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Peoples and empires: a short history of european migration, exploration, and conquest, from greece to the present

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Peoples and Empires: A Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece to the Present A Book Review Written by Anthony Pagden, a renowned historian, the book generally talks about how the European empire had influenced the rest of the world. This influence is actually grounded upon three significant political acts — migration, exploration, and conquest. As presented in the book, due to migration, the Europeans were able to explore the other areas of the world. Upon the discovery that these parts are weak and uncivilized, they then opted for conquest. As explained in the book, conquest was seen by the Europeans as the easiest and practical way to assimilate others into their society. To elucidate the aforementioned events, Pagden never fails to mention persons of historical significance and their respective contributions to the European imperial rule. In another aspect, to have a complete grasp of the European influence, Pagden starts his historical account from the ancient period of Greece up to the present time. As cited in the book, the West is the modern equivalent of the European empire. As such, he uses the phrase Western influence to refer to the modern version of imperialism. Worthy of praise is also his clear description of the period and place of each historical episode. Compared to other history books which are lengthy and verbose, Pagden’s Peoples and Empires is short, but clear and concise. The book actually begins with two stories quoted from Jorge Luis Borges The Story of the Warrior and the Captive. The first story tells about Droctulft, a Lombard conqueror, while the second one mentions an English grandmother who encountered a woman of her own breed raised by Indians. The inclusion of these two stories is for a purpose; the author, Pagden, wants his readers to have a brief and sound background of his main argument. He actually believes that European imperialism had been so extensive that it was able to influence many of the world’s territories. In such case, Pagden reveals that he wrote the book for the purpose of exploring the different aspects of imperialism. Notably, the two stories reflect the cause and effect of colonization. The story of Droctulft suggests that the desire to expand one’s territorial jurisdiction is the major motive behind imperialistic acts. On the other hand, the story of Borges’s grandmother imparts the fact that people during the Early Modern period often associated civilization to cities; this is to say that, wanderers like the Indians are uncivilized people. Most of the author’s interesting claims are found in the introductory part of the book; for instance, Pagden argues that the term empire connotes the cruel exploitation of defenseless and technologically unsophisticated colonies and dependencies (Pagden xxi). He qualifies this argument by describing Europe as the most advanced society during the colonial period. Given that fact, it was easy for the Europeans to conquer the other parts of the world such as America, Asia, and Australia (Pagden xxi). Also, worthy of attention is Pagden’s statement that although empires restrict freedom, those however give unexpected opportunities (Pagden xxiv). To support this finding, he then cites the observation of Jawaharlal Nehru saying that, imperialism somehow widens the mental horizon of colonized societies (Pagden xxiv). The first part of the book gives a plausible narration regarding the origin of imperialism. It says that the interest of making an empire began in ancient Greece (Pagden 4). It then mentions Alexander the Great, the emperor to have introduced the idea of conquest. The book reveals that Alexander was able to convince his people about the importance of territorial expansion and civilization. In a sense, this revelation suggests that, power has always been associated to the vastness of one’s territory and sufficient degree of civilization. This part of the book goes on to mention Alexander’s justification of the creation of more cities. For him, in order for the people of a certain territory to be civilized, they have to embrace the ways of the Greeks. Offering such belief, Alexander eventually colonized the following empires: Persia, Anatolia, Phoenicia, Gaza, Bactrian, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, Judea, and the borders of a province called Punjab (Sajjadi). The seventh and eight chapters of the book are interrelated. The seventh chapter introduces the idea that the Hapsburgs and the Roman land-based empires were the empires of liberty and trade; however, these commercial empires highly exploited slave labor as mentioned in chapter 8 (Cahners Business Information). With the influence of Rome expanding to most parts of America, slavery became popular. Many slave Indians were transported from British West Indies to other British colonies. As further mentioned, slavery was only stopped after America and the other British colonies were granted independence. Works Cited Cahners Business Information. “Editorial Review.” Rev. of Peoples and Empires: A Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece to the Present, by Anthony Pagden, 2001. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. . Pagden, Anthony. Peoples and Empires: A Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece to the Present. 2001. New York: Modern Library, 2003. Print. Sajjadi, Sara. “Peoples and Empires by Anthony Pagden.” American Studies. American Studies, 9 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Jul. 2011. .

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