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How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  2,586 ratings  ·  145 reviews
The decisiveness of the short period of colonialism and its negative consequences for Africa spring mainly from the fact that Africa lost power. Power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one's interests and if necessary to impose one’s will by any means available. I
Paperback, 312 pages
Published January 1st 1981 by Howard University Press (first published 1971)
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Alexandra "Development in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, grater freedom creativ…more"Development in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, grater freedom creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being." -Walter Rodney(less)

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 ·  2,586 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: renee
Despite some naïve visions of the success of communism in the Soviet Union and China that might sound very silly to us (considering the book was written in 1972), this book still has some very persuasive points that explain African underdevelopment. The main theme of the book is that underdevelopment was made possible by positive feedback loops starting with the uneven development in earlier centuries enforced by European constant exploitation of raw materials and human labor from Africa. It tra ...more
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first three chapters, on development in general, and development in Africa before the arrival of Europeans, and development in Europe, were quite dull, though the second has many fascinating snippets of information, it was too brief a tour to give the subject the kind of attention that would make it enjoyable rather than necessary, and I wasn't convinced that measuring social conditions in the various African societies against a very Eurocentric model of so-called development was actually ne ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Why does Africa seem to be lagging behind general global development? I believe that it is not only the current and aftereffects of European domination,but the mindset of Africans themselves.
The same type of destruction of traditional culture took place on other continents by Europeans, but Africa seems to have borne the brunt of it all.
There is a self-evident intolerance within the Caucasian psyche for African features and values, and thus there has been a continuous process of assimilation.
I a
Randall Wallace
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Africa, under communalism, had no classes and had equality in distribution. Carthage flourished from 1200 to 200 B.C. By 732 A.D, Europe stopped the Muslim advance, when African forces were already deep into France. Imagine white teachers telling their students that while non-whites were happily enjoying baths in Maghreb (later Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), white people in Oxford, England considered that washing oneself was “a dangerous act”. Few whites understand that trans-Saharan trade “was ...more
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
Amazing! Incredible! Eye-opening, ground-breaking, gripping, exciting, wonderful!

I love this book and I wished I had read it years ago. Not only does it throw open the colonial exploitation of Africa, but it brings pre-Colonial and pre-European-Slave-Trade Africa to life. Rodney puts together a biting criticism of Europe's interaction with Africa starting in the 15th century with trading, both the slave trade and the trade in goods. This essentially killed inter-Africa trade, forcing African civ
Feb 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Just read this for class. It is a political/economic commentary on capitalism from the perspective of a socialist. If you care or wonder about the socioeconomic conditions of African nations and why it is the way it is read this book- a little bit at a time.
Jerald Andrew
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
First I had bought and read this book as a teenager, then I had to read it in college. Now - I found it and wanted to read it again just for myself. Changed my thinking. I am going to re-read the mis-education of the negro.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A historiographical approach to the detriment of African plight and continued exploitation Very relevant today and good for anyone searching for suppressed historical truths A Book for all who seek to know the truth about African nations oppression and subjugation by the Secret government behind the Western powers Europe and other developed nations of the Western world are handgloves through which the globalist operate to keep nations impoverished and in debt Africa was the experiment and now th ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is invaluable as it is written from a black African's viewpoint without too much resentment. The arguments are well presented and I found them difficult to deny. The only real issue for me the socialist leaning of the author, he seemed to value social systems a lot more than history has demonstrated.

We know that the Nazis were fascists and treated all non-Aryan races with deep contempt, therefore very rightly blamed by history, but why have the European nations gotten off Scot free for
Wamuyu  Thoithi
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whew. What a read. It is a must-read for any Africanist. Many have written comprehensive reviews so I will give my high level thoughts only.

Rodney is an excellent dialectical thinker that was way ahead of his time. He begins the book by making the distinction between “developing” countries and “underdeveloped” countries. He does not use the term “developing” to describe Africa, but rather “underdeveloped” because Africa was on its own path of development before interference from capitalist Europ
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Every single person needs to read this !!!!!!!!! Especially colonized peoples in the fight for liberation and colonizers who must be obligated to learn about the full extent of their oppressive histories
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Everyone with a Western-centric education should consider reading this book. Yes it is dated and flawed in numerous ways, however it meticulously conveys a truth that is unfortunately still often ignored even 50 years later: The riches of the Enlightenment in Europe did not come for free, and they certainly don’t prove any intrinsic superiority of the West. Instead, they were built on the exploitation of a continent (and beyond), both through slavery and colonialism.

