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The White Man's Burden

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For the film, see White Man's Burden (film).

The white man's burden - a satiric take

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The White Man's Burden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This advertisement for soap uses the

theme of the White Man's Burden,
encouraging white people to teach
cleanliness to members of other races.

The White Man's Burden is a poem by the English poet Rudyard Kipling. It was originally published in
the popular magazine McClure's in 1899, with the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands.
"The White Man's Burden" was written in regard to the U.S. conquest of the Philippines and other
former Spanish colonies as an encouragement to the United States to ensure the Christian Empire
over underdeveloped regions (imperialism, colonialism) that Kipling supported (it was originally written
for the Queen's jubilee, but exchanged for Recessional; Burden was changed to match the American
Colonization) Although Kipling's poem mixed exhortation to empire with sober warnings of the costs
involved, imperialists within the United States latched onto the phrase "white man's burden" as a
characterization for imperialism that justified the policy as a noble enterprise.

The poem is written in seven verses, following an ABCBDEFE rhyme scheme. At face value it appears
to be a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule people of other nations (both the people

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The White Man's Burden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

and the duty may be seen as representing the "burden" of the title), and because of this has become
symbolic of Eurocentrism. A century after its publication, the poem still rouses strong emotions, and can
be analyzed from a variety of perspectives.


● 1 Differing interpretations
● 2 Contemporary interpretations
● 3 See also
● 4 References
● 5 Further reading
● 6 Footnotes

[edit] Differing interpretations

A straight forward analysis of the poem may conclude that Kipling presents a Eurocentric view of the
world, in which non-European cultures are seen as childlike and demonic. This view proposes that white
people consequently have an obligation to rule over, and encourage the cultural development of, people
from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds until they can take their place in the world by fully adopting
Western ways. The term "the white man's burden" can be interpreted simply as racist, or taken as a
metaphor for a condescending view of non-Western national culture and economic traditions, identified
as a sense of European ascendancy which has been called "cultural imperialism". A parallel can also be
drawn with the philanthropic view, common in Kipling's formative years, that the rich have a moral duty
and obligation to help the poor "better" themselves whether the poor want the help or not .

Within a historical context, the poem makes clear the prevalent attitudes that allowed colonialism to
proceed. Although a belief in the "virtues of empire" was wide-spread at the time, there were also many
dissenters; the publication of the poem caused a flurry of arguments from both sides, most notably from
Mark Twain and Henry James. Much of Kipling's other writing does suggest that he genuinely believed
in the "beneficent role" which the introduction of Western ideas could play in lifting non-Western
peoples out of "poverty and ignorance". Lines 3-5, and other parts of the poem suggest that it is not just
the native people who are enslaved, but also the "functionaries of empire", who are caught in colonial
service. This theme may also be contrasted with the Christian missionary movement, which was also
quite active at the time in Africa, India, and other British and European colonies (e.g. the Christian and
Missionary Alliance).

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The White Man's Burden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Some commentators point to Kipling's history of satirical writing, and suggest that "The White Man's
Burden" is in fact meant to satirically undermine imperialism. Chris Snodgrass, in A Companion to
Victorian Poetry (Blackwell, Oxford, 2002), describes Kipling's poetry as problematizing "imperial
sensibilities with wry irony and scepticism, viewing all human endeavour as ultimately transitory".
Kipling also wrote many poems celebrating the working classes, particularly the common soldier. Six
months after "The White Man's Burden" was published, he wrote "The Old Issue", a stinging criticism of
the Second Boer War, and an attack on the unlimited, despotic power of kings. The Norton Anthology
argues it is no satire, but in line with Kipling's strong imperialism and a belief of a "Divine Burden to
reign God's Empire on Earth", that other, less Christian nations would otherwise take.

[edit] Contemporary interpretations

The white man's burden - The Journal, Detroit

One criticism of the 2005 Make Poverty History campaign, and specifically the live8 concerts, was that
people who argue that it is a responsibility of richer countries to help less-developed countries have
sympathy for the metaphoric idea of a white man's burden.

