The Global South: Politics, Policy & Development
POLS 3560 – Fall/Winter 2011/2012 – Ananya Mukherjee-Reed
Lecture 5 – History: Mainstream vs. Critical Perspectives – Oct 18
Why Study History?
- George Orwell – ‘Whoever controls the past controls the future and whoever
controls the present controls the past’.
History from Above
- History is the memory of states – Henry Kissinger.
o He tells the history of 19 century Europe from the viewpoint of the
leaders of Austria and England. From his standpoint, the ‘peace’ that
Europe had before the French Revolution was ‘restored’ by the diplomacy
of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in
France, coloured people in Asia and Africa, women and children
History from Below
- ‘My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must
not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and
never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family,
conceals fierce conflicts of interest between conquerors and conquered, masters
and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex.’
- The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)… is only
one aspect of a certain approach of history, in which the past is told from the
point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they…
the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading
number of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court – represent the
nation as a whole.
- ‘The pretense is that there really is such a thing as ‘The United States’, subject to
occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with
common interests. It is as if there really is a ‘national interest’ represented in the
Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the
decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education
and the mass media’.
Zinn on Columbus
- Columbus wrote – “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I
found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might
give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”
o The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He
had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to
the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the
Atlantic – the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in
order to get to the Far East.
Zinn on Las Casas
- When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says – “There were 60,000
people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over
three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future
generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness
can hardly believe it…”
Zinn on History
- “Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the
Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas –
even if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with,
as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million
as others now believe?) – is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history
books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure –
there is no bloodshed – and Columbus Day is a celebration.”
- Development and underdevelopment as simultaneous and comparative
- Exploitation as a central explanation of underdevelopment.
- The institution of slavery.
Development in Rodney’s Vision
- He argues – “Exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social
advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within
the area where the exp