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Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold


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Cocker, a British journalist, provides vivid details of four episodes of European atrocities and imperialism. The examples he relates involve encounters with the Aztecs, Tasmanians, Apache, and southwest Africans. The details and evocation of horror are the book's strength. Its major flaw is the misuse of the word tribal, which Cocker does not define. In the anthropological sense, the word tribe is applied too loosely to the peoples described; the broader concept of indigenous peoples is more applicable. As a large state, the Aztec people could hardly be considered a tribe either in organization or culture. Furthermore, this example does not fit in with the other three, much smaller populations. Despite his focus on Europeans, the author is careful to conclude that the commission of heinous acts is part of human nature and not just a European problem. Recommended for general audiences as an introduction to conflicts of this kind.--Joyce L. Ogburn Univ. of Washington, Seattle Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Advancing the revisionist tradition, Cocker's book demonstrates the gruesome similarities among events usually seen as radically disparate: the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the British takeover of Tasmania, the subjugation of the Apache in the American Southwest and the German wars in Southwest Africa. Cocker, a writer for the British Guardian, demonstrates that in all four cases the same processes were at work, and each produced the same results: the devastation of native people (Cocker estimates that as many as 50 million were killed). He describes military efforts by the Europeans, from the Spanish conquest of the great Mexican city of Tenochtitl n to the German ambush and massacre of women and children in the tiny African village of Hornzranz. The vestiges of colonial cruelty, he argues, continue even in a world that supposedly abandoned the horrors of colonialism after WWII. "For large numbers of Europeans and those of European descent," he writes, "tribal peoples remain a defeated and immaterial branch of humanity. We have a duty to make their story part of our own." Wisely, Cocker is not solely Eurocentric in his condemnations; throughout, he acknowledges that barbarities can be found all over the globe and throughout history, giving his account greater sweep. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, this superbly written book deserves a wide readership. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Sloan Harris, ICM. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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