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

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those areas was 63,828,715.5 Although the accuracy of these figures has since been questioned by men such as D.K. Fieldhouse, for the purposes of understanding Hobson's argument, let us assume these numbers are correct and that it seems clear that British imperial investment nearly doubled between 1884 and 1903.

Hobson believes that trade is a good indicator of economic well-being and uses it in his analysis of the benefits of imperialism. He demonstrates that trade changed little during this period, indicating that benefits to the British economy from the colonies were low. Exports and imports to and from the newly acquired colonies scarcely rose at all between the years 1855 and 1903, which included the period of high imperialism in the late nineteenth century. Hobson notes that from 1855 to 1859, for example, Britain received 23.5% of its imports from its colonial possessions. In the same period, 31.5% of all British exports were to its colonial possessions. From 1900 until 1903, however, imports from possessions actually declined to only 20.7% of total imports. Goods shipped to colonial possessions during this same period had risen to only 37% of all exports.6 Thus Hobson, again assuming his figures are correct, shows that there is indeed no support for the saying that "Trade follows the flag." 7

Furthermore, Hobson observes in Imperialism that the areas that have been taken over by imperialists are not economically valuable, save for a few diamond mines here. He explains, "The distinctive feature of modern Imperialism, from the commercial standpoint, is that it adds to our empire tropical and sub-tropical regions with which our trade is small, precarious and unproductive."8 It is sufficient to say that these colonies,


5. Ibid., 52.
6. Ibid., 33.
7. Ibid., 33.
8. Ibid., 39.
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