Impact and evaluation of Western European colonialism and colonization

Impact and evaluation of Western European colonialism and colonization

Colonialism is the practice of creating settlements in lands other than the parent land. Historically, this has often involved killing or subjugating the indigenous population. With the spread of Hellenic and Roman culture and technology by the Roman Empire, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most of the world has at some point been colonised by a European country. The most notable colonial powers were Rome, Greece, Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Denmark, whose combined empires covered at various times the whole of North, Central and South America, Africa, Australia, much of Indonesia, the countries lying in the Levant, much of the Indian subcontinent, and most of the countries lying in between. In short, most of the world. It is interesting to note that all of these colonial powers have a large coastline. Historically, the settlements of new lands and the maintenance of trade and prosperity have depended heavily on naval power.

Debate about the perceived positive and negative aspects of colonialism has taken place for centuries, amongst both coloniser and colonised, and continues to the present day. Different types of colonialism must first be distinguished, as they were spread in time and thus didn't represent the same historic phenomenon. Starting in the 15th century, the School of Salamanca, gathering theologians such as Francisco Suarez, theorized natural law, thus limiting the domination of Charles V's imperial powers by according natural rights to indigenous people. However, the School of Salamanca also created a casuistry justifying legitimate cases of conquests, thus legitimizing the colonisation project itself. The Valladolid controversy opposed the famous Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas to the dominant beliefs of his times, which considered that the Native Americans had no souls and could thus be freely enslaved. In the 18th century, Diderot criticized ethnocentrism and the colonisation of Tahiti in "Supplément au voyage de Bougainville" ("Supplement to Bougainville's Travel", 1772).


In the Portuguese colonies, miscegenation was commonplace, and even supported by the court as a way to boost low populations and guarantee a successful settlement. Thus, settlers often released African slaves to become their wives. Some of the children were guaranteed full Portuguese citizenship, possibly based on lighter skin color, but not race. Some former Portuguese colonies have large mixed-race populations, for instance, Brazil, Cape Verde, and São Tomé e Príncipe. Miscegenation was still common in Africa until the independence of the former Portuguese colonies in the 1970s, which succeeded the 1974 Carnation Revolution. To the present day, Angolan, Brazilian, and Cape Verdian societies are defined by the degree of melanin (lighter skin). In Cape Verde, the population is often differentiated by lighter and darker skin (known as "pele de chocolate", or "chocolate skin"). Because of white supremacist institutions and the values they inculcated among the populace, many such miscegenated societies were and remain to this day heavily stratified by color, with darker-skinned citizens assigned the lowest economic and social status. This was demonstrated by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre's famous "Casa-Grande & Senzala" ("The Great House and the Slave Quarters" - 1933). Eduardo Galeano also showed how the profusion of Spanish words to design various types of skin color demonstrated a very precise racial hierarchy in Latin America. In the US, anti-miscegenation laws were passed and racial segregation enforced.

Genocides and relation to the Holocaust

Concerning the scramble for Africa, most historians tend to describe both positive aspects (infrastructures, education) and negative aspects (racism, exploitation, and, in some cases, even extermination - see for example the Herero genocide between 1904 and 1907). Several authors, such as Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist, Sven Lindqvist, "Exterminate All The Brutes", 1992, New Press; Reprint edition (June 1997), ISBN 1-56584-359-2] French historian Olivier LeCour Grandmaison or, LeCour Grandmaison, Olivier, "Coloniser, Exterminer - Sur la guerre et l'Etat colonial", Fayard, 2005, ISBN 2-213-62316-3 ((French))] in a more moderate way, Hannah Arendt have linked the possibility and the history of the Holocaust to colonialism.Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism", 1951, second section on imperialism] In "Exterminate All The Brutes" (a sentence taken from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"), Sven Lindqvist argued that the techniques and inhumanity necessary to the Holocaust were indeed commonly practiced during colonial rule, in which several ethnic groups were exterminated. However, this thesis, linking the Holocaust to colonial genocides, has been harshly disputed by other authors.Fact|date=March 2008

Imperialism and dependency theory

Dependency theorists such as Andre Gunder Frank argue that colonialism leads to the net transfer of wealth from the colonised to the coloniser, and inhibits successful economic development. Critics such as Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth", [ Fanon, Frantz, "The Wretched of the Earth", Maspero Publishing house, Pref. by Jean-Paul Sartre. Translated by Constance Farrington. London : Penguin Book, 2001 ] the "Négritude" movement (gathering Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor) argue that colonialism does political, psychological, and moral damage to the colonised as well. Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy likened debating the pros and cons of colonialism to "debating the pros and cons of rape". [cite web|url=|title= The New American Century|first=Arundhati|last=Roy|accessdate=2008-03-15|date=2004-02-09]

Critics of the alleged abuses of economic and political advantages accruing to developed nations via globalised capitalism have referred to them as neocolonialism, and see them as a continuation of the domination and exploitation of ex-colonial countries, merely utilizing different means. Neocolonialism is in this sense a new form of imperialism, which had first been theorized by Lenin in "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" (1916). Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg thought that the necessary economic expansion of capitalism automatically led to territorial expansion, in order to find new resources and markets.

