Rodney shows the exploitation of the continent committed by the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, as aided by agents or unwitting accomplices in the North and in Africa. With oppression and liberation his main concern, he ‘delves into the past’, as he says in his preface, ‘only because otherwise it would be impossible to understand how the present came into being … In the search for an understanding of what is now called “underdevelopment” in Africa, the limits of inquiry have had to be fixed as far apart as the fifteenth century, on the one hand, and the end of the colonial period, on the other hand.’
He argues that ‘African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system, which has been the principal agency of underdevelopment of Africa over the last five centuries’. His Marxist analysis went far beyond previously accepted approaches and changed the way both third world development and colonial history are studied. Although first published in 1972, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, remains an essential introduction to understanding the dynamics of Africa’s contemporary relations with the West and is a powerful legacy of a committed activist and thinker.