Posts Tagged ‘imperialism’

Why Europe conquered the world

By Jonathan Power

February 21st 2017

Eleven hundred years ago Europe was a backwater. There were no grand cities, apart from Cordoba in Spain which was Muslim. The Middle East was much further ahead, still absorbing the intellectual delights and challenges of Greek science, medicine and architecture which Europeans were largely ignorant of. In southern China agriculture advanced and trade in tea, porcelain and silk flourished.

By 1914 it was a totally different world. The Europeans ruled 84% of the globe and they had colonies everywhere. How was it that Europe and its offspring, the United States, became the dominant dynamic force in the world, and still are today in most things?

If I walk round my university town and stop the first ten students I meet and ask them why this was so they would probably say because of the Industrial Revolution. But in 1800 when the Industrial Revolution was only just beginning Europeans already ruled 35% of the world and had armed ships on every ocean and colonies on every continent.

If they didn’t say that, they might say it was the way the Europeans spread their fatal diseases, smallpox and measles, to which they had gained a good deal of immunity, and this enabled them to lay low native peoples. But in fact all the major Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations had this same advantage. In Africa it was local diseases that attacked the Europeans more than vice versa.

Maybe one of the ten students would say it was because the Europeans were ahead in the development of gunpowder technology. After all the military revolution preceded the Industrial Revolution. But I doubt that, even though on the right track, this one student could explain why. Read the rest of this entry »

Gandhi and Mandela: Two South Africans

Johan Galtung

By Johan Galtung

Mohandas Gandhi invented the nonviolent approach to basic social change, Satyagraha, in South Africa in the early 20th century; Nelson Mandela presided over the birth of a one person-one vote democracy at the end of the century. Both were lawyers, trained in English Common Law; good in the sense of a keen consciousness of what is right and wrong, bad in the sense of a court process identifying who is in the wrong rather than solving underlying conflicts, and wrong in the sense of punishing the wrong-doer; violence rather than cooperation.

Both built on the positive side of law – the indelible rights of the people for whom they were fighting by comparing empirical facts with normative rights; immigrant Indians in the case of Gandhi, original inhabitants in South Africa, the Blacks, in the case of Mandela.

Gandhi (1869-1948) did not live to see equality between Indians and whites in South Africa, but in India, his mother-father land; Mandela (1918-2013) did. They won their struggles – but the societies that emerged still suffer from other and major ones.

A deep culture united them: the culture of law. Read the rest of this entry »


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