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9-08-2015, 18:32

The effects of colonialism

The ideology of race was created in part by men who never left Europe – Kant, Hume, Buffon, de Pauw, Blumenbach – but it was also created through the actual experiences of Europeans in their colonial empires. In New France, the policy of assimilation was abandoned, in part because of growing ideas about unchangeable racial differences, but in larger part because it had not worked; some Native Americans adopted Christianity, but very few wanted to “become French.” Spanish, Portuguese, and French systems of socio-racial classifi cation came from observations about what kinds of people actually lived in Caribbean and Latin American communities, which may explain why they had many more categories than the four or fi ve proposed by the naturalists. White colonists born in the Americas – called Creoles – answered Europeans disparaging the effects of the American climate by stressing their fi tness and immunity to environmental infl uences; they argued that their superiority to other groups was innate, not created by their surroundings. Hierarchical theories of race were thus one product of colonialism. The expansion of Christianity was another. Catholic missionaries, especially members of religious orders such as the Jesuits, the Recollects, and the Dominicans, accompanied Spanish, Portuguese, and French traders and offi cials. They also established missions in places where there was otherwise little European presence, including mountainous regions of South America and desert regions of North America. Convents for women soon followed. In 1637, the same year as Jesuit missionaries in Canada established the fi rst community for Indian converts, an Ursuline house was established in Quebec; by 1725, one out of every hundred European residents in New France was a nun. Lay confraternities for local converts were established by Portuguese missionaries in the Indian Ocean region, and later by French missionaries in Vietnam. This process used to be described as a “spiritual conquest,” in which indigenous beliefs and practices were largely wiped out through a combination of force and persuasion. The spread of Catholic Christianity is now viewed very differently, not simply as conquest and resistance – though it was that – but as a process of cultural negotiation, during which Christian ideas and practices were accepted but also transformed. This transformation involved indigenous people and missionaries, and also slaves, migrants, and people of mixed background. Christianity became part of a new shared culture in many colonial areas, though one with many local variations, often within the same colony. Protestants were not as active as missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as they would be in the nineteenth century, though men and women from radical and pietist groups such as the Quakers, Moravians, and Methodists did teach and preach to indigenous people, often far from European settlements. The VOC provided, paid, and controlled pastors for its own personnel, a few of whom attempted to convert indigenous people to Dutch Reformed Christianity, especially those who had already been converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese. In many Asian VOC trading posts, conversion to Reformed Christianity was almost entirely the result of intermarriage, though in a few places, including Ceylon and Ambiona, more widespread conversion occurred, generally among those who stood to gain fi nancially or politically from conversion. The fi rst translation of the New Testament into a Southeast Asian language was into High Malay by a Dutch missionary in 1688, but as literacy levels were low, conversion remained largely an oral process. The English East India Company was hostile to missionaries because it thought their activities disrupted trade, though it did provide chaplains for its own employees. Some of the British colonies in North America were founded explicitly as religious communities, with evidence of personal conversion required for men to be allowed political rights. Religious dissenters in many colonies were whipped, expelled, or even executed, though some colonies included religious toleration as one of their founding principles. Early settlers in Virginia and the Carolinas were theoretically part of the Anglican Church, but there were few clergy or churches. The mid-Atlantic colonies were a religious as well as ethnic mixture. By the later seventeenth century, religious diversity was joined by lack of interest in many parts of North America. People chose to be part of Baptist, Quaker, Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic, Congregationalist, or other communities, or – more likely – chose to join no denomination at all. In contrast to the popular view of church-going Americans, most historians estimate that by 1700 the majority of colonial residents were not church members and rarely attended a service. Lack of interest in religion changed somewhat in the 1730s and 1740s with the spread of a religious revival movement later known as the “Great Awakening.” This was a pietist movement of personal religious conversion that spread throughout the colonies, especially in frontier areas away from the coast where offi cial state churches were the weakest. Like pietism in Europe, it emphasized emotion, the spoken word, personal experience, and leadership based on a sense of calling; it attracted Native Americans and Africans as well as Europeans. By the end of the eighteenth century religious devotion had died down again, only to be rekindled with a Second Great Awakening in the 1820s and 1830s. Along with shaping ideologies of difference, and creating ever more diversity in Christianity, the development of colonies clearly had an economic impact on Europe, and on the world. The contours of this have been hotly debated, however. In The Modern World System , the sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein developed one very infl uential line of argument, building on the ideas of Latin American social scientists. Wallerstein asserted that economic growth in western Europe, which he terms the “core” of the modern global economy, was only achieved by using – and exploiting – the raw materials and the people of the rest of the world. Core nations enhanced their economic dominance by mercantalist trade policies that encouraged the export of manufactured goods and the import of raw materials. The opposite end of this trade was what Wallerstein calls the “periphery,” areas that produced cash crops such as sugar and tobacco, raw materials such as timber and metals, and