Are Americans living on stolen land acquired by nefarious means? Jeff Fynn-Paul, professor of economic and social history at Leiden University and author of Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World, dispels this misleading and destructive myth.
If you attended college this is what you were likely taught:
America was founded through acts of genocide, accompanied by larceny on the grandest scale.
Columbus, and the Europeans who followed him, sailed to the New World with the intention of exploiting whomever they found—and, if necessary, enslaving or exterminating them.
Soon afterward, they began importing black bodies from Africa. They then built the world’s richest country out of a combination of slave labor, stolen land, and environmental destruction.
Did I miss anything?
As a historian, I can assure you this view is inaccurate in most particulars.
But getting the story wrong is only part of the problem. The bigger problem is this: if you teach generation after generation that their country, their society, and their history are uniquely awful, they are likely to believe you. This is a sure route to societal failure.
This has consequences not only for America but the entire world. Many in the US seem to have no clue just how much of a ‘city on a hill’ the US is still perceived to be, and how important that American beacon is to millions of people living under autocratic regimes.
If the image of the US is fundamentally delegitimized, if its entire raison d’être—its reason for being—is tainted, then increasing numbers of people will wonder whether democracy itself is worth the trouble.
So, let’s correct the record before it’s too late.
The narrative of the “stolen country” or “Native American genocide” does not stand up to scrutiny by any honest historian. It is a dangerously myopic and one-sided interpretation of history.
It puts one hundred percent of the burden on Europeans, who are held responsible for nearly all historical evil, while so-called indigenous people are mere victims—saint-like, innocent martyrs whose civilizations were close to ideal.
This is simplistic, anti-historic thinking that has gained currency only because most practicing historians and history teachers have either given into groupthink or else have been cowed into silence by fear of losing their jobs.
There is hardly a single civilization on Earth, which did not displace natives, or which did not engage in nasty wars or ethnic cleansings at many points during its history.
No matter who “discovered” the New World, it is inevitable that a large proportion of its inhabitants would have died within the first few decades after first contact.
The New World population was smaller and more homogenous than the Old World population. Thus, its people had less immunity to disease than the people of the Old World, where communities from Africa, Asia, and Europe had been intermingling for millennia.
For the full script, visit: https://l.prageru.com/3rzGNeS
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