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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Colonialism and the Caribbean: Wealth, Power and the British Imperial State


Introduction to the Module

Building the British Empire involved colonialism, which is when one country gains control over another country, region or people, and while this included the establishment of new settlements, institutions and civic structures, it also included the exploitation of people and natural resources for profit. In the European context of colonialism this can be seen very clearly with the Atlantic Slave Trade. The trafficking of Africans (the buying of slaves in Africa, transporting them across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean and then reselling them to people who wanted cheap labour) was done by many European powers including Spain, Portugal, France, Britain and the Dutch.

If we look at the British Empire during the eighteenth century, we can see that it was working very hard to compete with the other European countries for power and money. The slave trade generated a lot of money and by 1800 Britain was the dominant European power involved in the slave trade. Personal ambition and the desire to amass fortunes inspired many Britons to become involved with an economy based on slave labour to produce sugar, cotton, indigo and rum. The development of the settler colonies abroad and of communities at home in Britain came to depend upon the money that was being generated by slave labour in the Caribbean. Generating the enormous profits that were being realised in the Caribbean required an assertion of power and the entire system of slavery there depended upon...

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