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Whether underdevelopment is a consequence of colonial legacy - Essay Example

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This paper examines the link between under-development and colonialism, looking at two countries in particular: Mauritania, which is a former French colony located in North West Africa, and India which is a former British colony located in Asia…
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Whether underdevelopment is a consequence of colonial legacy
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Superior technologies had enabled the colonial powers to seize control and many of the social processes of the western colonial powers were implanted into the colonies via missionary schools, army barracks, hospitals and local government structures which reported back to the colonial metropolis. It has been pointed out that in the later colonial phase, these colonial territories, despite efforts to make them into effective satellite states with government from a distance, suffered three main disadvantages: the administration had divided loyalties between the metropolis and the colony, it was alien and could not understand the needs of the colonised people, and because of its alien nature it lacked legitimacy and the ability fully to engage the local people in concerted and planned efforts. The governments of colonies tended to be conservative, and lacked the will to make progress. This affected both the higher echelons which had ties to the colonist country, and the subordinated local people. It is this enforced stagnation and apathy that is perhaps one of the most potent elements of the colonial legacy, and it provoked reactions ranging from violent struggle to exploitative imitation in middle years of the twentieth century as newly independent states set about connecting with their pre-colonial past and building a new post-colonial future. This paper examines the link between under-development and colonialism, looking at two countries in particular: Mauritania, which is a former French colony located in North West Africa, and India which is a former British colony located in Asia, and at some overarching effects which apply to both examples. Definitions of Underdevelopment Before turning to the examination of the two sample countries, it is important to be clear what is meant by the terms “development” and “underdevelopment”. For most people these words are related to economic and political factors like wealth, and a stable, well-governed society but some analysts, such as Sen (1994) include intangible qualities such as freedom of choice and the fostering of all kinds of human capabilities through education, travel and the flourishing of local and international cultures. A good definition of development is that it “seeks to enable people to lead full, productive, satisfying and worthwhile lives by raising their incomes and improving other components of their standard of living such as life expectancy, health, literacy, control over their own destiny, personal libertay and freedom , and as essential steps for fulfilling human rights” (Arimah, 2004, p. 400). The term underdevelopment, in the light of these wider definition, therefore means much more than widespread poverty and economic weakness, and embraces also social and cultural deficits which impact negatively on the quality of life of the population. Mauritania Fifteen of the 20 poorest countries in the world are on the African continent, (Arimah, 2004) and since this is also the continent which has most thoroughly suffered the ravages of colonial exploitation, there is a deep suspicion that the underdevelopment that we see today and the past colonial history may be causally connected. There is some debate in the literature about whether the so-called “scramble for Africa” was motivated by strategic/military considerations, or by economic ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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