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European Industrialism and Imperialism 1750-1914: Global Trades Impact on Environment & Labor Systems

*This reading is a condensed version of Clive Ponting's "Creating the Third World." From A Green History of the World the Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations, Penguin Books, 1991 Read the article, European Industrialism and Imperialism: Impact on Environment Labor Systems and Global Trade The rise of Europe in the years after 1500, from being a backward area of the world to dominate the rest of the globe not only drastically affected a whole range of ecosystems but also reshaped the relationship between different regions. Before the 16th century different areas of the world had evolved to a large extent in isolation. Although societies encountered the same basic problem of finding a balance between population, food production and damage to the environment, their interaction was very limited. In the period after 1500 European expansion triggered a process of gradual integration of the different parts of the world into a single system and created a world economy. That system was dominated by European states and the areas where extensive white settlement took place. The tropical colonies and those without substantial European settlement remained in a subordinate position. By the 19th century industrialism and western imperialism intensified the process of using the tropical colonies for resources. Europe's demand for raw materials increased and the colonies provided an ideal source of supply. A system of developed and underdeveloped states or independent and dependent states developed. The dependent countries became major producers of crops and raw materials rather than manufacturers of industrial products. Even after these countries achieved political independence, these states found it very difficult to escape from this economic system. Today these states are often referred to as Third World. The creation of the Third World was a complex process that took many centuries, but important features can be identified in the first decades of European expansion. When the Spanish and Portuguese began to expand to the islands in the Atlantic, they cleared the forest for plantation agriculture. They introduced pigs, cattle and rabbits which caused irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the islands. The new colonies were exploited for the benefit of the home economy-in the main they produced crops that could not be grown at home. The export crops took up much of the best land and largely displaced traditional subsistence agriculture. The crops were grown on plantations owned and controlled by Europeans rather than on small farms run by local peasants. The cultivation relied on European investments and large amounts of cheap labor, often times slaves. The continued growth of single crop agriculture reduced soil fertility and the susceptibility to pests because of the lack of diversity. This system was used by the Europeans as they expanded across the Atlantic into the Americas. A look at the British colony of Kenya in East Africa will help illustrate what developed. The economy and society of Kenya was completely transformed by the British between 1895 and the 1920's. Britain took the position that a colony should contribute to the overall development of the empire and produce commodities that Britain required. As white settlers moved to Kenya the best land was allocated to them. The settled Africans and the pastoral tribes were removed from the land given to the white even though as late as 1930 two thirds of the land was still not in use for agriculture. The main crops were coffee, sisal and maize. The large plantations run by the Europeans used cheap local labor. Recruitment of the labor was a problem. A variety of measures were adopted to make sure that Africans needed to work to earn money and did not remain as subsistence farmers. Both a hut and a poll tax, which had to be paid in cash, were introduced. Import duties were raise on imported goods. All Africans were required to carry passes which could only be obtained if they had a job. By 1930 the transformation of a traditional African economy into one controlled by the whites and integrated into the international economy was largely complete. Although the economies of virtually every European colony and many nominally independent countries in Latin America were drastically altered to provide the products that Europe and increasingly the U.S. required, the pace and nature of change varied from area to area. In Asia until the 19th century there were few plantations and most crops for export were grown by peasants. Then the Suez Canal opened, steamships developed, and new industrial methods developed increasing the demand for rubber and vegetable oils. To meet this, new plantations were established. They depended on imported labor-Tamils for Ceylon's tea plantations and Malaya's rubber estates, Biharis for Assam, India's main tea growing area and Chinese for Sumatra's rubber plantations. The first crop grown for Europe that transformed the environment, economies and societies of the rest of the world was sugar. Sugar grown in the Caribbean soon exhausted the soil and depended on thousands of slaves imported from

