Some historians have focused on economic forces in their study of Empire. Explain how this has contributed to our understanding of Imperialism. Does this approach have any disadvantages or shortcomings?
The fact that historians have focused their work on the economic factors on British Imperialism helps us to recognise that the Empire expanded in the nineteenth century due to an expansion of industry and the economy, therefore creating further expansion of a capitalist industrialised society creating the need for integrating market opportunities across the world. Lenin’s interpretation helps us to understand this by approaching the fact that ‘Monopoly capitalists were marking vast amounts of money which they were ploughing into what they anticipated would be the most profitable enterprises’ and therefore the pursuit of profit. Whilst there is evidence of trade in resources such as sugar and tobacco with China, India and other colonies, Lenin’s approach is criticised for being extremely mono-causal and Marxist due to being selective in the facts that he used to fit his ‘ideologies’.
John Atkinson Hobson’s approach to British imperialism shows a much more social explanation to imperial expansion although often associated with Marxism, such as focusing simply on economic drive for imperialism. Historians have often viewed it as a polemical (controversial) approach as it misses out important parts of British imperialism that does not necessarily contain an economic drive for expansion. This view is supported by M.S Anderson in which he has associated imperialism with not just economic expansion but also with political and religious factors to support imperialism. After his experience in the Second Boer War, Hobson’s view simply contain the actions of greedy capitalist financiers such as Rothschild’s and Rhodes, as it led to inequality and injustice, as well as violence and exploitation towards the periphery due to idle handed capitalists from the metropole willing to invest in British industry.
Although, in the late 1870’s, the industrialising process slowed down due to excess production as markets were flooded with consumer goods that people no longer needed or could afford and so Hobson argued that capitalist financiers would rather invest in competitor nations such as the United States, Japan and Germany, creating an alternative to seek overseas investment creating an idea of New Imperialism in which states focused on increasing their empire with new technological advances and developments, expanding their territory through power and conquest. He argued that newly acquired territories had the most lucrative markets, explaining the need for economic expansion and the ‘scramble for…