Imperialism and Colonialism

Consider how criticism might engage with race and religion (through two texts)

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Race and religion can form vital parts of any play or novel; history has proved that tension, be it through different religions/ races of people, has stirred up many conflicts. In this essay, I will refer to two texts namely ‘The Jew of Malta’ by Christopher Marlowe and ‘The Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. I would like to show how criticism can engage from a story and that we can see the undertones of the text that shows racial and religious streams of thought and action. These narratives both show the act of colonialism/countries powers, which are true accounts of the Christian colonizers and the Turkish Siege of Malta as well as King Leopold and the Belgium Congo.

The Jew of Malta – Christopher Marlowe

Initially, The Jew of Malta resonates with themes of religious tension, which was a parallel to the time, in the sixteenth century. There were not many Jews in England during this time. Jews in England secretly practiced. Many Jews who were born into the Jewish faith either converted or pretended to be Christians. Criticism can be pointed not only towards the non-secular people in England but also where this play tries to deal with the anti-semitic feeling that was rife throughout the whole of Europe. The Jewish people did not believe in Christianity, so they were a threat to social order. English Protestants felt that Jews were outsiders as well as Muslims and Catholics. Marlowe forces the reader to re-examine the factors that were the start of internationalism. It makes the reader comment about the internal affairs at that time. The subject of commerce and internationalism had a role in the unfolding drama that could be equal to the effects of antisemitism.

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A Larger World Opens – A Look at Imperialism and Colonialism

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What made the Europeans so eager for expansion and control? Their vast empires stretched all across the world which led to trade and capitalism as we now it. As early as the 1400s Europe was aware of the high culture in China and overland trade routes to far off continents such as Asia. The only problem was that these trade routes were wholly Muslim enterprises. Not only were Chinese products being brought back but also Indian, as the trade for luxury in The West prospered. Unfortunately, at the time, the rise of the Ottoman Empire led to the curtailing of this trade, which instead of slowing down trade, led to the rise of sea travel and trade routes. European countries now wanted a slice of the profits to be made from the far away countries, not only Asia but also the Americas. Thus the first roots of Imperialism and Colonialism started to manifest.

Seas were precarious places and ships had to battle fierce waters and long distances, but the journeys were still made to be the first to conquer. In 1450, the Portuguese started to sponsor trade routes and in 1488 Bartolomeu Dias made crucial advances around the Cape of Good Hope, as he went looking for African gold and spices.  Vasco De Gama sailed to the Indian Ocean and the West Indies. Also, explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral ended up in Brazil by way of winds and tides from his Portuguese base which led to their claim of the land. These were intrepid voyages but were vital in opening trade and establishing colonies.  It was actually the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492 that coined the phrase the Columbian Exchange which saw the Old World marry up with the New World as all kinds of good were to be transported to the Americas. Also in 1510, the Portuguese had landed in Goa, India, and as far as Macau marking their position as the domineering country. The world was expanding and the Portuguese took the initiative to have the control of most profitable routes.

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