriers of supplies and

weapons let's go to the thought-bubble

other tools of empire were industrial

like steam ships built to navigate

rivers and weaponry that local people


at least initially Europeans often sold

inferior or outdated weapons to the

people they wanted to conquer who were

quick to duplicate the better models

that fell into their hands railroads

also became tools of empire in that they

were not set up to benefit local people

but to strip them of their goods and get

those goods to ports as quickly as


infrastructure was built to disadvantage

not advantage colonized peoples a final

and crucial tool of empire was the F er

mentioned quinine which was made from

the bark of the cinchona tree found

primarily in South America Jesuit

priests were introduced to the drug by

indigenous people in South America but

initially the bark had to be procured

and ground up which made quinine

difficult to produce in large quantities

but after the 1820s French scientists

devised procedures to extract quinine

from the bark and then in the 1850s the

Dutch finally obtained the

closely-guarded syn Kona seeds which

South Americans were embargoing and the

Dutch set up successful plantations in

Indonesia the medicalization and

plantation production of san kona meant

that quinine was widely available to

europeans which in turn allowed for the

invasion of africa's interior where

malaria was common thanks thought-bubble

oh my gosh the center of the world just

opened our two main bits are right next

to each other so this is a train I'm not

sure if it's a real train it might just

be a model train I'm not a scientist all

I know is that railroads were incredibly

important in the 19th century and remain

so and if you look at where nations

built railroads inside their nations and

where they built railroads inside their

colonies you'll immediately understand

the difference between living in a

nation and living in a colony in Britain

for instance the railroads primarily

connect cities to each other so people

and goods can be connected and

distributed but if you look at where

Britain built railroads in for instance

Sierra Leone in the early 20th century

you'll see that those railroads are

designed almost entirely to get goods

from the interior of the country to a

port and that brings us to resource

extraction the discovery of diamond and

gold mines in South Africa from the

1860s into the 1880s provided another

impetus to colonization and contests

over territory to get Africans to leave

their homes and work in the mines

the British demanded the taxation be

paid in currency instead of in produce

or other goods so to acquire funds

Africans had to leave their farms for

the mines where work was treacherous and

often fatal south african lands were

also simply stolen to drive people into

the mines with their resistance to the

violence theft and exploit a

of imperialism yes colonized people

rebelled in a variety of ways in 1857

for instance local people in India

including Indian soldiers and even the

widow of a local ruler Rani Laxmi Bai

queen of Jhansi launched a rebellion

against expanding British rule and it's

seizure of property her wealth had been

stolen and she had been removed from

power we all know read a circular letter

that year that if the English stay in

Hindustan India they will kill everyone

and spoil our faith in this scenario we

ask you what you are doing to defend

your faith and our lives and this has

been published in order to save the

religion and faith and the lives of all

you Hindus and Muslims as they crushed

the rebellion the British justified the

ensuing slaughter as needed to punish

the supposed rapes that vicious Indians

had inflicted on white women but later

investigations proved that no such rapes

had occurred the English additionally

branded the Rani a prostitute she died

in battle during the uprising resistance

to Empire also took many other forms

like in the Belgian Congo for instance

where local people were horrific ly

abused by the colonial authorities

officials realized that the fertility

level was dropping across the colonized

world declines in births like this are

seen by historians as a form of

intentional strike and they've been

happening for a long time for example in

the Caribbean women used the peacock

flower to abort fetuses enslaved women

elsewhere used Roux or willow or agate

or other plants so that additional

children would not be born into slavery

such was the horror of colonial

oppression that many people did not want

a new generation to be born into the

world that said some local people living

under colonial conditions did prosper

not just as soldiers and civil servants

but as businesspeople and professional

people there were labor contractors and

merchants and large property owners the

Tagore's of Bengal initially owned

agricultural estates but as the English

advanced they invested their growing

funds in establishing silk and other

mills while also serving as high-level

agents for British companies in India

rabindranath tagore of the

they won the Nobel Prize for Literature

in 1913 the first non-european to do so

Empire builders justified their

conquests by describing themselves as

fully entitled to take the wealth and

land and know-how of distant peoples and

even to enslave them initially they

argued that local people whom they often

called savages needed to be turned into

Christians for their salvation in this

explanation imperialism became a holy

endeavor as it had been for the spanish

and portuguese more than three centuries

earlier but after the mid 19th century

publication of Charles Darwin's Origin

of Species and the descent of man Empire

started to be viewed as imperative in

order to save civilization from violent

brutes now I know what you're thinking

I've studied European history a bit and

it's pretty violent we agree obviously

but people tell themselves stories in

order to justify the oppression of

others and indeed in order to justify

wherever they find themselves in life in

this telling humans had evolved from

lower forms of existence and Darwin

argued that human development reached a

pinnacle in white men so according to

him all people of other races were less

evolved and less accomplished social

Darwinists people who took Darwin's

scientific studies and made them the

basis of expansionist and domestic

politics believed that white people

needed to be engaged in conquest to

preserve their superior lives so the

justification for say stealing palm oil

or diamonds from colonized regions was

that it helped keep white people

superior and those were the people who

really mattered I know that it's

tempting especially for people who

benefited from colonialism to say that

this is all in the past but the wealth

extracted from colonized regions had a

lasting effect on both the colonizer and

the colonized and ideas about race that

were constructed to justify colonialism

are still deeply ingrained in lived

human experience around the world

imperialists eventually tried to calm

what came to be known as the Scramble

for Africa with the Berlin Conference of

1884 and 1885 which ruled that European

nations with outposts on African coast

could claim the corresponding interior

region there were also conditions for

example against selling firearms to

Africans but the main result of all of

this was only to intensify imperial

competition the British and French

almost came to blows at Fashoda and

Sudan in 1898 the Germans threatened

French Holdings in North Africa early in

the 20th century and eventually these

growing international tensions within

Europe would lead to world war which

we'll hear more about in a few weeks but

for now I want to ask you to shift

perspectives and consider the experience

of those who were most negatively

affected by this imperialism and how

that imperialism is still shaping life

today thanks for watching I'll see you

next time crash course is filmed here in

the Jaden Smith studios in Indianapolis

thank you to jaden smith and indeed all

of our patrons at patreoncom slash

crash course we've got lots about the

crash courses including one about

artificial intelligence that is

absolutely fascinating thanks again for

watching and as they say in my hometown

don't forget to be awesome


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