Monday, 3 October 2016

Oppression and subjugation in human history are not a feature of European (white) conquerors alone; Asian conquerors too have been similar

Given below is a comment exchange I had on a Facebook post,, recently.

Ravi S. Iyer wrote: The reality of British rule over India was exploitation of India like how many conquerors exploit the conquered. If some good was done by the British to India it was incidental. Their main motive was exploitation and loot. As simple as that. .... The 13 colonies of the USA that revolted against British rule revolted due to similar reasons! So, in that sense, India and the USA share a common bond of exploitation in the past by Great Britain!

Shubha Ramesh Kumar wrote (slightly edited): But even before that Ravi S. Iyer the indigenous people of America were fighting against the white man and lost the battle. The colonial fight that took place a century later was white man against white man for supremacy. Our fight against the British on the other hand was a native fight against the white man. They did everything to break ou(r) back but we made it out..

Ravi S. Iyer wrote (slightly edited): Well, yes, the Europeans overcame and completely dominated the Native Americans. Later they became British colonies in America seeking independence and fought the British (and won the war using French help as France was an enemy of Britain then).

In the case of the European colonization of Asia or another form of control over Asia (e.g. China which did not get colonized but suffered from European dominance in other ways, I believe), the Europeans could not completely dominate most of Asia, including India, as Asians had been great powers before the Europeans mastery over the sea and industrial revolution propelled them to become the new great powers. Eventually Asia started bouncing back after a period of around two centuries of decline, sometime in the mid-twentieth century.

While it is true that perhaps from around the eighteenth century onwards till around the mid twentieth century, Europeans (white people) dominated many other (native) people, including India, I think human history is full of such dominance of conquerors over the conquered. Under the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphates, parts of Europe (white peoples) came under the rule of Baghdad (Asia) based rulers. The Mongol hordes (from Central Asia) brought Eastern Europe (including many parts of Russia as well as Ukraine) under their rule. Thirteenth century world political maps show the tremendous area from the east coast of China upto Kiev (Ukraine), that the Mongol empire (and their allies) had under their control. Perhaps no world power including Greek and Roman empires at their zenith were as big as the Mongol empire, with the exception perhaps of the British empire at its zenith in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. [ states that the Mongol empire, 13th/14th century, was the largest contiguous land empire in history. In this few seconds animated image, one can see its maximum extent in the year 1279,]

I mentioned the above just to show that it is not really a particular feature of white people alone, according to history, to dominate other peoples. Asians (non-whites) have also done the same in past centuries.

Shubha Ramesh Kumar wrote: Thanks brother. It's a great discussion. Oppression, subjugation, are as old as civilization itself I suppose but i think the only point I was trying to make in the case was about an entire native population that was moved, driven away, curtailed and reduce to literally nothing in their own land, and the land turned around to suit the needs of the invader, that is a fete only the Caucasian man has the distinction of achieving in recent human history. The Mongols for all their might, and even the Caliphate in the dark ages couldn't wipe out entire sects of humans. But the white man did it in the Americas as well as Australia. And I always think but for our strong faith, and our spiritual strength and large numbers that would have been the fate of us as a country too. In America they introduced diseases deliberately to debilitate the natives among other things. For us these tactics to cause famine and for the Chinese they introduced opium which caused a serious epidemic and havoc but they didn't win the war here.. that's all I was trying to say. They couldn't kill Gandhi for all they tried Ravi S. Iyer

Ravi S. Iyer I agree that North America (USA and Canada too I guess) has the unusual situation where the native American population were so marginalized (through defeat, killings and herding into reservations, I guess) that majority of USA population became whites and their black slaves (Canada perhaps had only whites and did not have black slaves), in a perhaps short period of time after whites colonized North America. That perhaps has happened additionally only in Australia and New Zealand; nowhere else in the world. Even South America did not come under such wholesale takeover by white conquerors/colonizers like North America.

Now about why that happened in North America but not in countries in South America or Africa or Asia that came under European (white) colonial rule: I don't know much about the North America case. But my guess is that the Native Americans were too sparsely popoulated in the land, and that they did not have anything like kingdoms or sultanates that Asia had.

The British were militarily superior to then Indian sultans and kings in terms of technology, war strategy and battle tactics. But with their significantly smaller number they could rule India only through plots of one ruler against another, and then becoming kingmakers of the new ruler. Essentially, they needed Indian natives in their armies and in their administrative workforce to run the show. [BTW in case you are interested in uncensored details (as against censored history that we were taught in (Indian) school) about British conquest of India, you may want to have a browse through a long post of mine, Role of Indian Quislings in British conquest of India; De-industrialization of India after 1750; Re-emergence of India (and China),]

It was quite similar for other foreign conquerors who came to India like the Mughals and Turkic rulers from Central Asia. These Muslim rulers could never convert whole of India to Islam like they had done in the countries to the West of India!!! This shows how resilient significant portion of the Hindu (as well as Jain & Buddhist & other religions) population of India was to Islamic conquest extending to them changing their religion. So successful Islamic rulers of large parts of India like Akbar had to adopt a tolerant view of Hindus and even employ many Hindus in his army and administration.

It is the ancient advanced civilization of India along with its large population size (even then, as compared to invader population size) and with its history and culture of kingdoms (Hindu, Jain, Muslim) that would have been the vital barrier for the British (or the French, Portuguese or Dutch) to have attempted anything similar to what they did in North America. As a corollary, perhaps, it is North American natives lack of advanced civilization with its accompanying kingdoms, and the low size of Native American population in the USA, that allowed the European settlers to demographically dominate over the Native Americans in a relatively short period of time.

Perhaps another vital point is that the European settlers were not properly organized like East India Company in India. East India Company was answerable to the British Crown and even British Parliament, I believe. Whereas the settlers would have been without any such accountability. That may have led to indiscriminate killings/elimination of Native Americans who threatened them. I have the impression that guns in the hands of civilians have played a vital role in the colonization of the USA. Native Americans fighting with arrows against settlers armed with guns would have usually been a horrible massacre of the former.

In terms of cruelty by conquerors, however, I think few empires/peoples can match the cruelty of the Mongols under leaders like Genghiz Khan. Their sacking of cities and towns that defied them is legendary for the terror and brutality they displayed.

Also, some of the medieval age battles between West Asian Muslims and European Christians including the crusades, were horrific in their cruelty. I think West Asians perhaps were as cruel as Europeans in these wars.

I have read some horror stories of how some European settlers did terrible things to Native Americans who were fighting them. But perhaps it was not as bad as how some European settlers treated black slaves. I mean, I don't know of Native American slaves of European settlers in the USA.

Shubha Ramesh Kumar wrote (slightly edited): Yes i do think that was vital, the fact that we as a nation [Ravi: Shubha lives in the USA and so I think is referring to the USA here] were a far more advanced civilization as compared to the natives. They were in large numbers too if I am not wrong, but the country by itself is large, the expanse so vast and the various tribes not well connected owing to geographical barriers and boundaries.
Thanks for your great explanation, one can never learn enough.. Ravi S. Iyer

Ravi S. Iyer wrote: Thanks for the discussion Shubha Ramesh Kumar and your views about the matter. Of course, my views could have flaws. In particular, as I mentioned earlier, I do not know much about Native American (North American) history especially in the context of their fight with/resistance to the European colonizers.

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