The study of history is the study of change over time Essay
The study of history is the study of change over time
Soils of America and other places of the world speak volumes of the breath taking accords and blood streaming accounts of travelers, explorers, pilgrims, discoverers, traders etc. from several places across Europe cutting across the vagaries of oceans to pay their own way for new avenues and opportunities seemed to be waiting for them. Efforts to make their permanent settlements after their long and arduous journey into the lands of America and other places across oceans bore the testament to the beginning of new profound but “conflicting” relationships between them and non Europeans which time and again saw several changes.
This essay will explore in depth the vicious account of 1620 when Pilgrims dropped their anchor at Plymouth, their efforts to settle in the land previously occupied by Native Indians and their relations with them from the vivid account of Nathaniel Philbrick in his “Mayflower.” And in comparison to it, the brutalities, atrocities and exploitation of King Leopold II of Belgium on the slaves and other natives of Central Africa in King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild. Exploitation of slaves in the name of development was the hallmark of the social and political construes of the colonies established by Europeans.
Hothschild found that “The nineteenth century European drive for possessions in Africa, the moral rationalization of the “civilizing” mission was used to justify colonialism” (Nolan, online), and the biggest example of this moment was the formation of Leopol’s International African Association (IAA) in 1876. This association was the result of the conference held by famous explorers in Brussels. The conference was opened by King Leopold speech, “To open to civilization the only part of our globe which it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the darkness which hangs over entire peoples, is, I dare say, a crusade worthy of this century of progress….” (Hothschild, 44)
The main aim of the conference was the abolishment of Arab slave trade, securing peace among the chiefs, and negotiations justly and impartially, but in contrast to it Leopold assigned Henry Morton Stanley to study and explore interiors of Congo. He said, “I’m sure if I quite openly charged Stanley with the task of taking possession in my name of some part of Africa, the English will stop me… So I think I’ll just give Stanley some job of exploration which would offend no one, and will give us the bases and headquarters which we can take over later on.” (Hothschild, 58)
He studied in detail the types of colonialism of Dutch East Indies, British form of colonizing of India and Africa. He was greatly inspired by the book “Java or How to Manage a Colony, by English lawyer JWB Money”, because it gave him techniques for various forms of exploitations in vast colonies. This made Leopold to establish his position on importance of forced labor, whereby he said, “Forced labor is the only way to civilize and uplift these indolent and corrupt peoples of the Far East.” (Hothschild, 37)
Between the years 1885 to 1908, there were around five to eight million labors under the barbaric rule and terror of Leopold. When Hochschild himself read about these acts of barbarism, he was forced to rebuke at his ignorance of horrors of such a magnitude. From then on the account that Hochschild provided made King Leopold’s Ghost as an articulate historical version of the slavery that would always remain a brutal wound in the heart of history.
In introduction only Hochschild said, “…unlike other great predators of history, from Genghis Khan to the Spanish conquistadors, King Leopold II never saw a drop of blood spilt in anger. He never set foot in the Congo. There is something very modern about that, too, as there is about the bomber pilot in the stratosphere, above the clouds, who never hears screams or sees shattered homes or torn flesh.” (Hochschild, 4)
As compared to it, “Mayflower” is a struggle of pilgrims to create place for themselves in Plymouth and maintain cordial relationship with native Americans. It is on one hand tragic and on the other hand heroic and profound. Nathaniel Philbrick gave a live account while on his research for Mayflower of 102 passengers who landed at Prince town harbor in 1620 only to be welcomed by the wilderness of the place and was greeted by future governor William Bradford. There were very few trees and no man in site, as they were virtually wiped out by the series of plague and when Pilgrims reached there they only found whitened bones of the dead people lying scattered along the shoreline.
From this place, Pilgrims decided to settle and began their new life but it was not easy for them. They not only had to face physical challenges but also attitude of contention and bitter animosity from the locals who considered them as strangers. Only Wampanoag chief Massasoit was the person to help them without whom their survival would not have been possible at all. More than half of English settlers died and few that survived observed their first anniversary with Thanksgiving feast.
But as and as population of English increased, natives felt more threatened and there arose new kind of wars between the two. In 1675, Philip, son of Massasoit’s struck against the English settlers, which came to be known as King Philip’s war. The effect of war soon began to be felt by English settlers in other parts too and soon more than half of the towns were burned or vacated.
The war lasted for fourteen months but was considered as bloodiest than civil war. More than 5000 out of total population of 70,000 were killed, but in the end there was victory of pilgrims. Though never a close bond existed between the English and natives yet they negotiated with each other to maintain peaceful coexistence, but greediness took over the next generation.
The day Pilgrims landed at Plymouth to this day is celebrated as Thanksgiving Holy Day as gesture to Native Indians for their help and food that they shared with their ancestors.
As soon as pilgrims established their settlements on Plymouth, immigration from other European states began at a much larger scale. Between the years 1815-1860, 1865-1890 and between 1890-1914, more than five million immigrants especially from English, Irish, Germanic, Scandinavian, and from northwestern Europe had already made their bases in America. And between 1890-1914, 15 million Turkish, Lithuanian, Russian, Jewish, Greek, Italian and Romania came with the lure of the greener pastures. (Schultz, 1999) The direct effect of civilization was the supply cheap labor that gave boost to the economy.
