17 February 2007

War and the Enlightenment

In Notes from a commonplace book: war and the Enlightenment there is an interesting comment on how the Enlightenment changed Western attitudes to war.

I've not really looked into that before, but have been interested in how the Enlightenment changed European attitudes to witchcraft, and made it difficult for Europeans to understand African attitudes to witchcraft, because it disturbingly reminded them of their premodern past (see Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery).

This piece, however, sparks off a new train of thought. Even today white apologists for Western colonialism use the argument that European rule in Africa brought about peace and ended the endless wars that devastated the continent. But if we look at the precolonial wars in Africa, they were generally much milder than the wars brought about after colonialism, which are often driven by neocolonialism (eg the history of Congo for the last 50 years). This modern warfare was far more devastating than the precolonial kind, with the possible exception of the Mfecane.

I'm not sure whether this is simply another postmodern reaction to the worldview and values of modernity, but I think it needs further study.

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