However the dependency theory and theories of economic underdevelopment of the Third World by colonial powers are contested by many economic historians. Bill Warren, a Marxist historian, disagreed with the dependency theorists:cite book|first=Bill|last=Warren|title=Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism|publisher=Verso|year=1980|page=113]

There is no evidence of a process of underdevelopment…The evidence rather supports a contrary thesis: that process of development has been taking place…and that this has been a direct result of the west.

Benign colonialism

Benign colonialism is a term that refers to a supposed form of colonialism in which benefits outweighed risks for indigenous populations whose lands, resources, rights and freedoms were preempted by a colonising nation-state. The historical source for the concept of benign colonialism resides with John Stuart Mill who was chief examiner of the British East India Company dealing with British interests in India in the 1820s and 1830s. Mill's most well-known essays on benign colonialism are found in "Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy." [Mill, John Stuart. 1844. " [ Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy] ."] Mill's view contrasted with Burkean orientalists. Mill promoted the training of a corps of bureaucrats indigenous to India who could adopt the modern liberal perspective and values of 19th century Britain. Mill predicted this group’s eventual governance of India would be based on British values and perspectives. For a discussion of Mill's arguments see Doyle (2006).Doyle, Michael W. 2006. " [ Sovereignty and Humanitarian Military Intervention] ." Columbia University.]

Advocates of the concept cite improved standards of health and education, employment opportunities, liberal markets, developed natural resources and introduced improved governance. The first wave of benign colonialism lasted from c. 1790-1960. The second wave included neocolonial policies exemplified in Hong Kong, [Liu, Henry C. K. 2003. " [ China: a Case of Self-Delusion: Part 1: From colonialism to confusion] ." "Asia Times". May 14.] where unfettered expansion of the market created a new form of benign colonialism. Political interference and military intervention in independent nation-states, such as Iraq, [Campo, Juan E. 2004. " [ Benign Colonialism? The Iraq War: Hidden Agendas and Babylonian Intrigue] ." "Interventionism". 26:1. Spring.] is also discussed under the rubric of benign colonialism in which a foreign power preempts national governance to protect a higher concept of freedom. The term is also used in the 21st century to refer to US, French and Chinese market activities in African countries with massive quantities of underdeveloped nonrenewable natural resources.

These views have support by some academics. Economic historian Niall Ferguson has argued that empires can be a good things provided that they are "liberal empires". He cites the British Empire as being the only example of a "liberal empire" and argues that it maintained the rule of law, benign government, free trade and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour.Niall Ferguson, "Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World" and "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire"] Historian Rudolf von Albertini agrees that, on balance, colonialism can be good. He argues that colonialism was a mechanism for modernisation in the colonies and imposed a peace by putting an end to tribal warfare. [Albertini, Rudolph von, and Wirz, Albert. "European Colonial Rule, 1880-1914: The Impact of the West on India, South East Asia and Africa"] Historians L.H Gann and Peter Duignan have also argued that Africa probably benefited from colonialism on balance an, although it had its faults, colonialism was probably "one of the most efficacious engines for cultural diffusion in world history" [ Lewis H. Gann and Peter Duignan, "The Burden of Empire: A Reappraisal of Western Colonialism South of the Sahara"] . These views, however, are controversial and are rejected by many who, on balance, see colonialism as bad. The economic historian D.K Fieldhouse has taken a kind of middle position, arguing that the effects of colonialism were actually limited, and their main weakness wasn't in deliberate underdevelopment but in what it failed to do. [D.K. Fieldhouse, "The West and the Third World"] Niall Ferguson agrees with his last point, arguing that colonialism's main weaknesses were "sins of omission". Marxist historian Bill Warren has argued that whilst colonialism may be bad because it relies on force he views it as being the genesis of Third World development.

Literature that challenges the assumptions of benign colonialism claiming the colonialist project as it actually unfolded placed First Nations, Inuit and Métis at higher risks of vulnerabilities to catastrophes, to social exclusion and human rights abuses, has not been as widely publicized.

Post-colonialism and post-colonial literature

Historical debate in France

On May 10, 2001, the Taubira law officially recognized slavery and the Atlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity. Between various propositions, May 10 was finally chosen as day dedicated to the recognition of the crime of slavery. Anticolonialist activists also want the African Liberation Day to be recognized by the Republic. Although slavery was recognized by this law, four years later, the vote of the February 23, 2005 law by the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), asking teachers and textbooks to "acknowledge and recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence abroad, especially in North Africa", was met with public uproar and accusations of historic revisionism, both inside France and abroad. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president of Algeria, refused to sign the envisioned "friendly treaty" with France because of this law. Famous writer Aimé Césaire, leader of the "Négritude" movement, also refused to meet UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy, leading the latter to cancel his visit to Martinique. The controversed law was finally repealed by president Jacques Chirac (UMP) at the beginning of 2006.

Philosopher Paul Ricœur has spoke of the necessity of a "decolonisation of memory", starting with the recognition of the 1961 Paris massacre during the Algerian war (1954-62) and the recognition of the decisive role of immigrated manpower in the "Trente Glorieuses" post-WWII economic growth period.


See also

*Colonial mentality
*Odious debt
*Scientific racism
*Third World debt

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