With the immigration economic and social conditions of America began to take a new shape and when Industrial revolution began to show signs of promises of better life for all, there was the growth of middle class. By the end of civil war and 1910, more than 25 million people from as far as Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Lithuania, Romania were associating themselves with rural Americans for jobs and many new opportunities. They brought with them their own varied culture and religious practices and made their presence felt in every arena of social and economic activities and democracy was taken by immigrants in an enthusiastic spirit.
K. Schultz said, “They would often fell into deep emotions and tears fell down their cheeks when they would set their eyes at her. European immigrants would cry with happiness at the thought of escaping autocratic regimes and entering into an egalitarian, democratic society; and those who were evading famines and poverty would weep at the thought of riches and an easy life that they were expecting in store for them. He further said, ‘To all of them, Lady Liberty symbolized a new beginning’”. (Schultz, 1999)
By the end of 1990, the population of United States had already touched 75,994,575 mark and despite of restrictions by the Government on immigration processes, settlers had laid their basis in the American soils and intermingled with the contemporary social culture of America. As said by Evert Louhi in 1925, “American Civilization, and of all civilizations, in the past, today and forever.” (Hoglund, 146) He further stated that, “Their descendents were the first real Americans.” (Hoglund, 146)
On the other side is the grim picture of Africa shown by Adam Hochschild. When America was on a development stage, Africa was being more colonized. When in 1890 there was a rubber boon- result of John Dunlop’s invention of bicycle tyre, Leopard took advantage of the situation and soon occupied vast stretches of rubber lands of Africa and initiated a brutal system of forced labor.
Troops would make their entry into the villages, hold children and women hostages to the point of time till men would bring their share of rubber. The extent of the brutality can be clearly reflected in these lines. “A whip of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp-edged cork-screw strip.” (Hochschild, 120) Rape, murder, death and exploitations reduced the population of Congo to half and brought Leopold a fortune of more than $1 billion.
Black American evangelist George Shappard, Edward Dene Morel and Roger Casement showed their grave resentment and strived to bring the atrocites of Leopald in front of the world. He got the Congo Protest Resolution passed in the British Parliament in May 1903, still atrocities continued and when Leopold died, he left behind totally devastated Congo.
The European and American history is a history of colonizers over colonized and a legacy of temperaments and attitude of Europeans towards their Native neighbors. Both American and Africa culminated into the colonies of the Europeans powers though with slight deviations. In America, Europeans occupied the Native lands and Pilgrims who were the early settlers tried to maintain their relationship with natives though not cordial, but in Africa it was total subjugation of the European powers. Blacks were turned to slaves, caught and brought to America to work on the plantations in America.
The legacy of the relationship between Europeans and non-Europeans brought before us one crucial aspect – exploitation in the name of progress and development. Europeans who were considered to be the most civilized societies went on development spree at the cost of other ethnic races belonging to different origins and races. The Oxford English dictionary defined “Civilization as advanced state of human society” (History Guide, online edition) but when we look at the history of the man as shown by Nathaniel Philbrick, we are raised with the questions, Civilization as in comparison to what?
Is it to sow the seeds of barbarism to cultivate civilization? If we look at our history, we will see that the history of world is also the history of immigration-immigration for the lure of greener pastures. The discoveries by anthropologists on the remains of the human beings in the past few decades also revealed the fact that immigration had been a continuous process since centuries –and the basis of the whole relationship between the Europeans and Non Europeans is based on immigration. The immigrants began to feel the alien lands as their own and from there began their scourge journey of life towards exploitation to get richer resources the lands provided.
But with the promises of democracy and easy life with dreams of riches, immigrants themselves began to witness numerous hardships in the name of caste, religion, sex and their ethnic origin. The pilgrims who had rooted the deeper roots in America with their toil and blood soon became the land of several races and religions but the Native Americans who were original residents of America were disgruntled lot. They too had to bear the burnt of slavery, subjugation and racism in the name of development.
Africa’s picture was different. This place was never able to see the development and economic progress. Its economy was devastated. America was flourishing and Africa was languishing with poor fatigued people and so as other colonies of the world occupied by Europeans.
Hochschild, Adam. “King Leopold’s Ghost—A story of greed, terror and heroism in colonial Africa.” Mariner Books, 1998.
Hoglund, Arthur William. “Finnish Immigrants in America, 1880-1920” New Hampshire: Ayer Company, 1979.
Nolan, Stuart. Belgium’s imperialist rape of Africa. Internet (6 September1999) http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/sep1999/king-s06_prn.shtml, April 11, 2008.
Povell, M. The History of Vietnamese Immigration. American Immigration Law Foundation
Internet (Last updated June 2, 2005) Available: http://www.ailf.org/awards/benefit2005/vietnamese_essay.shtml, April 11, 2008.
Schultz, S. K. 1999. Foreign Immigrants in Industrial America. Internet. Available: March 30,: http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/lectures/lecture08.html, April 11, 2008.