Expansion and Resistance: Crash Course European History #28

Expansion and Resistance: Crash Course European History #28


Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. So we’ve made it to the nineteenth 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 this contradiction functioned,
and who it benefited, is key to understanding not just 19th century colonialism, but also
the contradictions we still live with today. [Intro]
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 now the focus of 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 nineteenth century, the Chinese continued
to attract European trade because of their 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. When the Chinese government began to crack
down on the opium smugglers—many of whose descendants are today some of the most respected
and wealthy families in Britain—the smugglers convinced the British government to initiate
the Opium Wars of 1839-1842 and 1856-1860. 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 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 interests simply to
trading posts. Pacific islands also became way-stations for
ships to resupply and obtain other raw materials. The French, British, and Belgians 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 southeastern and southwestern Africa. He also allowed them to launch ventures in
the Middle East, especially the Ottoman Empire. But the largest and most continuous enterprise
was the one the British built in India and Central Asia. They sought manufactured goods and raw materials,
but they were also motivated by simple plunder. The British invested little in ruling India,
instead using different princes’ 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 entourages 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”
adventurer’s food, and safe passage, and health care needs. It is 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. 1. Other tools of empire were industrial, like
steamships built to navigate rivers 2. and weaponry that local people lacked (at
least initially). 3. Europeans often sold inferior or outdated
weapons to the people they wanted to conquer, 4. who were quick to duplicate the better
models that fell into their hands. 5. Railroads also became tools of empire in that
they were set up not to benefit local people 6. but to strip them of their goods and get those
goods to ports as quickly as possible. 7. Infrastructure was built to disadvantage not
advantage colonized peoples. 8. A final and crucial tool of empire was the
aforementioned quinine, 9. which was made from the bark of the cinchona
tree found primarily in South America. 10. Jesuit priests were introduced to the drug
by indigenous people in South America, 11. but initially the bark had to be procured
and ground up, 12. which made quinine difficult to produce
in large quantities. 13. But after the 1820s, French scientists devised
procedures to extract quinine from the bark, 14. and then in the 1850s, the Dutch finally
obtained the closely guarded cinchona seeds, 15. which South Americans were embargoing, 16. and the Dutch set up successful plantations
in Indonesia. 17. The medicalization and plantation production
of cinchona meant that quinine was widely available to Europeans, 18. 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 its 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 that 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. Was there resistance to the violence, theft,
and exploitation of imperialism? Yes. Colonized people rebelled in a variety of
ways. In 1857, local people in India including Indian
soldiers and even the widow of a local ruler, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Queen of Jhansi, launched
a rebellion against expanding British rule and its 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, one
of more than 5,000 Indians killed on June 17, 1857. Resistance to empire took many forms. In the Belgian Congo, for instance, where
local people were horrifically abused by the colonial authorities, officials realized that
the fertility level was dropping. Across the colonized world drop in births
like this, 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 rue, willow, ergot, and
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 prospered not just as soldiers and civil servants but as business
and professional people. They were labor contractors, and merchants,
and large property owners. The Tagores of Bengal 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 that family 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, 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-nineteenth century publication
of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, empire was 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 its pretty violent.” We agree, obviously, but people tell themselves
stories in order to justify the oppression of others. And indeed, 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 benefitted 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 contructed
to justify colonialism are still deeply ingrained in lived human experience around the world. Imperialists eventually tried to calm what
came to be called the “Scramble for Africa” with the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, which
ruled that European nations with outposts on African coasts 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 to
intensify imperial competition. The British and French almost came to blows
at Fashoda in Sudan in 1898; the Germans threatened French holdings in North Africa early in the
twentieth century. And eventually these growing international
tensions within Europe would lead to World War, which we’ll hear more about that in
a few more weeks. But for now, I want to ask you to shift perspectives
and consider the experience of those who were most negatively affected in this imperialism. How that imperialism is still shaping life
today. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time.

35 comments on “Expansion and Resistance: Crash Course European History #28

  1. So racism is still very much alive ('deeply ingrained')? White people are still just a bunch of racists. And other people are victims. John is supporting a very extreme left wing globalist agenda.

  2. Charles Darwin was absolutely correct. Evidence of European superiority is still everywhere today, as everyone behaves, dresses, and makes a continuous effort to mimic European peoples and culture.

  3. Liberal bs. He has never been to india or spoken with anyone there who lived in british times.
    More white guilt complex nonsense

  4. I hope a future episode will point out that, following long campaigns by ordinary British citizens, slavery in the majority of the British Empire was abolished in 1833 (at a time when slavery was more profitable than the arms trade today) and from then on the Royal Navy actively freed slaves across Africa.

  5. your claim that indigenous peoples categorically did not benefit from colonialism is flat wrong. eventually the imperial infrastructure is the foundatin of modernity in formerly colonial countries. nobody wishes to deny the wrongs done in the name of colonialism, but there are also facts that indicate that it was not all a horror story. i would also add, that sentiments of racial and cultural superiority exist in all races, the only difference being that of ability to act on them before some other race religion or culture: the mongols conquered huge parts of the world, the emperors of india, the muslims, etc. it's fashionable to hate the west, but fashions are not a study of history.

