Colonial Exploits

In the middle of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, more specifically in the year 1800, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Europe and America taken together, was around 28 per cent of the Gross Product of the world; while the GDP of those countries which are now the impoverished Third World countries, was over 70 per cent. The Indian sub-continent alone, accounted for some 20 per cent of the world GDP in 1800. The fact is that these two centuries were centuries of development in some parts of the world and centuries of de-development in some other parts of the globe. There has been a major relocation of the world’s wealth. The World Development Report for 2000 presents a very alarming picture. At the end of the 20th century, countries making 18 per cent of the population of the world (22 developed countries) own 87 per cent of the world product. The remaining 82 per cent of the world population (167 countries) have to live on just 13 per cent of the world output. And the share of these 82 per cent is shrinking every year. There is a net transfer of resources from the poor countries of the world towards the rich. Enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor has become the predicament of mankind and the greatest threat to humanity’s future.

In the making of this situation a lot of responsibility lies on our own shoulders. However, historical facts and realities have to be acknowledged and addressed too. We have to realize that under the menacing shadows of colonialists, both capitalist and socialist, exploitative, unjust and hegemonistic systems were imposed on the entire world. There is no denying the fact that while economic aggrandizement, political conquests and wars of aggression (i.e. some countries conquering and dominating other countries and vast areas) have always been there in history, yet it is only during the era of European Colonization that for the first time in human history such a large-scale transfer of resources and wealth from the rest of the world to certain limited areas. If you look into Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, you will find that this Western historian confesses that the nature of imperialism during the last few centuries had been qualitatively different from earlier ages of foreign rule, because during this period we find a large scale transfer of wealth and resources, almost re-distribution of world resources to the benefit of the foreign rulers. Colonies were exploited to enrich the so-called mother country. This has taken place not merely in the form of monetary assets. Gold and funds were not the only vehicles of transfer. Human beings were also used as chattels. It started with ‘golden fleece’, developed in the form of trade and transfer of physical resources, strengthened and fortified by the slave trade, indentured labor, and child trafficking and is now being perfected in the name of globalization, liberalization and the slavery of institutional debt. Slavery does not have just one prototype: it has many faces and assumes multiple profiles.

Source: Contemporary Economic Challenges and Islam, Khurshid Ahmed. Republished with permission.
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