French Colonization the Eurocentric Perspective vs The Revisionist Perspective Term Paper

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French Colonization: The Eurocentric Perspective vs. The Revisionist perspective

Colonization takes place when some people staunchly believe that the culture they are a part of and the lifestyle they follow is better, beneficial and therefore must be adopted by those that have a foreign feeling towards theirs. As Some comments in his magnum opus, Of Water and the Spirit, while explaining what happens under 'colonization',

Colonization begins from a feeling of superiority in Western, in this case exclusively European, countries; they believe in their right to own the land inhabited by others. A secondary but nonetheless important assumption under colonialism is the belief that the European culture is better, more productive and beneficial to its members. Hence it is justified in the minds of the colonizers that they enter a foreign land, displace the indigenous peoples from their homes and strip them of their cultures. Despite the fact that these cultures, with their accompanying rituals, traditions and religions, have been established for millennia, the colonizers maintain a belief that these cultures are backward, inferior and somehow harmful to their members. It is "for their own good" that these indigenous peoples are divided like spoils of war amongst colonizing nations... (Sullivan)

And thus, the history as well as the world witnessed various forms of the process of colonization among which French colonization is one. The French after losing the coast of Atlantic to the Spanish and English tied down all their hopes for survival to the "Mississippi River stretching south to the Gulf of Mexico" (French Colonization). This is because, the river side promised hope to the French to carry out trade of fur from there with minimum competition from both the English and the Spanish since the former was busy extracting advantages from the east coast while the latter was prepossessed with reaping benefits that Florida and Mexico offered. Thus, in the late seventeenth century, the French settlements began to emerge on the map of the world alongside the Mississippi River after the "reconnaissance missions by Jolliet and Marquette in 1673 and LaSalle and Tonti in the 1680s" (French Colonization). The settlements termed as the "American Bottoms" established a regular and cordial relationship with the French paving way for the foundation of New Orleans in the year 1718. In 1731, the town of Cahokia transmuted into a "full time settlement." "By 1752 a census revealed the French population of Cahokia to be about 136 people (Belting 1948:13-39). In 1766, the population had grown to about 500 people (Beck 1823:95)" (French Colonization). The pragmatic and conventional French settlement in this town revealed a great deal about the French architecture and French ways of living. "Traditionally, it conformed to the system of villages with common fields that was transplanted from France. It allowed the immigrants to share in a common culture and religion" (French Colonization). Pragmatically, this concentrated settlement offered protection against intrusion by other Europeans and Indians. This French culture was evident in the houses that existed on the soil of these settlements, the structure of which has been described by Governor Ford, in the following words:

The French houses were mostly built of hewn timber set upright in the ground, or upon plates laid upon a wall, the intervals between the upright pieces being filled with stone and mortar. Scarcely any of them were more than one story high with a porch on one or two sides, and sometimes all around, with low roofs extending with slopes of different steepness from the comb in the centre to the lowest part of the porch. These houses were generally placed in gardens, surrounded by fruit trees of apples, pears, cherries, and peaches; and in the villages each enclosure for a house and garden occupied a whole block or square, or the greater part of one. Each village had its Catholic Church and priest. The church was the great place of gay resort on Sundays and holidays, and the priest was the advisor and director and companion of all his flock.

Thus, French colonization like all other colonization brought about significant changes in the settlements where French people made colonies. These changes that the process of colonization brought and the way the French colonization made amendments in the varying cultures of the colonies that were later formed and the way this process of colonization contributed towards the history of economic development and paved way for the concept of capitalism is explained by two absolutely different schools of thought namely The Eurocentric historians and the Revisionist or the anti-Eurocentric historians.

The Eurocentric historians strongly uphold the "cultural arrogance" associated with "the real-or-alleged centrality of Europe in preparing the explosion of economic development, science and technology, the Enlightenment and the expansion of the role of the individual-as well as intensified exploitation and colonial conquest-that heralded the modem world" and thereby indirectly establishing a link of the above with capitalism (Wood, Against the Current.). Thus, the plundering, looting, expressions and acts of subjugation, slavery, "conquests and colonial ventures" all observed as the evils emanating from the Western Imperialism exercised by "the major powers in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe" from the eyes of the revisionists, are directly linked with the varying patterns revealing economic development by the Eurocentric. Thus, "Eurocentrism can be understood as the implicit view that societies and cultures of European origin constitute the "natural" norm for assessing what goes on in the rest of the world" (Wood, Against the Current.). Although there are significant differences in the perspectives of both the Eurocentric and the Revisionists, both develop their premises from the rudimentary "commercialization models" and "primitive accumulation" (Wood, Against the Current.). The traders as well as the merchants involved in the French colonization were considered as the forerunners of the capitalist movement by Eurocentric historians whereas the revisionists observed these French traders and colonizers (who accumulated great amounts of opulence through establishing colonies under their own rule of conscious choice) responsible for "bourgeois and industrial revolutions" (Wood, Against the Current.). On one hand, there are Eurocentric historians that consider the birth right of these French colonizers who gained riches from the colonies and settlements that they conquered as a result of their location benefit (Wood, Against the Current.). On the other hand, we have revisionists who observe the French colonizers like all other colonizers responsible for the Industrial Revolution which is explained by Blaut in his magnum opus in the following words, "The "bourgeois revolutions," first truly distinguished Europe from the rest of the world, finally gave political power to the classes that had been enriched especially by colonial wealth, and allowed them to get on with the business of capitalist development unhindered by non-capitalist forces. Once they took power, they were able to mobilize the state to facilitate accumulation and create the infrastructure for industrial development. From then on, the Industrial Revolution, though it did not happen overnight, was inevitable" (Wood, Against the Current.).

Thus, the Eurocentric historians, put emphasis on the accomplishments and the political, economical and social benefits reaped as a result of French colonization apart from other European colonization. A Eurocentric feels proud to adhere to a highly provincial act of neglecting "the scholarship and the achievements of the Afro-Asian worlds" thereby placing undue stress on the significance of Europe and its culture (Athar, Reflections of an American Muslim). On the same account, since, most of the books of history pertaining to the French colonization are written by the Europeans themselves, course books of today just like of ancient times are infected with distortion as well as omission of historical facts. Studying the French colonization from the Eurocentric perspective tells us, the readers that it was a step forward in the economic development. Yes, it was, but not towards the development of the entire human race (Athar, Reflections of an American Muslim). This development was only restricted to the French who imposed their language that is French on Algerians and snatched away from them their precious cultural heritage thereby dominating the direction and purpose of education with the tool of language, as viewed from the Revisionist perspective. Thus, imperialism as well as colonization has been looked up to as varying forms of discrimination, oppression and slavery by the historians and commentators other than the ones sharing and believing the Eurocentric view (Athar, Reflections of an American Muslim). As one of the commentators writes, "Imperialism by itself is a dominating attitude over a distant society while colonization is the actual settlement and enslaving. It was their desire to create a white empire in far distant places. For example, the creation of Australia from unwanted white people, criminals from England, was a long-term desire to create a country of people of their own. White man's desire to rule the rest of the world was met with cultural resistance and sometimes armed resistance. This resistance is still going on and since white people assigned the word "west" to themselves, it can be best described as the "west and the rest" in the clash…[continue]

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