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Possessing the World: Taking the Measurements of Colonisation from the 18th to the 20th Century

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Volume 6

European Expansion & Global Interaction

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Possessing the World

Taking the Measurements of Colonisation from the 18th to the 20th Century

Bouda Etemad
Translated from the French by Andrene Everson

262 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-338-1 $135.00/£99.00 hb Published (July 2007)

hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Etemad’s work is refreshing…Controversial and difficult as [it] may be, his approach and efforts at working cautiously through available data to propose findings that make imperative the rethinking of a historiography is reason enough to make this book a valuable addition to the comparative studies of colonialism and world history.”   ·  Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

“Since the publication of [the French edition], Bouda Etémad’s book has remained an insider tip…The English version, one can only hope, will awake it from its slumber…Etémad’s greatest achievement lies in his attempt to prove colonial military history with figures….The human costs of invasion and colonization…can be discussed more comprensively on the basis of this book.”   ·  Historische Zeitschrift

“…historians will be grateful for the hard work that Etémad has done….Some books are made to be read. This one is meant to be consulted, judiciously, by historians seeking specific statistical information. As such, it is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the European colonial empires.”  ·  Journal of World History

“…this book represents a valiant attempt to bring quantitative methodology to a statistically slippery and emotively complex subject, and serves as a very useful corrective to technological determinism in explaining European colonialism.”  ·  H-Net Reviews


Based on an impressive body of information and data, this volume recounts the history of five continents over a long stretch of time and in a comparative approach. From the beginning of European expansion the question was posed: what were the "empire tools" that gave Europe its military superiority, even before the industrial revolution? What was it that enabled Europeans to withstand life-threatening tropical diseases and to control indigenous populations? This book gives a fresh and wide-ranging view of the construction and collapse of the modern colonial empires of Europe, the United States of America and Japan.

Bouda Etemad is Professor of History at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne, and the author of De l’utilité des empires. Colonisation et prospérité de l’Europe, XVIIIe-XXe siècle (Armand Colin 2005).

Subject: Colonial History History: Medieval/Early Modern Refugee and Migration Studies
Area: Europe North America




Chapter 1. Mortality and Numbers of the First Europeans in the Tropics

  • Overseas Necropolises
  • White Man’s Solitude in the Tropics

Chapter 2. Malaria, Quinine and Colonial Conquests

  • The American Phase: The ‘Fever Tree’
  • The Asian Phase: The Greatness and Misery of the Plantation System
  • The African Phase: Quinine and Colonial Conquests

Chapter 3. The Use of Indigenous Troops in Colonial Conquests

  • Asia and Africa Conquered by… Themselves
  • An Attempt at Quantification
  • On Good Human Resources Management
  • Empires at Bargain Prices

Chapter 4. European Losses During the Conquests

  • Typology and Assessment of Losses
  • Weapons Technologies and European Losses
  • Transportation, Communications and the Cost of Empire

Chapter 5. Indigenous Losses During the Conquests

  • Military Losses
  • Civilian Losses
  • Balance Sheet and Perspective


Chapter 6. Measuring the Land and Counting Heads

  • The Limitations of the Key Criteria
  • Comparative Sizes of the Colonial Empires
  • Counting Heads
  • Measuring the Land

Chapter 7. The Rate and Scale of Colonisation

  • Periodicity
  • Major Trends
  • Regional Differences
  • List of the Colonial Powers

Chapter 8. Comparative Portraits of the Empires I: 1760–1830

  • The Spanish and Portuguese Colonies: The First Models
  • The Metamorphosis of the English Domain
  • The French Domain: A Fragile Structure
  • The Dutch Domain: From the Trading Empire to the Java War

Chapter 9. Comparative Portraits of the Empires II: 1830–1880

  • British Colonisation: Two Tiers
  • ‘New’ and ‘Old’ French Colonies
  • Java and the Cultivation System

Chapter 10. Comparative Portraits of the Empires III: 1880–1938

  • The Old Empire Builders: Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal
  • The New Colonisers of Africa: Belgium, Germany, Italy
  • The Non-European Colonisers: Japan and the United States

Chapter 11. The Decolonisation Period

  • Definition
  • The Causes of Decolonisation
  • Decolonisation Underway
  • After Decolonisation



Index of Places
Index of Names

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