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How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972)

by Walter Rodney

Other authors: A M. Babu (Postscript), Vincent Harding (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9151023,545 (4.05)1 / 7
The classic work of political, economic, and historical analysis, powerfully introduced by Angela Davis. In his short life, the Guyanese intellectual Walter Rodney emerged as one of the leading thinkers and activists of the anticolonial revolution, leading movements in North America, South America, the African continent, and the Caribbean. In each locale, Rodney found himself a lightning rod for working class Black Power. His deportation catalyzed 20th century Jamaica's most significant rebellion, the 1968 Rodney riots, and his scholarship trained a generation how to think politics at an international scale. In 1980, shortly after founding of the Working People's Alliance in Guyana, the thirty-eight-year-old Rodney would be assassinated. In his magnum opus, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Rodney incisively argues that grasping "the great divergence" between the west and the rest can only be explained as the exploitation of the latter by the former. This meticulously researched analysis of the abiding repercussions of European colonialism on the continent of Africa has not only informed decades of scholarship and activism, it remains an indispensable study for grasping global inequality today.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Bauxite Strike and the Old Politics by Eusi Kwayana (zonneveld)
    zonneveld: Eusi Kwayana, a notable teacher, historian, and political figure from Guyana is famous partly as a mentor of Walter Rodney. This book documents labor actions among bauxite workers in Guyana before Rodney's WPA.
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» See also 7 mentions

English (9)  Spanish (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Sadly my copy of this is corrupted so unreadable after page 99. The first hundred pages or so indicate that this is a very important book, albeit one delivered in quite dry prose. Worth coming back to. ( )
  elahrairah | Jan 24, 2024 |
Very interesting and informative analysis of the processes through which capitalism generated colonialism, and that in turn manufactured underdevelopment in Africa.

This is a very dense, and at times slightly scattered read, so it requires a lot of undivided attention (which I didn't necessarily always have while listening to the audiobook). The book is also a bit dated now, so some points would need updating.

Still, an illuminating read. ( )
  bookforthought | Nov 7, 2023 |
If you’re interested in the history of African colonization, you should definitely include this book in your reading list. It follows the resurgence in African history in the 1960s (“resurgence” meaning it was finally taken more seriously by academia) and the recent African independence movement in the 20th century. I’m fairly familiar with African Francophone history but am not an expert in 20th century world history, even so there are a couple of points I don’t think hold up.

The general thesis of the book I think is spot on: colonialism was fueled by capitalism, and capitalism was fueled by colonialism, especially colonialism in Africa. Capitalism was just a budding concept when colonialism began, so it is impossible to say how one might have developed without the other. That being said, I don’t think socialist and communist countries are innocent parties in colonialism. Dr. Rodney mentions that North Korea should be an example to newly independent countries, and though I don’t know much about North Korea in the 70s, and even if North Korea is significantly less colonialist than more capitalist countries, it certainly fails any test of humanitarianism today. Similarly, Dr. Rodney praises China’s lack of exploitation of Africa. I’m not sure if that was true in the 70s, but today’s Belt and Road Initiative makes clear that even socialist China is more than willing to exploit developing countries to make a profit.

Even if you agree with socialist ideas, I think the book goes a little far in glorifying socialism as anti-colonialism. I think Dr. Rodney is dead on right that capitalism is inherently linked in many ways to exploitation and colonialism (either in flag or economics), and the book is worth ready even only as a historic work in itself. This laid a lot of groundwork for future studies of colonialism and the impact it continues to have on modern Africa. ( )
  Sennie_V | Mar 22, 2022 |
An extremely well-researched text detailing the effects on African people and societies of their asymmetrical relationship with European states and capitalists starting in the 16th century.

So much so, that it was somewhat hard for me to read. There were a lot of numbers, figures, and specific anecdotes which clearly were important for backing up his argument, but slowed down my reading of the book. Regardless, I took a lot out of it. I feel like I can explain how Western European states and investors contributed to the suffering of Africans and the relative poverty they face now compared to wealthier societies and more powerful states.

All that said, the author is a Marxist-Leninist. This might just be the first book I've read that speaks positively of East Germany. ( )
  100sheets | Jun 7, 2021 |
i mean yea if this doesn't explain it for ya i don't know what will. europe and european offshoot nations like the US have been absolutely obliterating the african population for centuries now at every level imaginable. resembles the american imperial treatment of the native americans and the treatment of black americans by american government. it really reflects itself and reveals itself everywhere. colonial control infects everything ( )
  ncharlt1 | Oct 11, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walter Rodneyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Babu, A M.Postscriptsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harding, VincentIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arriola, JoaquinTranscribed bysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The classic work of political, economic, and historical analysis, powerfully introduced by Angela Davis. In his short life, the Guyanese intellectual Walter Rodney emerged as one of the leading thinkers and activists of the anticolonial revolution, leading movements in North America, South America, the African continent, and the Caribbean. In each locale, Rodney found himself a lightning rod for working class Black Power. His deportation catalyzed 20th century Jamaica's most significant rebellion, the 1968 Rodney riots, and his scholarship trained a generation how to think politics at an international scale. In 1980, shortly after founding of the Working People's Alliance in Guyana, the thirty-eight-year-old Rodney would be assassinated. In his magnum opus, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Rodney incisively argues that grasping "the great divergence" between the west and the rest can only be explained as the exploitation of the latter by the former. This meticulously researched analysis of the abiding repercussions of European colonialism on the continent of Africa has not only informed decades of scholarship and activism, it remains an indispensable study for grasping global inequality today.

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