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World Development


Scope of the Investigation

Colonialism is a form of temporally extended domination by people over other people and as such part of the historical universe of forms of intergroup domination, subjugation, oppression and exploitation (cf. Horvath 1972). From a world-systems perspective, much of the history of the capitalist world-economy is a history of colonialism, consisting of repeated and more or less successful attempts by the core to create a periphery, to control it politically in order to exploit it economically (cf. Sanderson 2005: 186f). Both the capitalist and precapitalist world-systems have had colonial empires (Chase-Dunn/Hall 1997: 210).

However, we are interested in the specific impact of European, US-American and Japanese colonialism in its heyday between mid-19th and mid-20th century, of what Bergesen/Schoenberg have identified as the second wave of colonial expansion and contraction . This wave centered on “Africa, India, Asia and the Pacific” and thus on the area which is in the focus of this research project (Bergesen/Schoenberg 1980: 253). This is the period of extension and intensification of colonial domination during which „colonial economic development took a new direction. The extensive penetration of Western commodities, organization, and control ushered in the era of the export economy, during which colonialism reached its peak.“ (Birnberg/Resnick 1975: 3). P

Colonialism and Empiries

There is no clear borderline between traditional empire-building, as it has taken place on all continents since thousands (or at least hundreds) of years, and ‘modern’ colonialism. It evolves from the conquest of neighboring groups/entities to extract tribute on a regular basis (in contrast to occasional raiding) or to incorporate territories permanently and taxing their population. Many historians see the crusades as “the first chapter in the history of western colonialism” (Lerner et al. 1998: 322f; cf. Prawer 1972).

Curtin (1990:3) argues that Europe’s involvement in the “plantation complex” leading to the transatlantic slavery-based economy of the 17/18th centuries started when it encountered sugar in the Eastern Mediterranean at the times of the crusades. Boswell (1989) has shown that colonial expansion from 17th century on followed long-term economic and political trends; it slowed down during periods of economic expansion and unicentric hegemony in the europe-centered world-system. The Mughal empire in Northern/Central India, the Ottoman empire in Western Asia and Northern Africa, the Chinese empire in Central and Southern Asia, the Mongols and Manchu in China, they all used methods of domination and exploitation that were only gradually different from colonialism. The Omanis competed with the Portuguese in the control of the East African coast and used typical colonial methods on the island of Zanzibar (export-oriented plantations based on slave work; Sheriff 1987). However, we focus on ‘modern’ colonialism as developed in 19th century by European powers because of its clearly stronger economic and social trans-formatory power, its broader impact and because it is this type of colonialism which has shaped the world before mid-20th century.

Our Approach

Our sample is broadly defined as the parts of the modern world-system which were under colonial control in the 19th/20th century. More precisely, it consists, as in the previous research mentioned above, of 83 actual countries of Africa, Asia and Oceania (43 African, 36 Asian and 4 Oceanian countries; see Table 1.1). These countries contained around 90% of the population under colonial rule in 1920.