Imperial expectations and realities

El Dorados, utopias and dystopias

Modern imperialism was a phenomenon which had highly complex motivations arousing intense emotional desires. This book explores how imperial powers established and expanded their empires through decisions that were often based on exaggerated expectations and wishful thinking, rather than on reasoned and scientific policies. It examines a variety of El Dorados, utopias and dystopias - undertakings that are based on irrational perceived values. By exploring various cases, the book seeks to show how El Dorados arose in Europe across imperial traditions, colonial projects and periods in time. The Darien project was an aborted Scottish colony, which pointed out that women in Scotland might not have possessed any special immunity from the financial mania and risk-taking in markets. While modern industrial methods made Bambuk gold extraction productive and profitable, for the people, the industrialized extraction of gold is more a curse than a blessing. By the early twentieth century Indochina was arguably France's most prosperous colonial possession; however a closer investigation reveals Indochina's repeated failure to live up to its rulers' expectations. The Swan River Colony remained an 'inconsequential possession' of the British Empire until the discovery of gold in the 1890s. Included in the discussions are cases related to Patagonia, the land of broken Welsh promise; the German Templer colonies in Palestine; and the British Mesopotamian El Dorado. The book offers new insights into the nature of imperialism and colonial settlement, but recognized that imperial causality consists of interlocking motivations.

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