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Legacies of Colonialism

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As the colonial expansion by European powers encompassed a lengthy historical period and was in itself a multi-faceted phenomenon, it is natural that divergent views on its beneficial/harmful consequences have emerged. In this paper, a short summary of both aspects shall be given, with a view to contributing to more objective scholarship of colonialism.

Colonialism’s benefits, if this term may be appropriate, can be put down to the positive impact of colonizing powers’ fiscal and economic measures on economic and cultural development of their colonies and dependencies, even if this development may be purely inadvertent one. For instance, the British land and resource procurement policies contributed to the development of relatively modern agriculture and mining industry in some of Britain-controlled regions of South Africa, while these benefits were generally limited to the settler colonists’ elite (Roskin & Berry, 2010). The same pattern may be seen in North Africa’s urban development under the French in the 20th century (Thomas, 2005, pp.125-150).

At the same time, social effects of colonialism may also have been rather negative, as evidenced by the Spanish conquest’s regressive influence in Latin America and the veritable economic plunder instituted by both the French and the British in Tropical Africa and India, respectively. The Spanish crown virtually enslaved Mexican and Andean populations of Native Americans in order to provide a steady inflow of gold and other precious metals to the royal exchequer. In the 19th century, the French colonial empire created an elaborate system of taxation that was often devolved to local potentates, plunging the lower classes into unprecedented misery (Thomas, 2005, p.126). Finally, the British Raj in India was marked by numerous instances of famines resulting from the merciless enforcement of the land rent regulations on behalf of the authorities and affiliated landowners (Ambirajan, 1976).

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