Overview: European Imperialism
• American empires of Spain and Portugal did not expand after 17th century.
• From that time other countries – France, Holland, & England – began to extend their trading activities and establish colonies – in America, Africa, & Asia.
• Ireland was virtually a colony of England, as landowners, there were mostly English settlers.
• In South Asia, trading companies like East India Company made themselves into political powers, defeated local rulers, and annexed their territories.
• In Africa, Europeans traded on coast, except in South Africa, and only in late 19th century did they venture into interior.
• word settler is used for Dutch in South Africa, British in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and Europeans in America. official language in these colonies was English [except in Canada, where French is an official language].
• continent of North America extends from Arctic Circle to Tropic of Cancer, from Pacific to Atlantic Ocean.
• To south is Mexico. Forty percent of Canada is covered with forests.
• Oil, gas & mineral resources are found in many areas, which explains many big industries in USA and Canada.
• Mining, industry & extensive agriculture have been developed only in last 200 years by immigrants from Europe, Africa & China.
• earliest inhabitants of North America came from Asia over 30,000 years ago on a land bridge across Bering Straits, and during last Ice Age 10,000 years ago they moved further south.
• oldest artefact found in America – an arrowpoint – is 11,000 years old.
• population started to increase about 5,000 years ago when climate became more stable.
• Numerous languages were spoken in North America, though these were not written down. They believed that time moved in cycles, and each tribe had accounts about their origins and their earlier history which were passed on from one generation to next.
Encounters with Europeans
• In 1600s, when European traders arrived on north coast of North America after a hard two-month journey, they were happy to find friendly and welcoming native people.
• Unlike Spanish in South America, who were overwhelmed by amount of gold in country, these adventurers came to trade fish and furs. natives, who were good at hunting, were happy to help them.
• In exchange for goods made by natives, Europeans gave them blankets, iron pots [which they sometimes used instead of clay pots], guns, which helped them kill animals along with bows and arrows, and alcohol.
• In 18th century, western Europeans defined ‘civilised’ people in terms of literacy, organized religion and urbanism.
• A popular term was noble savage. Some lines in a poem by English poet William Wordsworth indicate another perspective.
• To natives, goods they exchanged with Europeans were gifts, given in friendship.
• prices of goods they sold varied from year to year, depending on supply. natives could not understand this – they had no sense of ‘market’ in faraway Europe.
• From 17th century, there were groups of Europeans who were being persecuted because they were of a different sect of Christianity [Protestants living in predominantly Catholic countries, or Catholics in countries where Protestantism was official religion].
• Natives and Europeans saw different things when they looked at forests – natives identified tracks invisible to Europeans.
• Jefferson’s ‘dream’ was a country populated by Europeans with small farms. natives, who grew crops for their own needs, not for sale and profit, and thought it wrong to ‘own’ land, could not understand this.
• countries that are called Canada and United States of America came into existence at end of 18th century.
• Over next hundred years, they extended their control over more territory, to reach their present size.
• Large areas were acquired by USA by purchase – they bought land in south from France [the ‘Louisiana Purchase’] and Russia [Alaska], and by war – much of southern USA was won from Mexico.
• Europeans treated land differently from natives. Some of migrants from Britain and France were younger sons who would not inherit their fathers’ property and therefore were eager to own land in America.
People from Poland were happy to work in prairie grasslands, which reminded them of steppes of their home country. They were also excited to be able to buy huge properties at very low prices. In south, it was too hot for Europeans to work outside, and South American colonies had shown that many enslaved natives died. In north, economy didn’t depend on plantations [and therefore slavery], so there was no need for slaves.
• In 1861–65, there was a war between states that wanted to retain slavery and those supporting abolition.
• Slavery was abolished, though it was only in 20th century.that African Americans were able to win battle for civil liberties, and segregation between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’ in schools and public transport was ended.
• Canada had been won by British after a war with France in 1763. French settlers repeatedly demanded autonomous political status. In 1867, this problem was solved by organising Canada as a Confederation of autonomous states.