Africa. The second crop that became important in the Americas was tobacco. It was the mainstay of Virginia and Maryland and was even used as local currency. The problem was that it exhausted the soil very quickly, in three or four years, and so the frontier of the states moved steadily westwards. Cotton grew further south and west of the tobacco regions. It depended on extensive slave labor for its cultivation and harvest. Five major tribes of Indians were forcibly removed from their land and put on a reservation in Oklahoma, so more cotton could be grown. Like sugar and tobacco, continuous cotton cultivation rapidly exhausts the soil and in the first half of the 19th century cotton growing was spreading westwards. 800,000 slaves were moved into the regions. The development of plantations and the domination of the economies of Asia by the production of cash crops began in the 19th century. Here three major crops were involved-tea, rice and rubber. As tea drinking grew in popularity, in Britain so did the cultivation of tea. Tea plantations were established on the hills of Assam by clearing the forests. Tea cultivation moved into south India and Ceylon in 1870's. Harvesting the crop was very labor intensive, needing about forty people per acre per day. Many Tamil from India were taken to Ceylon, where they are now the main minority population. In the 20th century, the Tamil were favored by the British. The conflict between the Tamil and the native Sri Lankans led to a bitter civil war in the 1980's. Women were also employed by the British to pick the tea. This changed the social structure of families in the area. Rice was grown by peasants mainly for their own use or sale in local markets. The British though began growing rice for export in Burma during the 1860's. It had devastating social consequences on the Burmese peasants. The peasants couldn't compete with the corporate plantations and other landlords with access to financing. They soon became landless laborers or poverty-stricken sharecroppers permanently in debt. Like the British, the French began to produce rice for export in Indochina. They also had large estates worked by sharecroppers, kept in a position of quasi-serfs and tied to land by permanent debt. The rubber trade was small in the early 19th century. Most of the rubber was gathered in the Amazon region from wild trees. But the demand for rubber jumped considerably after the discovery of a vulcanization process which made rubber lighter, more flexible and less affected by heat and cold. The British took seeds of rubber trees to experimental plantations in Malaya so they could develop their own source of rubber. The Dutch also developed rubber plantations on Sumatra in the early 20th century. Again when there was not enough local labor, the British transferred Indian Tamil to Malaya to do the work. The Brazilian trade couldn't keep up with the plantation cultivation of rubber, so they soon dropped out of the market. The Firestone Corporation of the United States got the Liberian government to grant them a concession of 1 million acres of land at a price of .04 cents an acre so they could develop their own rubber plantations. But the development of plantations and cash crops for export were a comparatively late development in Africa. The two most important crops grown in Africa - coffee and cocoa - were originally grown elsewhere. Most of the coffee was grown in Brazil by slave and then European immigrant labor. But Britain wanted to secure its own supply of coffee, so they began to cultivate it in their East African colonies such as Kenya and Uganda. The plantations were worked with African labor, often provided as forced labor by the authorities. Cocoa was introduced into West Africa by the British to provide a useful export revenue for what until then had been relatively unproductive colonies. From the 1880's cocoa production received strong official backing plus support from British companies such as Cadbury who wanted to secure their own reliable supplies. They employed natives as seasonal laborers in some areas as sharecroppers on the foreign owned cocoa plantations. Two major plantation crops were dependent on technological innovations. The industrial revolution brought a demand for palm oil and refrigeration made it possible to develop overseas shipping of bananas. Palm oil was used as lubricant and as an ingredient in soap. The British developed the palm oil business in West Africa. By 1900 West African exports to Britain increased fifty times that of 1800 but most of the production came after 1920. Bananas were grown in Central America using Indian labor. The crop required cropping throughout the year. Only a few companies could provide the necessary financing. By the turn of century, United Fruit Company dominated the banana business and cleared rain forests to build plantations. They also controlled railroads, production, transportation, shipping and marketing of bananas. Contractors supplied the necessary laborers, who were housed in company barracks, paid a small wage and given notes to exchange for goods at inflated prices in the UFC company store. The economies of many of the Central American republics were highly dependent of this one export and UFC wielded enormous influence in the region. By the early 20th century, Europe and increasingly the United States had brought about a major transformation in the economies and societies of what is now known as the Third World. Countries which had been largely self-sufficient in food and grew crops for local markets became part of the world economy dominated by white industrialists and

imperialists. The third world countries do not control trade in the commodities they produce because multinational companies dominate processing and manufacturing. The Europeans saw the rest of the world not only as a supplier of foods and fibers, but also as a source of timber, minerals and other raw materials. By the early 19th century, Britain had almost completely destroyed the teak forests of India's Malabar Coast. By 1852 the massive forest of the Irrawaddy delta in lower Burma had been cleared. By the 1850's there was also severe depletion of the forests of the western Himalayas. After the U.S. annexed the Philippines, the Bureau of Forestry was set up for commercial logging. At that time 80% of the virgin forests were still in existence. By 1980, only one third remained. In the Ivory Coast the 30 million acres of rainforests have been reduced to about 10 million acres. Mining exploitation has also been an important factor in the creation of the Third World. In Africa the Europeans mined copper in the Congo, gold and diamonds from Rhodesia and South Africa. Not only do these mining operations damage the environment, but they upset the traditional African economy and social systems. In Liberia, four huge open cast strip mines stripped away vast quantities of top soil and rock creating huge pits and canyons. The colonials introduced poll and hut taxes that had to be paid in cash, forcing Africans to work in the mines. The native mineworkers were housed in squalid barracks, separated from their families and often working hundreds of miles away from home. The overwhelming majority of all the ores are used elsewhere. Mining is in the hands of multinational corporations and most of the profit leaves the country. Europe's demands were not just for metals, but for other ores as well. Guano was minded off islands in Chile as an organic fertilizer using Chinese indentured laborers working in dreadful conditions. Phosphate deposits in the Pacific islands of Nauru and Ocean were discovered in the early 20th century. To get to the phosphate, the vegetation was cleared and about 50 feet of top soil was stripped off leaving an uninhabitable wasteland of jagged pinnacles on which nothing would grow. By the 1980's Ocean Island had been destroyed by the mining and the deposits exhausted. The islanders had lost their home and had received only small compensation for their loss. Achievement of political independence in the Third World has not brought economic independence. Economies remain tied to the global system created by the industrialized world. The consequences of the unbalanced development had profound effects for both the industrialized world and the Third World. Political and economic control of a large part of the world's resources enabled the industrialized world to live beyond the constraints of its immediate resource base. Much of the price of that achievement was paid by the population of the Third World in the form of exploitation, poverty and human suffering.

After completing the chart, write a thesis paragraph for the following prompt: Compare industrial-imperialism by European powers in two of the following regions: Latin America South Asia Sub-Saharan Africa Southeast Asia

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