Tom Goldstein, "Economic Manipulation:
J.A. Hobson's Theory on the
Role of Economic and Other Forces in Imperialism"

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conquest, and political concerns. Investors offer these other factors as justifications for imperialism in order to mask the true reason for imperialism - to enrich themselves while the public foots the bill. These non-economic forces are "the motor-power of Imperialism" according to Hobson; they are the fuel that allows the economically driven engine to function properly.1 Hobson therefore concludes that although these non-economic forces are not the real justifications for imperialism, they are powerful and necessary tools for the investors. But in order to understand Hobson's theory, we must explore why he was suspicious of imperialism to begin with, using the Boer War (1899-1902) as a starting point.

I. Imperialism's Inefficiency

The Boer War influenced Hobson greatly as he developed his theory on imperialism. The war began in 1899 between British settlers in South Africa and the Boers (Dutch settlers who had been living in Southern Africa for centuries) living mainly in the neighboring republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. What ensued was a bloody and fierce war the effects of which were felt throughout Britain. Many Britons, Hobson among them, were left disillusioned by the high casualties, including approximately 20,000 British deaths, and the increase in taxes that the war demanded.. In addition, many were outraged by the British army's use of concentration camps for not only Boer prisoners of war, but also for many Boer women and children.2


1. J.A. Hobson. Imperialism: A Study (MI: University of Michigan Press, 1965), 59.
2. R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton. A History of the Modern World (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995), 668-9.
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