the imperial archive

a clearinghouse of information for empire-haters

04 July 2006

the handout

Basic definitions:

Imperialism: the extension of rule or influence by one government, nation, or society over another.

Military imperialism
Cultural imperialism

Colonialism: The political, social, economic, and cultural domination of a territory and its people by a foreign power for an extended time.

Mercantilism: an economic and political philosophy that stresses the development and control of tradable goods (or commodities) as a means to foster the general good or wealth of a society or country

Manifest Destiny: the belief and policy common in America in the early 1800s that it was the destiny or fate of the US to expand west to the Pacific Ocean.

Subaltern: A term first used by Antonio Gramsci to mean subordinated or oppressed, later picked up by Gayatri Spivak to describe those who were “twice oppressed,” first by colonialism, and second by race, class, caste, gender, sexual orientation (etc) discrimination.

Monroe Doctrine: Political doctrine under James Monroe which closes the Western Hemisphere to European colonization.

White Man’s Burden: The belief that it is the duty of the “white (aka developed) world to civilize those who they deem savage—references a poem by Rudyard Kipling.


Early imperialism = extending one’s realm by taking over and subjugating countries. Height of the early to classical period is obviously the Holy Roman Empire, which had control of most of continental Europe and some of the Middle East and Africa. This control, however, was loose at best.

Golden age of imperialism = 15-19th century. The Dutch and Portuguese begin trading empires in the 15th century. British attempt to rule the world in the 18-19th century, but by the 20th (roughly the end of the Victorian age) they are tapped out, and their colonies begin to return to home rule.

The 18th and 19th centuries see the expansion of the United States, at the cost of the Native Americans.

In the 20th century (after WWI) the last true empires crumble, leaving neo-imperialism in its wake. The Cold War sparks proxy wars and systems of allies between communist and democratic countries. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, most military incursions are in the name of freedom and apple pie (ex: Iraq, Kosovo). This represents a new era in cultural and economic imperialism.

Links for burgeoning revolutionaries


Global Trade Watch: (collection of leftist writings)

Progressive Review:

In These Times:

Mother Jones:

Utne Reader:


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