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About this book

Europe and the Third World provides a schematic historical analysis of the relations between Europe and the extra-European periphery within the twin contexts of global economic inequality and global disparities in political power. The colonial and imperial relationships between western Europe and the wider world since the late fifteenth century, and the course and consequences of decolonization, form the substance of the discussion, which concludes with a glance at the links between the European Union and the world's poorest states, most of which are former colonies.

Table of Contents

1. Europe and the ‘Third World’: An Introduction and Overview

Abstract
The themes of this book are, in a nutshell, development and underdevelopment in the course of European overseas expansion into what we call — imprecisely — the ‘Third World’. It provides an inevitably selective overview of European economic relations with the other continents (and the military and political means used to secure them) in what I hope is a factually informative way. Though not a work of theory, it reviews some of the conceptual frameworks that have been used to account historically for global inequalities.
Bernard Waites

2. Europe and the Americas

Abstract
Though the ‘Great Discoveries’ of the late fifteenth century were part of a continuum of European exploration and colonisation stretching back several centuries, the colonial conquests of Spain and Portugal in the Americas constituted a great break in human history. The indigenous peoples — possibly numbering 100 million in 1492 (Lockhart and Schwartz, 1983, p. 36) — had been isolated for so long from the rest of the human gene pool that they had no inherited immunities to ‘Old World’ pathogens and were tragically vulnerable to ‘virgin soil’ epidemics. Stricken populations were unable to resist alien conquest and, within a single generation of Cortés’s expedition to Mexico (1519–22), the most densely settled regions had been brought under Spanish rule. The Catholic monarchs’ new subjects practised advanced agriculture, and lived in hierarchical societies with complex political structures, but money and the payment of labour were unknown and precious metals were used for artefacts, not regular exchange. Tribute in labour and kind was rendered to the dominant strata (Gibson, 1984, p. 401). The conquerors sought to replicate the social order they had left behind in Europe by grafting the urban institutions of Castile onto the New World. To the rule over the ‘Indians’, they brought habits of mind formed in the centuries-long reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from Islam.
Bernard Waites

3. Europe and Asia, c. 1500 to c. 1880

Abstract
For Adam Smith, Vasco da Gama’s opening of the sea route to India in 1498 ranked with the discovery of America as ‘the two greatest and most important events in the recorded history of mankind’ (Smith, 1776, 1976 edn, p. 626). Without belittling the achievements of Portugal’s navigators and conquistadors in the East, this inflates their import for global history. The Indian Ocean had not been totally unfamiliar to medieval Europeans, and the Portuguese entered it as crusading warlords rather than venture capitalists. The Eurasian land-mass had a common stock of disease pathogens, so the Portuguese did not carry epidemics to ‘virgin soil’ as they did to Brazil. The states and societies they encountered were comparable to their own in every fundamental respect: monotheistic kingdoms, dominated by aristocratic warriors, served by literate clerisies and officials, and with economic structures and relations at roughly the same level of development. The intruders’ sole technological advantage of any consequence was the gunned sailing ship, which could be used to terrorise harbour authorities and island principalities, though even this naval preponderance was not irreversible. Certain Asian states — Acheh in Sumatra, the Omani Arabs, the Buginese of the Moluccas — built fleets of their own to challenge European warships (Pearson, 1979).
Bernard Waites

4. Europe and Africa from the Slave Trade to the Colonial Conquest

Abstract
Africa’s history is as rich and diverse as that of any other continent, but little of that richness emerges in the context of its relations with Europe. Although this chapter concludes with Europeans ruling Africa and exploiting its human and material resources, it would be a spurious teleology that viewed African history as culminating in this ‘end’. During the four centuries or so that separated Europeans’ initial contacts with sub-Saharan Africa and the ‘scramble’, Africans were colonising the continent, adapting their agricultural techniques to its hostile environment, adopting new crops, founding towns, and developing complex political institutions. In the Sudan and along the east coast, the most important external influence on African societies remained — as it had been since the eighth century — the expansion of Islam, compared with which the impact of Christian Europe was slight. Admittedly, the Portuguese had opened regular commercial and diplomatic relations with the ‘Guinea’ states by the 1490s, and won important Catholic converts in the kings of the Kongo, who were valued allies and trading partners. Yet, except in Algeria and the south, there were to be neither dramatic conquests nor substantial settlements before 1870, when much of the continent was still unexplored by Europeans. Portugal’s one attempt to found a settlement colony, in Luanda during the 1570s, failed disastrously in the terms in which it was conceived.
Bernard Waites

