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Examining Indigenous Reactions To Globalization History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

During the nineteenth century, the world experienced its First Era of Modern Globalization which caused dramatic changes in societies and the world economy. This resulted in increased trade and cultural exchange and was characterized by increasing specialization of nations in exports, the pressure to end protective tariffs and other barriers to trade, and British expansionism. [1] The interaction between these two vastly different worlds is largely viewed in a pessimistic light and is associated with the destruction of cultural identities, violent rebellions, and the bloody suppression of the indigenous people. The cultural and economic changes in the colonial world, brought on by globalization, provoked violent reactions among the indigenous population, particularly in India and China. [2] 

The Natives’ Perspective of European Globalization:

The dissenters to the encroaching European power held the anti-globalization or individualist perspective. They believed that their self-identity and culture was being suppressed by the European powers. Dissenters were unhappy with their lack of representation among the governing European body, the economic disparity between the European expansionists in their country and the local people, and the obvious favoritism towards Europeans in economic, legal, and political policies. In particular, the introduction of capitalism and Christianity into the native culture instigated rebellion among the indigenous masses. [3] 

The Indian Mutiny:

The common folklore is that the mutiny broke out in the Bengal army because of the introduction of the new Enfield rifle and grease used to lubricate the gun cartridges which was made of a mixture of pigs’ and cows’ lard. [4] However, the Indian Mutiny of 1857 began long before the introduction of the Enfield rifle. The arrival of Lord Dalhousie in 1848 marked a change in governance in British India which led to the restrictions in the local religious practices, suppression in native knowledge, and inequalities in the economic system. [5] Dalhousie believed in free trade, hard work and of the superiority of British culture and way of life over all others. Therefore, the spread of Christianity and capitalism flourished under his jurisdiction. He thought the “Anglican-ization” and “Europeanization” of India was to the benefit of the locals. But when Dalhousie aggressively introduced European culture into India, he insulted those he was supposed to govern. [6] 

The Indian dissenters believed “…that for a long period, many grievances had been rankling in the hearts of the people.” [7] First and foremost grievance among the Indian dissenters was the infringement of Christianity among their local customs. The closing of local schools of theology, the arrival of Christian missionaries, and the establishment of Anglican schools led to the suppression of local theological knowledge. Some of the local cultural practices were outlawed, like the practice of Sati and the adoption of a male heir to inherit, which had roots in the local religions. This lack of regard to the local native population was further emphasized by the rumor of the Enfield rifle. The possibility that the British used these animals in their weapons insulted both the Muslim and Hindu warriors. While the rumor of the Enfield rifle served as the spark for rebellion, it also epitomized the cultural conflicts in British India.

Secondly, the economic practices were problematic to the indigenous people. [8] The opening of the Indian markets, the reduction in trading tariffs, and the high taxation on the natives created great poverty, unemployment, suffering, and famine. The economic depravity among the indigenous population contrasted sharply with the relative wealth of the British colonists, which made the colony ripe for rebellion. [9] 

At first glance, the Sepoy War seems to be a chaotic, disorganized peasant uprising. The indigenous population of India rebelled against one of the most powerful empires in the world and laid the groundwork for their eventual freedom. Though the exact cause of the Sepoy War has yet to be agreed upon, it is clear that British oppression of the cultural and economic practices of the Indian people created a bloody revolution. [10] 

Taiping Rebellion:

The Taiping Rebellion was a large-scale revolt against the Qing Empire in China. In the mid-1800s, China suffered a series of natural disasters, cultural conflicts, economic problems, and militaristic defeats at the hands of the Western powers. The ruling Qing dynasty was seen by the Chinese majority as ineffective and corrupt. While it would be easy to dismiss the Taiping Rebellion as a simple transition of power in China, this uprising had roots in the Western intrusion of capitalism and Christianity. [11] 

The introduction of Western capitalism into China was a bloody process. The Opium Wars, largely instigated by the British, aimed to open up China to free trade with the West. The Treaty of Nanjing forced Indian opium into China and drove silk, porcelain, tea, and silver out of China. [12] This placed China in a subservient position in the trading relationship and weakened, both mentally and physically, the entire labor force. The influx of cheap, western goods and an opium-addicted labor force resulted in rising unemployment and poverty among the native Chinese. [13] 

The economic upheaval in the once prosperous China led to discontent with the ruling Qing Dynasty, whom the general population believed were corrupt. This orchestrated the rise of Hung Hsiu-ch’üan, a son of a poor farmer in Canton. After Hung failed the civil service examine for the final time, he had a nervous breakdown where he identified himself as the younger brother of Jesus Christ. He began to study with a Southern Baptist minister who taught him Christianity. With this knowledge, Hung, some relatives, and some followers formed the God Worshippers. In the mid-1800s, the God Worshippers would militarily organize and rise up against the Qing. Hung successfully overthrew the Qing and declared that the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace had been established, a Christian theocratic state. [14] 

While it would seem at first that the Taiping Rebellion was a partial acceptance of Western ideals, upon closer examination the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace was aimed primarily at restoring the old way of things. In the Taiping Imperial Declaration, Hung outwardly rejects the teachings of Confucius in favor of the wisdom of Christ. However, he bases the legitimacy of his rule with the Mandate of Heaven, a traditional Confucian concept. In the Proclamation Exhorting All to Following the Correct Way, God criticizes the greed and corruption of the people under the Qing Dynasty. Consequently, Hong enacts the harsh mandates to rid the people of their dependence on opium and western goods. This would begin to correct the problems that had been brought on by free trade with the West. [15] 


Both the Taiping Rebellion and the Indian Mutiny were consequences of western intrusion. The British had brought about great social change in both nations and would cause the indigenous masses to revolt against western influence in their culture and economy. [16] If there is a lesson to be learned from these rebellions, it is that a people, once pushed into a corner, will fight for nothing more than the freedom to live as they choose. [17] 

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