It has been pointed out that the demands by some sections of Western society for foreign military
intervention by richer countries in civil wars of less-developed countries, are often expressed in terms
analogous to those of the poem: that the intervention is morally correct and would restore the conditions
of law and order which are vital to the economic and cultural growth of a nation.

As Max Boot writes: "In the early twentieth century, Americans talked of spreading Anglo-Saxon
civilization and taking up the 'white man's burden'; today they talk of spreading democracy and

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The White Man's Burden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

defending human rights. Whatever you call it, this represents an idealistic impulse that has always been
a big part in America's impetus for going to war." The title of this book, The Savage Wars of Peace,
comes from "The White Man's Burden".

The term "white guilt" is sometimes used as a modern twist on the historic white man's burden. It is used
by some white people to validate discrimination against other white people, because of their own
perceived responsibility or culpability for historical wrongs.

Although this poem is taught in America, British schools have not elevated it to similar levels of

In 2006, former World Bank economist William Easterly published The White Man's Burden, an
analysis of "why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good".

[edit] See also

● Colonialism
● Scientific racism
● White Man's Burden, a 1995 film dealing with race.
● White guilt
● Manifest Destiny
● "White Man´s Burden", an album from November 2006 by Swedish anarchist Rapper Promoe.

[edit] References

● A Companion to Victorian Poetry, Alison Chapman; Blackwell, Oxford, 2002.

● Outline of Sanity Alzina Stone Dale; iUniverse, 2005.

[edit] Further reading

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

The White Man's Burden

● Full text of the poem

● "The White Man's Burden" and Its Critics

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The White Man's Burden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

● The Black Man's Burden by Edward Morel, 1903

● "The Brown Man's Burden" an anti-imperialist parody of Kipling's poem by Henry Labouchère
● "The Real White Man’s Burden" another parody by Ernest Crosby (1902)

[edit] Footnotes

1. ^ "The White Man's Burden." McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb. 1899).

2. ^ Pimentel, Benjamin (October 26, 2003). "The Philippines; "Liberator" Was Really a Colonizer;
Bush's revisionist history". The San Francisco Chronicle: D3.
3. ^ Stephen Greenblatt (ed.), Norton Anthology of English Literature, New York 2006 ISBN 0-
4. ^ Warnings
❍ Zwick, Jim (December 16, 2005). "Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935".

❍ Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the

Philippines, 1899-1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03081-9. p. 5, "...imperialist

editors came out in favor of retaining the entire archipelago (using) higher-sounding justifications related to the
"white man's burden." * (February 4, 1999) "In Our Pages: 100, 75 and 50 Years Ago; 1899:
Kipling's Plea". International Herald Tribune: 6. "An extraordinary sensation has been created by Mr.
Rudyard Kipling's new poem, The White Man's Burden, just published in a New York magazine. It is regarded as the
strongest argument yet published in favor of expansion." *Judd, Denis (June, 1997). "Diamonds are
forever: Kipling's imperialism; poems of Rudyard Kipling". History Today 47 (6): 37.
Theodore Roosevelt...thought the verses 'rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansionist stand-point'. Henry
Cabot Lodge told Roosevelt in turn: 'I like it. I think it is better poetry than you say'.
5. ^ David Cody, The growth of the British Empire, Associate Professor of English, Hartwick
College, (Paragraph 4)
6. ^ Live8
❍ Mick Hume Does Africa need these crusaders bearing the White Man's burden? in The

Times on June 17, 2005

❍ The White Man’s Burden: Continent out of focus The Guardian on July 10, 2005 not on

The Guardian's own website so needs validation. * Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Bob Geldof
and the white man's burden in The Independent 6 June 2005
7. ^ Military intervention
❍ Mark Steyn Sudan is getting away with murder Daily Telegraph 20 July 2004

❍ John Laughland Fill Full The Mouth of Famine July 30, 2004 article on the web site of the

Embassy of Sudan in Washington D.C.

8. ^ Bandra sole la sucaoot, Max (2003). The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of
American Power. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00721-X. p. 340

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