Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Hahah...  perhaps you better follow your own advice and have a word with the Aztecs as they were never an "empire" in the total-itarian sense that is used, and implied, today; they were rather a loose coalition of city-states more engaged with puppeteering their neighbours/vassals than razing everything to the ground.

Well, the European empires were (are) a loose coalition of nation-states more engaged with pupeteering their neighbours/vassals than razing everything to the ground.

Razing everything to the ground, while admittedly spectacular, was never the dominant doctrine of the European empires. It was employed in some places at some times, of course. North America, Oceania and against some particularly restive colonial populations elsewhere. But you would be hard pressed to find any empire, European or otherwise, which did not have genocide as the final escalation point in their doctrine.

Prior the industrial era, however, things were different: for starters there was never "surplus population", on contrary human resources were often scarce and valuable; and back then natural resources were abundant.

I don't see where that contradicts any part of my reasoning: Scarcity of human resources led to genocide being reserved for excessively restive colonies, rather than as a routine precursor to re-settlement.

That being said, it is quite clearly false that there were no non-European empires which had a surplus of population with which to re-settle newly vacated land. Both the Indian peninsula and East Asia saw quite a few such migration waves, although it is non-trivial to determine the extent to which the conquered people were obliterated rather than assimilated, on account of the scarcity of disinterested contemporary commentary on such matters.

And of course, we have a great paucity of knowledge about the wars of hunter-gatherer societies, so it's hard to say one way or another whether "kill all the males, rape all the females" was the rule or the exception. We know from other primate species that it is a perfectly valid tactic for trooping primates, but how much of that applies to humans is unknown.

What was valuable were manufactured goods as they involved (i)human labour; (ii)human expertise; and (iii)frequently long haul transportation. That is one of the reasons why successful empires of the old type (like the Ottomans) build a space essentially free of sharp antagonisms where normal life could continue with productivity and trade in relative peace.

Of course that is just as true for the European empires (and, for that matter, for the American): Within the empire, there is relative peace, and the empire maintains and defends a trade system. War is something you have at the fringe, well away from anywhere it might become expensive.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue May 14th, 2013 at 03:42:37 PM EST
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