Courtesy Reuters

Crowded Countries and Empty Spaces

WHO shall fill the "empty spaces" of the world? This pressing question has come to the fore today as a result of the assumption by Europeans of control over non-European territories during the last three centuries. These territories were not vacant, and indeed were not underpopulated in terms of the skill of the indigenous inhabitants. But where there was land suitable for European methods of exploitation in a climate to which Europeans were accustomed, and where the indigenous population was sparse, Europeans settled. In some of these areas, North America and Australia for example, the natives were pushed out of the way; in others, South, Central and East Africa for instance, regions were demarcated for European settlement and the natives relegated to reservations, though employed in European districts as laborers. In such countries as India and Indonesia, on the other hand, where climate and methods of cultivation were unfamiliar and the population was dense, there was no settlement by Europeans.

The causes of these migrations were mixed, but a basic impulse in the whole movement was the desire of Europeans to expand trade -- in other words, to develop these territories. Sometimes they developed them by forming settlements to work the soil, sometimes by introducing more orderly conditions which permitted the native inhabitants themselves to use their resources and expand their commerce. Demographic influences -- the pressure of population -- were thus secondary in the migrations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But the development of these North American, Asiatic and African territories led to demographic changes of great importance in Europe. By promoting the exchange of manufactured products for food, and by thus increasing the food supply of European countries, population growth was stimulated, and though this did not provide the original impetus for the migrations, it became important in the course of the story. It was not until towards the end of the eighteenth century that population began to increase markedly in Europe, and at first this took place

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