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How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  4,411 ratings  ·  359 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)
Nicole Miles I’d say the book is fair. Colonialism has been (and largely continues to be) very extractive of African wealth, but Rodney does not say this is an exc…moreI’d say the book is fair. Colonialism has been (and largely continues to be) very extractive of African wealth, but Rodney does not say this is an excuse for Africans not to also do work and take responsibility for their development. He is largely just dispelling pro-colonial myths with historical evidence (sometimes even using accounts from white Europeans admitting their countries’ huge dependence on the colonies or their hypocrisies). The “multi-sided view” of “but colonialism was good for Africa too!” is properly addressed (spoiler: it really, really, really was not good for Africa. It was a net negative and there are a ton of stats across all metrics that expose that).(less)

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Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Justin Goodman
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly straightforward. Rodney managed to contextualize a broad array of African histories, rebut the various racisms and imperialist chauvinisms - that are still with us today - and collate all this within a clear theory of historical patterns/trends towards African independence. Maybe my favorite choice is each chapter concluding not with a tsunami of end notes to cross check, but with further reading suggestions. It's here you see the populist spirit of the work itself. Despite being nea ...more
Elizabeth Gabhart
I'm struggling to choose a rating for this book. When it was written in 1972, the author undoubtedly drew on cutting edge historical research, but the book seems pretty out of date now. Ditto for his romanticization of life in China, Russia, and Korea under socialism. At the time it was written, these countries portrayed a rosy portrait to the rest of the world, which modern scholars now know was bogus. In 1972, it seemed as though socialism made citizens' lives uniformly better, while capitalis ...more
Jul 02, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What's there to say about this classic of post-colonial theory except that it should be mandatory reading for everyone? Although the first two chapters of the book (which counts 6) were a bit *tedious* to get through, they do the necessary job to set the scene for the range of diverse modes of life pre-triangular trade and pre-colonial capitalist exploitation in Africa. Europe and the USA didn't fill their coffers by picking up money from trees; the riches that were appropriated were done on Afr ...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
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
Jul 21, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
DNF 12% Excruciatingly of another era. Starts from false premises, does not question that man must dominate nature and that progress follows a single inexorable path from hunting communalism to slave-owning states to feudalism to capitalisn to socialism. Permanent growth and producing for an anonymous market remain the aim while the summit of development is when the state accumulates the surplus. Among alarming postulations:

However morally indefensible slavery may have been, it did serve for a w
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have no clue why this has above a 3.0 rating. This book and the underlying logic are nonsensical. There is certainly some interesting history of African cultures, but the heart of the book is a harsh critique of capitalism (which the author conflates with colonialism) and socialism (which the author conflates with perfection).

The fact that the author lauds North Korea should be enough to demonstrate how ideologically committed he was. This is the ravings of a zealot more than a study of Europ
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.
The next time I hear someone wonder why we haven't been visited by advanced alien civilisations I'm just going to stare into their eyes and slowly hand them this book without saying anything.

Brilliantly structured and detailed, Rodney paints a vivid picture of pre-colonial Africa from a cultural, political and economic perspective, with an emphasis on the pre-capitalist economic structures that existed, followed by the arrival of Europeans and the absolute horror than ensued. If you're intereste
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is rightfully considered a classic.

Walter Rodney's examination of African underdevelopment, and the resultant development of Europe, is extremely well-done and very convincing. Crucially, he explores the fact that Africa was on a developmental trajectory of its own, both prior to the period of the slave trade and to colonization. This is a radical argument in itself, considering the vast attempts colonialists went to in order to paint Africa as "the dark continent" where history did not ta
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
Nov 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a shame that this book is edited so poorly. Please do not buy the Verso print edition of this classic ...
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
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
Paige McLoughlin
I mean it was written in the 1970s shortly after the wave of decolonization and except for changes in the cold war between core rich countries and the rise of China and its investment in Africa not much of the relation between the rich core countries and the periphery (again excluding China) hasn't changed much in Africa except again the Aids crisis and the Debt crisis which has only worked to deteriorate the situation since the shoots of optimism appeared in the decolonization era. The problems ...more
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was very good. Very matter-of-fact about a dark topic. I listened on audio and feel like I got the gist of all the arguments, but I'd like to reread on paper eventually, to understand the details better. ...more
Apr 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the most important book I've ever read and possibly ever will. It was recommended to me by a colleague who said that one of his college professors gave it to him and it changed his life—I can definitely see why. I'm so thankful to have colleagues who are willing to share their ideas with me.

Walter Rodney was a Guyanese activist and academic who was assassinated by the Guyanese government in 1980. In this incredible work, he provides an in-depth analysis of the African continent
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
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
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
It's such a shame to me that too many postcolonial ideas at the present moment are hopelessly romantic and boil everything down to ahistorical notions of a West full of BAD THINGS and a Global South full of INDIGENOUS WISDOM, without considering the complexity and economic conditions that undergird it all – little more than melanin theory with an academic pedigree. If you want to know what honest postcolonial thinking looks like – rooted in Marxist dialectic, showing how the processes of imperia ...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.
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. ...more
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.
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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, the African continent, and the Caribbean. In each locale, Rodney found himself a lightning rod for working class Black Power. His deportation catalyzed twentieth-century Jamaica’s most significant rebellion, the 1968 Rod ...more

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