The Guyanan intellectual Walter Rodney wrote this book directly after the 1960s wave of African independence declarations, to show why Africa was so underdeveloped compared to the 'First World', and who was to blame for this. A consistently intelligent and politically involved Marxist thinker, Rodney was one of the second generation of black socialists to write about African issues, after the tradition of CLR James and Eric Williams, the former of whom tutored Rodney. "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" is probably Rodney's magnum opus of popular science, aimed at a general public, and very accessible and informative.
Rodney describes in chronological sequence the development of Africa as a continent and the way in which the Europeans interfered with it. Going from the earliest African empires and states and their social relations, via the first wave of slave-trading, to full-blown colonialism, Rodney shows us how Europeans consistently attacked, pillaged, exploited, suppressed, enslaved, divided and discriminated against Africans, and the enormous impact the various stages of slavery and colonialism had in destroying the indigenous opportunities for coming out of feudalism into capitalist and industrialized societies. It is truly remarkable, given how short a time Africa has had to develop on its own as a modern society, how quickly African states have been able to modernize, and how strong the resilience of the various African peoples is to the enormous destruction they have had to endure. Rodney shows us all this with excellent writing and sensible use of 'bourgeois' sources, allowing the interested layman to gain all the necessary broad background information on the history of European involvement in Africa.