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White Settlers

"...the most striking and immediate effect of the spread of European settlement beyond the boundaries of Europe itself was its lethal impact on indigenous peoples and societies."

"The most sophisticated and advanced society in the western world ?" - You may be surprised - read on.

"The history of the spread of European settlement falls into two phases - internal expansion followed by external colonization - which can be seen as part of a single process driven by the same sort of pressures. The combined impact of these two movements has in effect formed the modern world. They transformed Europe from being one of the more backward societies in the world, which was the case until at least the fifteenth century, into the most advanced, able and willing not merely to influence the pace and nature of development elsewhere, but also through a variety of means, to impose radical changes on the rest of the world. These changes involved the way people thought about the world round them, the use of natural resources and the exploitation of much of the rest of the world for the benefit of Europeans. The effects are still being experienced worldwide. But the most striking and immediate effect of the spread of European settlement beyond the boundaries of Europe itself was its lethal impact on indigenous peoples and societies. The sequence of events set in train by the arrival of the Europeans despite differences in the native cultures and the country of origin of the settlers, reveals a consistent pattern. If events are interpreted in term of the spreading of European culture, the opening up of new territories and the building of global empires, then it may be seen as a story of success. If the focus is on what happened to the people, the land and th environment generally, then it is an altogether different story.

"For most of history, Europe, apart from the Mediterranean area, was a backwater. The earliest gathering and hunting groups only settled the area intermittently and at the height of the last ice age, when the people living in south-west France were producing their great cave paintings be local population was probably no more than 10,000, with perhaps 100,000 in the whole of Europe, about five per cent of the world' population. The development of agriculture took place outside Europe and only spread there thousands of years later. The first settled societies emerged in Mesopotamia and Egypt and it was only at a much later stage that complex, hierarchical societies emerged in Europe. Even then they remained concentrated around the Mediterranean - Minoa Crete, Mycenae, the city states of Greece and their colonies, the empires of Alexander and his successors, the Etruscans and the Carthaginians. Only with the rise of Rome did these more advanced societies begin to control northern and western Europe, away from the Mediterranean. Even with the development of agriculture the population of this peripheral area remained small - perhaps three million people in France, about half that number in Germany and only a few hundred thousand in Britain. At the height of the Roman empire around 200 AD, the total population of Europe was about 28 million (compared with almost twice that figure in both China and India) but a quarter of that total lived in Italy, which was then still the centre of the empire.

"The collapse of the Roman empire in the west and the loss of control over north and west Europe to Germanic invaders meant a continuation of the Mediterranean area (especially the eastern part) as the core of the late empire and the successor Byzantine state. The rise of Islam and the establishment of the Omayyad empire (stretching from western India to southern Spain) as the most sophisticated and advanced society in the western world reinforced this trend. Northern and western Europe remained a backward region of thinly spread peasant farmers living in tribal groups and forming part of small, primitive kingdoms. The empire of Charlemagne (at its height around 800) was short-lived and western Europe was again overrun by new waves of settlers and raiders - the Vikings and Hungarians. Only in a few places - the lle-de-France, England, Flanders and the western parts of Germany - did more effective political entities slowly begin to emerge in the tenth a eleventh centuries.

"Early medieval Europe was still a vast wilderness with a scattering of small, largely self-sufficient villages which had only very limited outside contacts. At most there were about 36 million people in the year 1000, perhaps 5 million of them in France and 4 million in Germany. England had about 1 1/2 million people (equivalent to one large city today); its most densely inhabited county (Norfolk) had a population about 100,000 while others such as Kent, Hampshire, Sussex a Wiltshire had 40,000 (the equivalent of a modern country town) and western and northern parts of the country were even more thinly populated....."

Would that it were still so


Clive Ponting, a senior civil servant, exposed spying activities at the US/UK communications eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, (they're probably scanning this email right now!) He was charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act. He got off. It is less well known that he's an excellent historian, and author of several insightful books. The excerpt above is from "A Green History of the World" (opening of Chapter 7, 'The Spread of European Settlement") ISBN 0-14-017660-8

Fritz Schumacher, author of "Small is Beautiful," a mindblowing book dripping with Ghandian wisdom, was also a British senior civil servant - chief economist in the nationalised coal industry.


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