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?
No, imperialism is at its core exploitativeShow moreShow less
Europeans built empires not to uplift or help other people but to enrich themselves in material and land.
Not all colonies were built merely to exploit territory economically. Settler colonies, notably in North America and Australia, were built so that large populations of Europeans could have easy access to land, or simply be jettisoned. Australia and Georgia in the United States began their existence as prison colonies, places to send unwanted convicts from which they would hopefully never return to Britain. However, by the mid nineteenth century the United States, Australia, and Canada had become places were Europeans could easily gain access to land unavailable back home. This access to land though came at a deadly price for the indigenous inhabitants of these territories.
The settlement of Tasmania is a perfect example of this process. Initially a convict island, in the early nineteenth century former convicts and new British settlers were rapidly spreading across the island. These colonists took over land used by Aboriginal Tasmanians for hunting and inevitably European settlement led to conflict. Colonial offices instituted martial law, essentially allowing settlers to kill Aboriginal Tasmanians without consequence. In an attempt to capture and concentrate all the Aboriginal Tasmanians on the Island colonial officials organised the ‘Black Line,’ a series of planned marches across the island. The local colonial government tried to cleanse almost the entire island of any Aboriginal Tasmanian presence in order to assure European settlement. While Tasmania is a particularly well documented example of settler colonialism, Indigenous people from California to Queensland were removed or killed to make way for European empires.
Not all settler empires were created like Tasmania. Sites of Imperial settlement are distinct and the story was very different in a place like New Zealand.
[P1] Some colonies were created for European Settlement.
[P2] These colonies required the removal of native populations.