How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is an ambitious masterwork of political economy, detailing the impact of slavery and colonialism on the history of international capitalism. In this classic book, Rodney makes the unflinching case that African “mal-development” is not a natural feature of geography, but a direct product of imperial extraction from the continent, a practice that continues up into the present. Meticulously researched, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa remains a relevant study for understanding the so-called “great divergence” between Africa and Europe, just as it remains a prescient resource for grasping the multiplication of global inequality today.
In this new edition, Angela Davis offers a striking foreword to the book, exploring its lasting contributions to a revolutionary and feminist practice of anti-imperialism.
“Walter Rodney’s magisterial opus is recognized globally as a landmark in African studies, not to mention the history of colonialism and imperialism. Beautifully written and expertly argued, it is that rare book that can be called a classic. It belongs on every bookshelf.”
“This book is a legendary classic that galvanized freedom fighters around the world.”
“Walter Rodney was a pioneering scholar who provided new answers to old questions and posed new questions in relation to the study of Africa.”
“This classic work of black political thought, political economy, and Africa history inspired scholars and political activists in the struggle against colonialism and its misrepresentations of the past. I applaud this reissue, which should bring Rodney’s prescient analysis to a new generation struggling from below, in whose hands, he would have reminded us, is no less than the future of humankind.”
“Appearing in 1972, HEUA was a genuine tour de force. It fused, as had never been done in a single volume before, African history in the global sense and underdevelopment theory, Marxism and black nationalism, intellectual passion and political commitment. HEUA instantly joined a select pan-Africanist canon that would be read at least as much outside as within the academy, an exclusive category that included the two texts that had greatly influenced Rodney’s intellectual development, notably James’s Black Jacobins and Williams’s Capitalism & Slavery, along with Black Reconstruction, W. E. B. Dubois’s magisterial work on the struggle for democracy in the United States during the post-Civil War, post-slavery era. HEUA, however, differed from the above-mentioned works, which were written long after the events they charted occurred. HEUA, by contrast, was more urgent and immediate, having been produced in the heat of battle, which is to say amid the ongoing struggle of Africans against capitalist and neocolonialist underdevelopment. His purpose in writing the book, Rodney explained in the Preface, was “to try and reach Africans who wish to explore further the nature of their exploitation, rather than to satisfy the ‘standards’ set by our oppressors and their spokesmen in the academic world.”