Conquests and Cultures
Starting with the observation that modern western civilization has its origins in the Roman conquest of the surrounding peoples, Thomas Sowell examines first the British Empire, then the impact of conquest on Africa, the Slavs, and Western Hemisphere Indians in CONQUESTS AND CULTURES: AN INTERNATIONAL HISTORY. His conclusions are that, once the initial devastation and destruction have passed, there is a potential for the benefits of peace, wider economic markets, more intellectual contact, and cultural borrowing to take place.
How any cultural or racial minority responds to the opportunities afforded by being included in a larger political body determines its fate, not the attitude of the conquerors or larger economic forces. Geography plays an important role, of course, but geography is more important in creating conditions that make conquest possible than in what can or cannot be achieved afterward. Freedom is also significant, especially economic and social freedom, but not necessarily political independence or democracy.
Major themes include group stereotypes (often accurate), race (unimportant compared to cultural traditions), racism (stupid, but complex, and too easily used to justify backwardness by groups which resist cultural change), and slavery (an international phenomenon, eliminated by Europeans, especially the Britons). “Human capital” lies at the intellectual center of Sowell’s argument. This is a collection of traditions...
(The entire section is 329 words.)
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