International Affairs/Relations

Book Review

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Travels
to the Equinoctial Regions of America by Alexander Von Humboldt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Review of “Travels to
the Equinoctial Regions of America”
By Alexander Von Humboldt

Introduction

The
book “Personal
Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America” by Alexander von
Humboldt’s was published in the year 1814. It contains his personal experiences
in interactions and observation of the people of equinoctial regions of
America.  The book was well received in
this period and is a book worth buying even twice the price by the people of
this age who are interested in having a gimps of the culture of the people of
that period, the flora and fauna of the new world, organizational structures of
that period, the demographic variations of the new world, the political
dilemmas of that period, international relations and even the subject of
slavery. The book is also entertaining as it contains numerous challenges
experienced in conducting an expedition of such magnitude. This expedition was
conducted in the period of G1 G2 1799-1804 that captivated many due to the discoveries that he
made, his correlation of the new world and Europe especially noting that the
new world was set on a path of development that would even surpass that of
Europe. It covers a lot of natural history, scientific expeditions, travels,
and voyages.G3 

Of key significance to this review are his collections of information
that are very relevant to international relations and politics.G4 G5 

Politics
and international relations can be considered to be twin institutions, to have
an international relation without its politics is simply impossible.
International relations are forged by policies that are at the very core the
interest of nations. International relations and its politics G6 are
affected by demographic factors: which may be population or race or even
geographical advantages and disadvantages. It is also affected by
organizational structures whether single states or unions.  In his adventure, he gives great glimpses of
the subject of international relations as we shall see in this review.G7 

This
book review will illustrate how the observations of Alexander G8 in
his expeditions are applicable to our time in which the topic of international
relations has become a matter of daily concern.G9 

Population Diversity

There
can be no international relations without people. Policies are shaped to guide
the relationship between nations inhabited by people. In his voyage and
expedition of the G10 Equinoctial
Regions of America, Alexander notes the rich diversity of the people. He pens
it down that this region consists of people drawn from various parts of the
continent who came to enjoy a free place and develop. He also indicates the
decision by the red Indians to migrate to a country they belieG11 ved
to be their ancestral land following the coming of the immigrants (Von
Humboldt, 1877). He doesn’t fail to recognize there is
a significant political role to be played by Africans (G12 Von Humboldt, 1877)
inhabiting the Equinoctial Regions of America.G13 

He notes the reach cultural diversity, the social
strata of the rich and the poor. From his voyages, we learn of the rich nature
of the Equinoctial Regions of America and the industriousness of the people in
terms of agriculture (G14 Von Humboldt, 1877). He points out the rich lands of
Mexico and important geographical features like rivers (Von Humboldt,
1877). People are essential to providing
labor, he often compares the population of Equinoctial Regions of America to
that of Europe indicating that the population was destined to grow rapidly and
surpass that of Europe (Von Humboldt, 1877).  It is important that nations invest to create
employment. Without investing in employment-creating opportunities the world
would witness economic crisis, like the Eurozone crisis, that would entrench
largely populated nations into debts and cause immigrations in search of
promising lands.G15 G16 

People are central in shaping policies, the people
have the say, and so should it be believed. The complexity of nation in terms
of its population determines the policies established. He indicates, in
discussing the slavery menace of that age that the growing numbers of the
colored races in the Cuba Island would sooner or later outnumber the whites and
causes a shift in the balance of power. This would, in turn, shape the kind of
policies to be affected.G17 G18 

It should be noted here that the plight of the
colored people has caused great changes in terms of human rights activities,
policy-making and even civil revolution in America. Still, the African nations
play a critical role in shaping world policies like the immigrants from Africa
to European nations like Germany and the African-Islamic citizens hit by
terrorism migrating to the USA have caused serious policy shifts in these
nations.G19 G20 G21 G22 

The inflow of various people from different parts
of the continent to settle in the Equinoctial Regions of America is a subject
of international relations. By reason that the people could migrate and settle
together is a lesson that should be applied in the settlement of immigrants
into the European Union (EU) and other parts Affected. The citizens of the
recipient countries should be accommodative to the refugees seeking a peaceful
asylum in their country. Policies should be established that would ensure equal
resettlement of the refugees to other nations that are not burdened.G23 