Native Peoples Lose their Land
• In USA, as settlement expanded, natives were induced or forced to move, after signing treaties selling their land.
• Even high officials saw nothing wrong in depriving native peoples of their land. It is seen in an episode in Georgia, a state in USA.
• In 1832, an important judgment was announced by US Chief Justice, John Marshall.
• US President Andrew Jackson had a reputation for fighting against economic and political privilege, but when it came to Indians, he was a different person.
• Many tribes had to share land that used to belong to just one tribe, which caused fights between them. They were locked up in small areas called “reservations.” Most of the time, this was land they had never been on before.
Gold Rush, and Growth of Industries
• There was always hope that there was gold in North America. In 1840s, traces of gold discovered in USA, in California.
• Large-scale agriculture expanded. Vast areas were cleared and divided up into farms.
• By 1890, bison had almost been exterminated, thus ending life of hunting natives had followed for centuries.
• In 1892, USA’s continental expansion was complete. area between Pacific and Atlantic Oceans was divided up into states. There no longer remained ‘frontier’ that had pulled European settlers west for many decades.
• The ‘democratic spirit’ which had been rallying cry of settlers in their fight for independence in 1770s, came to define identity of USA against monarchies and aristocracies of Old World.
• Daniel Paul, a Canadian native, pointed out in 2000 that Thomas Paine, champion of democracy at time of War for American Independence and French Revolution, ‘used Indians as models of how society might be organized’.
Winds of Change
• Not till 1920s did things begin to improve for native peoples of USA and Canada.
• Problem of Indian Administration, a survey directed by social scientist Lewis Meriam and published in 1928, only a few years before USA was swept by a major economic depression that affected all its people, painted a grim picture of terribly poor health and education facilities for natives in reservations.
• White Americans felt sympathy for natives who were being discouraged from full exercise of their cultures and simultaneously denied benefits of citizenship.
• In 1950s and 1960s, US & Canadian governments thought of ending all special provisions for natives in hope that they would ‘join mainstream’, that is, adopt European culture.
• In 1969 government announced that they would ‘not recognise aboriginal rights’. natives, in a well-organised opposition move, held a series of demonstrations and debates.
• The ‘aborigines’ [a general name given to a number of different societies] began to arrive on continent over 40,000 years ago [possibly even earlier].
• In late 18th century, there were between 350 and 750 native communities in Australia each with its own language [even today 200 of these languages are spoken].
• There is another large group of indigenous people living in north, known as Torres Strait Islanders.
• term Aborigine is not used for these as they are believed to have migrated from elsewhere and belong to a different race.
• Australia is sparsely populated, and even now most of towns are along coast [where British first arrived in 1770] because central region is an arid desert.
• story of interaction between European settlers, native peoples and land in Australia has many points of similarity to story of Americas, though it began nearly 300 years later.
• There was a sharp reversal of feeling on part of British when Cook was killed by a native – not in Australia, but Hawaii.
• British had adopted same practice in American colonies until they became independent. Then they continued it in Australia.
• Most of early settlers were convicts who had been deported from England and when their jail term ended, they were allowed to live as free people in Australia on condition that they did not return to Britain.
• Some natives were employed on farms, under conditions of work so harsh that it was little different from slavery.
• Till 1974, such to popular fear that ‘dark’ people from South Asia or Southeast Asia might migrate to Australia in large numbers that there was a government policy to keep ‘non-white’ people out.
Winds of Change
• From 1970s, as was happening in North America, there was an eagerness to understand natives not as anthropological curiosities but as communities with distinct cultures, unique ways of understanding nature and climate, with a sense of community that had vast bodies of stories, textile & painting and carving skills, which should be understood and recorded and respected.
• Since 1974, ‘multiculturalism’ has been official policy in Australia, which gave equal respect to native cultures and different cultures of immigrants from Europe and Asia.
• From 1970s, as term human rights began to be heard at meetings of UNO and other international agencies, Australian public realized with dismay that, in contrast to USA, Canada, & New Zealand, Australia had no treaties with natives formalising takeover of land by Europeans.
• government had always termed land of Australia terra nullius, that is belonging to nobody.