Rodney argues (usi
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Rodney's book conveys how Europe and the US got to the positions they are in today, and of course, how Africa was REDUCED to the state it is in now. He shows how the aggrandizement of the West is directly tied to the immense amount of knowledge and resources that Africa provided prior to the coming of the slave trade and colonialism (however he could have elaborated on this more), followed by the benefits of the hyper-exploitation that Africans endured due to the actions of the racist, hypocriti ...more
Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji
A must read for Africa's leaders and its people. In this book, Walter Rodney, uses historical materialism to explain the nature of Africa's current underdevelopment and economic backwardness.

" To know the present we must look into the past and to know the future we must look into the past and the present". This is the essence of the book and trust me, the analysis is profound and an added advantage is that it is clear and concise.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent review of the issues caused by colonialism. The author tries to strike a balance between both sides of the issue, and covers complex problems in a very approachable manner.
A very, very important book.
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book really provides the connection between capitalism, enslaved Africans as capital and the modern economy and how it all emerged out of the natural progressions from feudalism. Very interesting. This should be read with Gerald Horn's book about the United States American Revolution and the counter revolution of the enslaved African's who in large part provided a major reason for the US's breaking away from the British. You really see how the victors get the spoils and get to define histor ...more
George Roper
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"THE COLONIES HAVE BEEN CREATED FOR THE METROPOLE BY THE METROPOLE" (French saying). To understand the present one must study the past. To forecast the future one must be aware of the present and how we got there. Walter Rodney's scholarly book makes compelling arguments for the relative underdevelopment of Africa being significantly due in part to the involvement of Europeans in African affairs starting with the Atlantic slave trade - which commenced in the 15th century and lasted into the late ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
So what’s not such a great feeling is when you read a masterpiece and the author was actually younger than you when he wrote it. At least Marx was 50 or so when Capital (Vol I) was published (so get onto it if you haven’t yet 😊 Yeah, so this is what other people do in their free time. I watch Love Island or watch stand-up comedy on YouTube.

On a much less narcissistic note, I should have read this 1972 book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney about 20 years ago. Every high school
Steven Berbec
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a history lesson all of us in the West must give ourselves to. The legacy and work that Rodney has left behind is still blazing and still waiting for a people to take up the torch and set ablaze the hearts of men who are still being exploited and caught up in the myths of development. After reading the post-script, I felt responsible and would like to believe I have been making my way toward this responsibility, but ever so slowly—thoroughly.

Considering where I am today, it is of no coin
Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: marxists, politcal economy nerds, anti-racist folks, anti-globalization activists
Rodney provides a well-researched and detailed Marxist analysis of the systemic role of European colonialism, racism, and capitalist exploitation and its impact on the history of Africa. The book seems a bit dated now (it was originally published in 1972), particularly in regards to Rodney's unquestioningly high regard for Mao's China and other "socialist" governments that have since been more thoroughly critiqued. However, the negative economic effects of "free trade"/globalization/colonialism ...more
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A truly seminal work of historic analysis. I should have read this some years back but didn't, I'm glad that has been rectified.
Though I don't agree with the author's pre-suppositions on socialism, his insights and analyses of Africa's contact with capitalist Europe through slave trade and colonialism, and Africa's development before this contact occured are eye-opening to say the least.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely required reading for all those who are interested in African/African American History. I study this book during college as part of a work-study program. Others books included were Capitalism and Slavery; The World and Africa; and George Padmore's book on Pan Africanism.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, politics
Rodney’s book was first published in the UK back in 1972 and reflects a time when the left was much keener to explore the contemporary relevance of the notion of imperialism in its analysis.

For Rodney the relationship between Europe and Africa could not simply be considered as another example of one society being defeated by another in the manner of, say, the Roman conquest of Gaul or Britain. The ‘scramble for Africa’ – the military phase of the conquest – beginning in the late 19th century ha
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poc, 4-star, nonfic
This reads somewhat dry and textbook-y but it's very informative, still. I don't recommend the audiobook, though, unless you like your narrators to speak in monotone.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
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 inve
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
The statistics and some of the historical specifics are different now (more research), but this is otherwise a key book in beginning to understand the Colonial/Capitalist effect on Africa.
This is one of the earliest and very best applications of dependency theory. Anyone interested in neo-Marxist theories of political economy ought to read this book.
Casca Amanquah Hackman
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What an eye opener? The historical trace of global economics to its present dynamism is serious. It remains the best book I have ever read.
Erik Nygren
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a great and essential read. I think it’s true that this book had some naive views of the future of the Soviet Union and the imminent spread of socialism in general, but it more than makes up for it by it’s incredible recollection of the past. I became aware of this book reading Andrew Rice’s “The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda”, where Andrew refers to this book as a classic.

Reading this book gave me:

- Profound insights into Africa’s contemporary i
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Walter Rodney was born in British Guiana. Rodney was killed by a bomb in his car at the age of 38.

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