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Empire and Imperialism

AsiaImperialism And Market

The new agent of change was Western imperialism. In its traditional form, imperialism as the exercise of principally political hegemony or territorial acquisition by one state power or empire over another was widely practiced in both the East and the West. What distinguishes its new strain, which first operated in Southeast Asia (or the East Indies) under the Dutch from the seventeenth century, then in India under the English and the French during the eighteenth century, and finally in China under several western European powers by the nineteenth century, was the different rationale and the innovative institutions that guided this instrument of power. The institutions grew out of what many European historians have called the "general crisis of the seventeenth century," during which major directional shifts took place in European political, religious, and ideological developments, and resulted in new forms of nation building and political legitimacy, and of a new multistate international order in Europe. In their effort to acquire new resources from, and new markets in, the Americas, the East Indies and India, several European powers took turns to form new transoceanic empires with the primary goal of maximizing their economic gains.

Thus, in around 1600, when both the Dutch and the English initiated a new type of organization in the form of privately capitalized trading companies to launch trade in Asia, these commercial ventures quickly transformed themselves into imperialistic agents of state power. Licensed by their respective states, the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and the English East India Company (EIC) made use of their ships' superior navigational technology and greater firepower to dominate specific shipping lanes and trading ports and to demand exclusive trading rights from local chieftains. From these footholds along the coast and with Batavia in Java as its main port, the Dutch VOC expanded into the interior, first to set up plantations, and then to secure markets. In India, the English EIC took advantage of a declining Mughal Empire by the early eighteenth century to establish similar footholds and trading privileges in the Calcutta and Madras regions. It soon found itself fighting a war with the regional leader of Bengali authorities in Calcutta, the latter having received support from a rival trading company, the French Compagnie des Indies. Two successive battle victories against the Bengali in Plassey and the French in Pondicherry followed in 1757 and 1760. Like the Dutch VOC in the East Indies, the English EIC had formed its imperial arm, and kept on expanding on the Indian sub-continent until the entire country was incorporated into a formal part of the British Empire a century later, in 1857. By then, the EIC had already ceased to exist.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Electrophoresis (cataphoresis) to EphemeralEmpire and Imperialism - Asia - Imperialism And Market, Impact On China, Varieties Of Imperialism In The Twentieth Century, Imperialism Reconsidered