5. European Colonialism and Indigenous Society in Asia

Abstract
Modern European colonialism was not all of a piece: its essential feature was the foreign rule of Asian and African societies in which socio-cultural institutions were conserved while the administrative apex was monopolised by a white elite. But techniques of rule varied greatly, as did their impact on indigenous society and the economic change they initiated. Factors affecting the pace and trajectory of change included the relative strength of settler and expatriate minorities, the links forged between the colony and international economy, and the sheer duration of the colonial period. Colonial populations had rarely been ethnically and religiously homogeneous before the European conquests, and colonial rule in Africa and South-East Asia exaggerated their segmentary character by encouraging the influx of non-European traders, shopkeepers and moneylenders, contract labourers and plantation workers, small entrepreneurs in the rice-milling and sugar-refining trades, and so on. Modern colonies were, consequently, ‘plural’ societies, and though pluralism did not extend to the autocratic political sphere, it had economic, communal and juridical dimensions which insulated vertical groups (usually defined by ethnicity) from each other.
Bernard Waites

6. The Economic and Social Consequences of Modern Colonialism in Africa

Abstract
Did colonialism in Africa act ‘as a powerful engine of progressive social change advancing capitalist development far more rapidly than was conceivable in any other way’? (Warren, 1980, p. 9). The litmus test for scholars addressing this question (whether Marxist or non-Marxist) is the emergence of free wage labour employed by profit-maximising entrepreneurs in producing commodities for the market. As with all such tests, dispute arises not so much about the empirical data they yield as the data’s significance: in 1960, wage-earners were no more than one-third of the labour force in any sub-Saharan country other than South Africa, and in only one country did they constitute more than 10 per cent of the total population (Harwitz, 1964, p. 16). Some might reasonably cite this as evidence of the speed of economic advance in colonial Africa — particularly after 1945 — given that free wage labour was virtually unknown outside porterage around 1900 and that pre-capitalist relations of production (involving kinship, slavery, pawnship and clientage) were still widespread in native societies until the 1920s (Iliffe, 1983, p. 29). But for others, the data confirm the colonialists’ deep-seated reluctance to foster a permanent proletariat, and their preference for types of economic exploitation which ‘fossilised’ the native smallholder in agriculture, while relying on migrant, contract labour in the towns and mines.
Bernard Waites

7. The Balance Sheet of Modern Colonialism

Abstract
It was no secret that the modern colonial empires were acquired for the advantages they brought the European states. As one colonial propagandist wrote in 1912:
if colonies, the foundation of which nearly always costs the metropolis so much money and sacrifices and which exposes them to such great risks, were not made to serve those metropoles, they would have no raison d’être (Jules Harmand, Domination et colonisation, quoted in Young, 1994, p.100).
Bernard Waites

8. The Political Economy of Decolonisation

Abstract
The use of a single word — decolonisation — to refer to the transfer of sovereignty from the imperial powers to their former colonies after 1945 may suggest a uniform process with a common set of causes. Were that true, it would make an account of the ‘political economy’ of decolonisation much easier to draw up. This suggestion is, unfortunately, largely erroneous: decolonisation in the Middle East, South and South-East Asia and Africa followed different chronologies, sprang from a variety of causes and took various forms. Japan’s meteoric victories over the colonial powers directly and indirectly strengthened Asian nationalism and communism, which were about a political generation in advance of Africa. While the British empire in India, Ceylon and Burma was dissolving in the later 1940s, and the French and Dutch were fighting to restore their authority in Indo-China and the East Indies, European colonialism was having a new lease of life in Africa. Not that the imperial game was up in Asia: the British successfully reoccupied Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaya, and had short-lived illusions about the revival of the old ‘concessionary’ enclaves in China (Cain and Hopkins, 1993, pp. 275–81; Shai, 1980). The French and Dutch still attracted native allies, and the disparity between their forces and peasant insurrectionary movements (yet to be armed by the Soviet Union or communist China) remained considerable.
Bernard Waites

9. Europe and the ‘Third World’ in Retrospect

Abstract
In the preface to this book, I noted when and how the terms ‘Europe’ and the ‘Third World’ became current, and we can fittingly close by observing their contrasting fortunes over the last generation. Fanon concluded his manifesto for the ‘Third World’ with a ringing invocation to ‘Leave this Europe where they have never done talking of man, yet murder men everywhere they find them …’ The Third World’s’ destiny was to start ‘a new history of Man, a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious theses which Europe has put forward, but which will also not forget Europe’s crimes.’ The wretched of the earth should cease paying ideological tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies inspired by European models. Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote the preface for Fanon’s book, agreed that ‘Europe is at death’s door’. With the western European working classes now incorporated into capitalist society, the dialectic of historical transformation in Europe was exhausted (Fanon, 1967, pp. 251–5, 12).
Bernard Waites
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