  6. Lots of totally ignorant Darwinists here….the full title of Origin of Species is "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life."

    Darwin didn’t hide his view that his evolutionary thinking applied to human races as well as to animal species. The full title of his seminal 1859 book.

    He followed up more explicitly in The Descent of Man, where he spelled out his racial theory:
    The Western nations of Europe . . . now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization. . . . The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.

  7. One of the best episodes that you have recorded. I left school in the early 1970's with a tinge of sadness that the British Empire was over and how amazing it would have been to be in the British Raj. Now days I look back on these feelings and this aspect of my education with regret, embarrassment and cringe.

  8. I do wonder if CrashCourse can supply an exact reference of Darwin's racist views.

    It's difficult to prove that Darwin didn't say something since that would require proof by exhaustion, but the burden of proof is on CrashCourse to provide an exact quote.

  9. Welp, i'm not living in a colony but i dont want my kids to be born into this crappy 3rd world country. So the more things change…

  10. This is a bold stance, and I like it. Far too often do we hear (at least in Europe) explanations meddled with confused excuses "the colonizers brought science, technology, railroad and vaccines to the colonized. They were kind hearted people who sought only to help". Though I don't doubt some had good intentions, the whole system is so rotten that it's getting almost sickening.
    An easy Godwin point I'm willing to provide: I'm sure a lot of nazis were convinced they were helping humanity.

  11. I would just say that the comparision between the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, and the European Empires of the XIX century is unfair. Spain and Portugal were much more like Rome: They get to a place and replicate their civilization there, that's why more than 500 years have passed since Columbus arrived to the Americas and culture from Mexico to Chile is so similar to Spain.

    England and Belgium, for example, destroyed the places where they arrived.

  12. That indian queen would be classed as a massive racist nowadays. Can you imagine how Crashcourse would portray that circular if it were a British general referring to Indians? There is a massive political backdrop to this video, some would call it indoctrination. Is Crashcourse seriously saying that imperialism gave not one single benefit to the world. Would we have globalisation in 2019 were it not for imperialism, would we have the great standards of living we now enjoy? And can they seriously say that the extraction of quinine to cure malaria as a bad thing

  13. Love this one, John cant ignore that "colonized people's" were complicit in the oppression of their fellow "countrymen".

  14. I must say I find it more and more off-putting that JG treats non-Western atrocities in a very matter-of-fact way (or even a joke: remember the Mongols running gag?), but gets more emotional and judgmental when it comes to Western atrocities.

  15. The greatest benefit that we may gain from the record of human behavior is to form a pattern or template to show us how the present and future are developing, and act accordingly. Given we are all human, no group can claim total innocence, or immunity, nor should we assume that these deeds will only exist in the past. Does history repeat itself?
    Can anyone recognize these patterns in today's world? A group claiming sovereignty over another's property, and occupied by military. Promising to help poorer native populations by building infrastructure, but hire none. They buy all land, water, and mineral rights for extremely long periods. Any infrastructure they build will remain theirs alone. Roads are built from resources to ports. Great living quarters are built that the native populations do not need, can use, or are able to purchase. Pre-existing infrastructures fallen into disrepair are not fixed, nor improved. Officials are paid large personal incentives for cooperation.

  16. True story: I poured a refreshing glass of gin and tonic to drink while watching this video after a long day at work and you talked about quinine. I feel very attacked.

  17. "using that word intentionally" 😂
    If we're being intentional, like king Leopold was, then genocide, mass murder, and torture are way more appropriate than the word "assault".

  18. Nothing contradictory about taking away the rights of other groups of people in imperial expansion. Self-interest is not a contradiction.

  19. I’m the education consultant for this series. Though Darwin’s thoughts on race did evolve over his career, in Origin of Species Darwin “provided a supposedly scientific explanation for the so-called inferiority of colonized and exploited people and of women…In the Origin of Species Darwin allowed that on the scientific scale of evolution, white men were more highly evolved and accomplished than either men of other races or women of any race.” (Smith, Bonnie G. Women in World History: 1450 to the Present. London, Bloomsbury
    Academic, 2020. ) It then quotes Darwin directly. “With women the powers of intuition, of rapid perception and perhaps imitation, are more strongly marked than in a man… [and characteristics of the lower races, and there fore of a past and lower state of civilization.” (The quote is from Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relationship to Sex. (New York: D Appleton, 1879 [1871]]), 563)

    So while Darwin’s views might have evolved over this career, he did originally discuss a hierarchy of races.

  20. You mention the Belgian Congo but I have a feeling you're talking about Congo Free State. The Congo only became Belgian in 1908 and this episode is about the 19th century.

  21. Few mistakes.
    Quinine doesn't cure malaria. In inhibits malaria, stopping it from spreading, but it won't cure people.

    Say what you want about colonial railrays, but most African and Indian railrays today were build by Europeans.

    Ahh yes, the British "stole" South Africa from the Boers… Boers weren't native to Africa, they're Dutch slavers! The Boers stole the land off the native Africans long before the British came.

    Darwin said the exact opposite of what you claimed! He said all humans were the same and that the racist ideas didn't exist!

    European history is pretty violent? Well, I agree… But Africa and Asia were far more violent, so your point is null.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *