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I am studying Imperialism and I am getting hang of The White Man's Burden, but then again not really. Can some one please unfold the whole idea behind it?

The term comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling. What did he (and others) mean by it)?

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closed as too broad by Vector, Lennart Regebro, Kobunite, Eugene Seidel, Pieter Geerkens Sep 22 '13 at 15:35

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What is your question, really? Are you getting the hang of it or not? –  Lennart Regebro Sep 20 '13 at 14:19
Not really. I am getting a very basic understanding, and I want some body to unfold the whole picture for me. –  user0000001 Sep 20 '13 at 14:19
I think you need to be more specific. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 20 '13 at 14:24
-1 and voted to close: No reference to substantiate the idea of "white man's burden" - what credible historian talks about it? In what context? Also: "explain the whole idea behind it": This site is not a substitute for history class. Please try to ask a specific question. –  Vector Sep 20 '13 at 18:52
Voted to close for not being more specific. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 21 '13 at 11:22

2 Answers 2

"The white mans burden" is the idea that white people are superior to other people and therefore responsible for them and has a duty to take care of and educate others.

It was used to justify imperialism while keeping an air of morality to imperialism’s oppression and exploitation by painting non-white people are poor, childish subhumans.

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Europeans justified the belief in Social Darwinism correct? –  user0000001 Sep 20 '13 at 14:25
@user0000001 - To be fair, there were only 5 or 6 large European nations that participated significantly in Imperialisim. Lennart's Poland was not one of them. –  T.E.D. Sep 20 '13 at 15:03
This answer grossly misrepresents Kipling's poem. It also misrepresents Kipling, who did not paint "non-white people are poor, childish subhumans", as anyone would know who actually read his books. Not up to your usual standards, I'm afraid. –  Eugene Seidel Sep 20 '13 at 17:39
It is bizarre to answer the question without referring to the poem. The poem introduced the phrase into discourse and Kipling was one of the foremost writers on Empire, colonies, imperialism, and the human impact of all this social change. It would be like discussing the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" as if there had never been a Gettysburg Address and Lincoln had never lived. –  Eugene Seidel Sep 21 '13 at 6:26
My downvote is not "because I like Kipling's writings" but because you mischaracterize Kipling. Read his books and you will find how critical he was of his own people the British and how much respect and appreciation he had for the cultures of the colonized. "Poor, childish subhumans"? Please. Nonetheless, at the time he wrote the poem Western civilization was more advanced in many respects than many other parts of the world and it still is. The White Man's Burden still exists. One modern way to interpret it is the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Not to mention the Peace Corps and USAID. –  Eugene Seidel Sep 21 '13 at 6:50

Rudyard Kipling published the poem in the United States in 1899, shortly afther the U.S. won the Spanish-American War, and became an "imperialist" power by obtaining former Spanish possessions in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, etc.

In this poem Kipling was urging the United States to join the ranks of the Imperialist nations (England, France, Germany, Japan, and others) with an argument that boiled down to, that by doing good,

"Go send your sons to exile

To serve your captives' need...

To seek another’s profit

And work another’s gain"

(and thereby taking up the "White Man's burden"), you'll also do well.

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The question, at least as it is stated, is not about the poem. I don't think this answers the question. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 21 '13 at 6:30
-1 - I have to agree with Lennart - this "answer" is not an answer at all. It makes no attempt to address the subject matter of the question (as poor as it is.) Surely you can do better, so I can remove this downvote! –  Vector Sep 21 '13 at 9:10
@Vector: If the question isn't about the poem, it should be about the poem, IMHO. The reason is that "the white man's burden" is in quotes, and is obviously derived from the poem. The OP hasn't made much of a case otherwise (and it's not much of a question without the poem). I almost inserted a link to the poem into the question but decided to "lead by example." I'll even delete the answer if you and Lennart think that I should answer the question that was asked, rather than the (implicit) question that should have been asked. But it's hard for me to change/improve my answer. –  Tom Au Sep 21 '13 at 17:18
@TomAu - the question specifically asked about the concept, not the poem. So your answer doesn't answer. –  Vector Sep 21 '13 at 17:42
@TomAu - That's what the question asks. But I also think it's a bad question - see my comment on the question. I think you should either withdraw your answer or explain that there is no such historical concept, (and prove it) and explain that the whole idea is because some fool ran wild with a line in a poem. Your answer as it stands is not an answer. –  Vector Sep 21 '13 at 17:47

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