Before a bomb ended his life in the summer of 1980, Walter Rodney had created a powerful legacy. This pivotal work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, had already brought a new perspective to the question of underdevelopment in Africa. His Marxist analysis went far beyond previously accepted approaches and changed the way both third world development and colonial history are studied.
Few books have been as influential in understanding African impoverishment as this groundbreaking analysis. Rodney shows how the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, bear major responsibility for impoverishing Africa. They have been joined in this exploitation by agents or unwitting accomplices both in the North and in Africa.
With oppression and liberation his main concern, he ‘delves into the past’, as he says in his preface, ‘only because otherwise it would be impossible to understand how the present came into being … In the search for an understanding of what is now called “underdevelopment” in Africa, the limits of inquiry have had to be fixed as far apart as the fifteenth century, on the one hand, and the end of the colonial period, on the other hand.’ He argues that ‘African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system, which has been the principal agency of underdevelopment of Africa over the last five centuries’.
Although first published in 1972, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa remains an essential introduction to understanding the dynamics of Africa’s contemporary relations with the West and is a powerful legacy of a committed thinker. The book is an excellent introductory study for the student who wishes to better understand the dynamics of Africa s contemporary relations with the West.
Praise for How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
“Rodney’s classic study of the impact of European capitalism on the continent of Africa continues to provoke, inspire, and educate – it resonates more than ever before.” —Angela Davis
“Walter Rodney was one of the first solidly ideologically situated intellectuals ever to look colonialism and exploitation in the eye and where necessary, spit in it.” –Wole Soyinka
This book derives from a concern with the contemporary African situation. It delves into the past only because otherwise it would be impossible to understand how the present came into being and what the trends are for the near future. In the search for an understanding of what is now called “underdevelopment” in Africa, the limits of enquiry have had to be fixed as far apart as the fifteenth century, on the one hand and the end of the colonial period, on the other hand.
Ideally, an analysis of underdevelopment should come even closer to the present than the end of the colonial period in the 1960s. The phenomenon of neo-colonialism cries out for extensive investigation in order to formulate the strategy and tactics of African emancipation and development. This study does not go that far, but at least certain solutions are implicit in a correct historical evaluation, just as given medical remedies are indicated or contra-indicated by a correct diagnosis of a patient’s condition and an accurate case-history. Hopefully, the facts and interpretation that follow will make a small contribution towards reinforcing the conclusion that African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system, which has been the principal agency of underdevelopment of Africa over the last five centuries.
from the Preface by Walter Rodney
Read How Europe Underdeveloped Africa online here.