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

3

In Imperialism, Hobson explains that the main cause of the war was British diamond and gold mine owners in South Africa wanting to annex Boer territory in order to acquire even more lucrative mines. Doing so was dangerous, so the owners invoked the help of the British military, drawing them into war.3 Hobson places blame squarely on Cecil Rhodes, the main South African imperialist and Prime Minister of the Cape Colony at the time of the Boer War. Hobson describes how Rhodes

. . . Used the legislature of Cape Colony to support and strengthen the diamond monopoly of De Beers, while from De Beers he financed the [Boer War-provoking Jameson] Raid, debauched the constituencies of Cape Colony, and bought the public press in order to engineer the war, which was to win him full possession of his great 'thought' the North.4
Hobson concludes that rich investors caused the war for their own benefit, while the rest of the British citizens were forced to pay for it. This angers Hobson, and from the Boer War he develops the crux of his theory on why such imperialism occurred.

Hobson's theory is designed to show why imperialism exists, even though it runs counter to the vast majority of Western Europeans' (and especially of Britons') interests. Therefore, Hobson begins by showing that imperialism is indeed irrational in the sense that it benefits the few at the expense of the many, yet most Britons still accepted and even encouraged it. Hobson points out in the early chapters of Imperialism that, despite the enormous resources and manpower spent on conquering and developing Africa and Asia, no significant economic benefits to the country as a whole are evident. Hobson argues that while investment in these places remains high, actual return is low. To prove that British foreign investment in particular was high, he shows that in 1884, for instance, British foreign investment in imperial regions was 33,829,124. By 1903 investment in


3. Hobson,xii
4. Ibid., 202.
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