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9 - Colonial and postcolonial utopias

from Part II - Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2010

Gregory Claeys
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Summary

Europeans established two types of colonies. One was designed primarily to exploit the labour of the inhabitants and the natural resources of the country, with the Congo and India prime examples. The second, while still exploiting the natural resources of the country and sometimes the labour of the inhabitants, was primarily for settlement; most of the North and South American colonies, New Zealand and South Africa are examples. A variant of the second that became indistinguishable from it occurred in some of the Australian colonies, in which one of the purposes of the colonial power was to get rid of undesirables of various sorts. The settler colonies produced a rich harvest of utopias; the colonies designed to exploit generally did not. The settlement colonies served the purposes of the settlers as well as those of the home country. Most settlers wanted to improve their own lives and some had a specific utopian vision in mind. Those who voluntarily travelled significant distances in often horrible conditions hoped either to practise a way of life they were unable to practise in the home country or to improve their lives materially or both. Probably the overwhelming majority of voluntary colonists were what are now disparagingly called economic immigrants.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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