human labor in the form of slaves and serfs. The periphery initially included eastern Europe and Hispanic America, and eventually Asia and Africa as well. Southern Europe gradually became a “semi-periphery,” with little industrial development and only a small share of international commerce. In world-systems theory, the periphery and semi-periphery generate wealth for the core in the same way as the proletariat generates wealth for the bourgeoisie in Marxist theory. World-systems theory fi ts with certain types of Marxist analysis, and also with the post-colonial theory discussed in chapter 7 , with its emphasis on the subordination and exploitation of subaltern groups. Post-colonial theorists tend to put greater emphasis on the cultural aspects of domination than do world-systems theorists, though Wallerstein does briefl y mention the role of religion in his analysis. Other scholars have also stressed the important role of colonial empires in European economic expansion without positing a single core–periphery system. In The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy , Kenneth Pomeranz argues that one of the two key factors explaining England’s economic take-off was its access to resources from the Americas. Europe’s colonial possessions were not simply a consequence of European power, but also a source of that power. Colonies allowed – though they did not cause – industrialization, which in turn led to what Pomeranz labels the “great divergence” – the gap between the west and the rest of the world. The other key factor, in Pomeranz’s view, was relatively easy access to coal and the development of technologies to mine and use that coal more cheaply, which were driven by deforestation. Like Wallerstein’s notion of a world system, Pomeranz’s of a great divergence has been extremely infl uential, even among scholars who disagree with him about its causes. Few historians reject the idea that colonies and coal were important, but they see other factors as signifi cant as well. Joel Mokyr and Margaret Jacob point to a culture of innovation that developed in England from the middle of the seventeenth century. English scientifi c works, especially those of Newton on gravity and mechanics, which had even won the approval of the Anglican Church, were available to and read by artisans and entrepreneurial inventors looking for solutions to practical problems in designing and improving engines and other machines. Laws regarding property rights allowed innovators (sometimes) to make profi ts from their inventions, and banks – often fi nanced by the profi t from international trade – made borrowing to build machines easier and cheaper than it had been earlier. Jan de Vries and Philip Hoffman highlight higher labor productivity, along with higher wages, which fueled consumer demand and also created an incentive to replace human labor with machines. Both they and Prasannan Parthasarathi note that what consumers wanted most of all was light and bright Indian cotton cloth. English tinkerers and entrepreneurs invented machines that would produce such cloth, and the British state protected their products, and later other manufactured goods as well, through tariffs, trade policies, and sometimes war. War played a role in the great divergence in other ways as well. Jean-Laurent Rosenthal and R. Bin Wong assert that war and the threat of war among European states led entrepreneurs and workers to locate within city walls for greater security. Investment capital became cheaper because it was concentrated, and this plus the higher labor costs in cities created incentives to substitute capital (meaning machinery) for labor. Systems of taxation that were developed to fi nance the nearly continuous cycle of wars in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were not as effi cient as bureaucrats hoped, but they provided enough money to fi nance standing armies and ever larger and more deadly navies. Those armies and navies were deployed for reasons increasingly defi ned as the “national” interest, rather than for the defense of a religion or dynasty. By the eighteenth century that national interest included the protection of trade, as European ships came to carry most of the world’s cargo across all the seas we have discussed in this chapter. As Robert Allen has shown, victories in warfare in the eighteenth century gave Britain the majority of trade in colonial goods, the British economy boomed, wages went up, investors sought to lower production costs by substituting machines, and the result was the Industrial Revolution. In 1750, Britain accounted for less than 2 percent of production around the world, while in 1880 its share was more than 20 percent. Other scholars – and many political commentators, popular writers, and pundits – explain the “rise of the west” in more sweeping cultural terms. Like Samuel Purchas, with whom this chapter began, they attribute it to European (and European-background) superiority in reason, education, commercial dynamism, and competitive spirit, often setting this against despotism and stagnation elsewhere. A few, including David Landes, follow Purchas in seeing Protestant Christianity as an important source of this superiority, while others point to different roots. Ricardo Duchesne sees its origins in the competitive individualism of the aristocratic warrior culture of Indo-European-speaking horse-riding nomads of the west Asian steppes who entered Europe in the third millennium bc. Niall Ferguson does not reach this far back, and is more concerned about the prospects of western ascendency than he is about its past: he proposes six “killer apps” – competition, science, property rights, the work ethic, medicine, and consumerism – that once made the west predominant and could again in the future. Most historians do not see the rise of the west as inevitable or ordained, however, but emphasize its contingent nature. Industrialization, which Joel Mokyr has called a “peculiar path,” was the result of the coincidental interdependence of many things. Its ultimate implications were only recognized later, not foreseen by a few people with a telescopic vision of the future. One of the problems in doing any historical analysis is that we know what happens later, or at least what happens later up to right now. Thus developments that are accidental or fortuitous look like destiny. Western dominance in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had its roots in the early modern world, but unique talent and unique rapaciousness are far less satisfactory as explanations than those that consider a range of factors.

 

 

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