Nationalism: To report back home and throughout Europe that one nation acquired thousands of square miles of territory and millions of captive populations enhanced the prestige of that state throughout the world and for its own people. To be a victor in the imperial game meant great national pride and, thus, the improvement of the ruling party back at home.
Liberalism: Many students tend to overlook or not understand this element, and its counterintuitive nature forces it out of many history textbooks. The liberal tradition of Europe emphasized not equality, as we do today, but self-improvement and the perfectibility of man. This belief, combined with Charles Darwin's New Science and the warping of the statement "survival of the fittest" by social Darwinism, encouraged the view that Europe was going down into the so-called Dark Continent to raise up and civilize the savage natives. Nothing could be more paternalistic or racist in outlook; however, as odd as it may seem, imperialism is thus associated with the liberal view of the perfectibility of man.
While much of Europe enthusiastically participated in and looked upon the colonization of Africa, it would be simplistic to claim that imperialist policies were everywhere admired. In terms of its depiction of the negative affects of African imperialism on both Africa and Europe, and its depiction of the processes of Imperialism itself, perhaps no account is quite so powerful as Joseph Conrad's 1905 Heart of Darkness. Conrad's personal distaste for colonialism should not be taken as a compendium of all the criticisms of the imperial game, but in addition to the themes and issues it does deal with, it can be seen as an indication that a lively debate did exist as to the motives and affects of imperial actions.