The Role of Biased Historiography in Justifying the Continuation of the Great Divergence

Studying African history in the period of 1800 to the present is a story of economic and political exploitation that engendered the Great Divergence of today, a bifurcation of the world that gave rise to characterizations of First World/Third World, Global North/Global South, and developed/developing. In order to understand the roots of this bifurcation, it is imperative to begin the historical examination in the 15th and 16th centuries. During this time period, the comparative development levels between Europe and Africa were far more equal than they stand today, but a few critical advantages possessed by the Europeans at the outset of their trade with Africa allowed for the gradual development of dependent economic relations that laid the groundwork for colonialism, the ultimate determinant in bringing about the Great Divergence.  Though (neo)colonial representations of African history may insinuate that Europeans are inherently or had always been superior to Africans, this paper seeks to highlight how a few advantages possessed by Europeans in the 15th and 16th centuries brought about not only the Great Divergence of development, but also a divergence in historiography that justified the continuation of such global inequality.

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