Imperialism and modernization Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Modernization can be described as a transformation process by which a society achieves modernity because of various developments. Colonialism played a role in both accelerating and slowing modernization process in the colonies. This paper focuses on how colonialism contributed towards and against modernization.

How colonialism accelerated modernization process

Colonialism contributed to modernization to both the colonies and the colonizers. The colonizers had their development in that they needed strong political power and military force in order to effectively fight resistance from the African states. They therefore had to use appropriate measures to expand and reinforce their political power and military force and this increased modernization (Gann and Duignan 1975, p. 162).

Secondly, the European countries experienced some economic boost. They exploited the mines of their colonies and got gold among other valuable minerals. They also did set up big plantations in which the Africans provided cheap labor as slaves. This created a lot of wealth for them and experienced developments in their states paving better way for modernization (Makdisi 178).

Colonialism also accelerated modernization of religion in terms of Christianity. In most indigenous countries, they had traditional way of worship that was replaced by Christianity in most parts of the world that was introduced by the colonizers (Miswano Para. 2).

Colonialism paved way for modernization in the colonized countries in that it brought in exposure to the colonies. They were able to interact with the outside world and come out of their cocoons. This facilitated sharing of information and knowledge, which is power. They had a chance to learn other cultures and even establish beneficial relationships with others.

The colonies used to have informal educational systems but the colonizers introduced formal education systems. This education system opened the minds of the people and they were able to think outside the box. There was establishment of schools in which the Indigenous people enrolled.

The colonies also benefited from introduction of new technology by the colonizers who sought to improve the infrastructure in terms of roads to ease their movement, introduction of technically better and improved farming equipments that were used in the plantations, building equipments and better industrial machines and tools (Robson and Yee, 2005, p. 64).

The colonizers did not only introduce improved technology but they also taught the people in their colonies on better and improved farming techniques as they worked in their plantations. The skills learnt in farming were of great help to the colonies since they applied them in their farms after independence and this accelerated their modernization process.

There was also introduction of cash crops by the colonizers. During colonial period, the indigenous people mostly worked as slaves in the plantations where the cash crops were grown, however, after independence they were able to produce the same cash crops and export them. Income generated from the proceeds was used to develop the economy i.e. purchase of better equipments, setting up of factories and industries and so on.

Colonialism led to civilization of the people and made them understand and value the importance of culture reinventation. Civilization and reinventing of past culture made people aware of the concept of nationalism and the importance of having a national sence of belonging. This aroused the need to have freedom implying that people felt the need to be governed by their own government and practice their culture as well as retain their identity (Smith 2006, p. 29)

How colonialism hindered modernization

The colonialists sought to create new social-political institutions, improve the educational system and introduced ways to improve the national economy of the colonies. Since the African countries lacked adequate resources in terms of technical expertise and financial resources that were required for them to embark on the process of modernization, they had to make tough economic conditions and comprise their political systems for them to embark on modernization (Shin and Robinson, 2001, p.159).

The colonizers therefore saw this as their bargaining power as they were willing to provide aid that would help in development of the colonies. However, aid provision in return led to killing of initiative and independence of mind that are key elements for modernization process and this slowed down modernization in African states (Collins, 2008, p.182).

The colonizers exploited the resources in their colonies and used them for their own selfish gains. For example, they explored for minerals and used income generated from the proceeds to invest in their country rather investing in the colonies land. Though the colonialists introduced formal education to the colonies, only few schools were established and were not enough for the entire population that wished to go to school.

Institutions of higher learning were also inadequate and poorly equipped thus could not run efficiently. These obstacles slowed the process of modernization in the education sector. During the colonial period, the government or administration system was mainly composed of the colonialist and especially in the levels (Harrison and Hoyle 215-216).

The elites from the colonies were reluctant to join the colonial government in senior levels while some colonialists could not allow them to hold senior levels (page and sonnenburg, 2003, p. 372). This created a challenge after independence since the administration system comprised of inexperienced personnel and this led to poor governance slowing the pace of modernization (Hunter and Malik, 2005, p. 221).


Modernization process received generous support as a result of colonialism, which brought in new and improved technology, better education system, as well as introduction of cash crops among other benefits. The colonizers exploited their colonies and accumulated wealth. However, slow growth of modernization can be attributed to colonialism due to such exploitation as well as killing of initiative and independence of the mind.

Works Cited

Collins. R. Problems in the history of modern Africa. Princeton, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2008. Web.

Gann, Duignan. Colonialism in Africa, 1870-1960 CUP Archive. 1975. Web.

Harrison, Joseph and Hoyle, Alan. Spain’s 1898 crisis: regenerationism, modernism, post-colonialism Manchester, Manchester University Press. 2000.

Hunter, Shereen and Malik, Huma. Modernization, democracy, and Islam. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2005. Web.

Makdisi, Saree. Romantic imperialism: universal empire and the culture of modernity. NY, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Miswanto. Rethinking Of Imperialism and Colonialism over the Third World: A Modernisation Theory Perspective. 2009. Web.

Page, Sonnenburg. Colonialism: 2003an international social, cultural, and political encyclopedia. California, ABC-CLIO. 2003. Web.

Smith, Andrea. Colonial memory and postcolonial Europe: Maltese settlers in Algeria and France. Indiana University Press, 2006. Web.

Robson ,Yee. France and “Indochina”: cultural representations. NY, Lexington Books, 2005. Web.

Shin, Robinson. Colonial Modernity in Korea. NY, Harvard Univ Asia Center, 2001. Web.

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