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Were there any positives to European Colonialism? Show more Show less

European empires from the early modern period to the twentieth century dominated much of the globe. Scholarship on Imperialism has focused on the destruction and exploitation that these European colonies wrought on their subjects and territories. However, were there any positive results from this process?

Yes, there are positives to European colonialism Show more Show less

Empires were vital in spreading global norms which allow for our modern economy and way of life.
(1 of 2 Positions) Next >

Colonialism was superior to post-colonial regimes

Compared to post-colonial states, empires were better governed.
(1 of 2 Arguments) Next >


The Argument

Bruce Gilley argues that, while colonialism had a bad reputation, it was both more beneficial and more legitimate than most contemporary scholars claim. His argument is couched in an analysis of post-colonial states, positing that, compared to most regimes that followed it, Western imperialism developed local economies to a greater extent and received significant buy-in from indigenous people. To illustrate the point that colonies were beneficial, Gilley cites Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony. He notes that after the end of Portuguese rule in 1974, following a bloody war which displaced a quarter of the colony’s population, a despotic one-party state emerged that more violently repressed its people. Agricultural production also fell and progression in life expectancy slowed.[1] Looking at these specific metrics, Gilley argues, shows that Portuguese imperialism was a better form of government. To establish legitimacy Gilley cites the millions of colonised people who engaged in different capacities with the imperial state; those who sent their children to colonial schools, worked in positions within the colonial state, or moved to work in imperial centres. He also notes that given the small number of Europeans actively engaged in colonial work it is notable that Europeans were not thrown out of the country before the rise of twentieth century anti-colonialism.[1] The colonial state was legitimate, given the participation of subject peoples in it.

Counter arguments

Post-colonial states and conflicts were often the direct results of imperial management. Regardless of what happened when Colonial rule ended, misgovernment does not justify the exploitation vital for colonialism.



[P1] Colonial governments were legitimate and beneficial to native peoples. [P2] Post-colonial governments have been more despotic and less productive than imperial counterparts.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] This is often the case because of the Colonial government preceding them.


Further Reading



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This page was last edited on Friday, 6 Mar 2020 at 09:45 UTC