Boundaries

Boundaries
and border relations are key points that task policymakers to shape
international relations. The annexation of Crimea and the instigation of
revolution in Ukraine by Russia (Archick,
2016)
are subjects that have created disputes in the relationship between EU and
Russia touching on the area of influence. Both nations are giants economically
seeking to widen their wings. How could two powerful states live in close
proximity to each other or even share a boundary and peacefully co-exist? This
seems impossible, between EU and Russia and other cases, but this is the
opposite in the observations made by Alexander. He bequeaths to us the record
of  the Russians and Spaniards, nations
from opposite extreme ends now bordering each other on a continent that they
came to from opposite routs G24 G25 (Von
Humboldt, 1877 ) If this two Nations, particular individuals of Russian
origin  living harmoniously, from
opposite directions can share border and live side by side indicates that there
is no problem with the people of Russia but in 
the system and policy of governance that would make a nation adopt
autocratic techniques.G26 G27 

Slave Trade in Cuba

Human
beings have got certain inalienable rights that are not to be taken from them
and that should not be let to interfere with others’ rights. To forcefully and
inconsiderably take these rights from someone regardless of their gender, race
or position in life and subject them to be sold as though they were a flock in
a market (Von Humboldt, 1877) is a crime,
an injustice that borders on destroying international relations.

It
is a painful thing that a country in Africa, Libya, is engaging in the slave
trade as suspected. The injustices meted to Africans, colored people, in the
dark periods of slavery does not bring out of them human tears! One would
question the role played by G28 the international
community when this is conducted in the presence of its ever-present vigilante.
The slave trade greatly affected the economy, population and social life of the
African continent but worked in developing the west and other nations in terms
of industrialization and agriculture. Alexander especially observes the
employment of colored people in sugar cane plantations in Cuba and the struggle
to emancipate the colored race. He notes thatG29 G30  the infamous slave
trade was occasioned by the demand for labor in the cotton, indigo and
sugar-cane plantations”(Von
Humboldt, 1877) In his expedition he noticed the rich lands of Cuba and Mexico
and their minerals. This required a workforce which was cheaply obtained from
the slave labor. He notes that slave trade should have been long forgotten by
1820 (Von Humboldt, 1877) but that
the enterprise was still kept alive by the unjustified continuation of the trade (Von Humboldt, 1877)G31 

The
only way to end this traffic of human in the 21st century is to take
decisive action by the international society. Alexander recommends in this book
from his observations that the new states of the then free America should have,
in the process of progressive civilization taken a “firm resolution” (Von Humboldt, 1877, p.234) and
end this dishonorable traffic altogether. Libya and countries that do this
criminal activity should be sought and even economic sanction measures imposed
on them by the international communities.

 Powerful nations that are economically and
institutionally strong, should take a lead in forging proper international relations.
He especially notes that the slave trade evil must be remedied the misfortunes
of a “suffering race” (Von
Humboldt, 1877, p.235) be redressed.

This
is not to be lightly regarded. The society should heal itself for healthful
international relations. He also emphasizes that continuation of such human
right violation there will existG32  a political problem
that will only be solved with proper legislationG33  that can grant equal
rights to those under oppression and heal the level animosity created (Von Humboldt, 1877).G34 

Political
solutions must be sought to end the injustices conducted to fellow humans in a
period when nations boast of democracy and law enforcement institutions.

Trade Treaties

Trade
is an essential part of human life since it tends towards the satisfaction of
human wants both basic and luxury. Given the diversity of nations in terms of
mineral resources, labor force, agricultural productivity and the industrial
revoG35 lution, a disparity is
created in terms of what a nation has and what it lacks. This necessitates the
need for trade. However, with the currently established territories rigidly
drawn-out borders and fiscal regulations, trade can be limited and even chocked
especially with poor international relations. 
Alexander notes that commerce can unite countries that are divided by
sharp policies (Von Humboldt, 1877). Therefore
trade should be promoted as it is a common interest that will unite people in
diversity. G36 

Alexander
spoke in his book of a possibility of future relations between the growing
economies of commercial Europe and Venezuela stating that immense benefits will
be drawn from this association by the people of Europe, North and South America
(Von Humboldt, 1877). However,
there is a fear he notes in the European nations who were led to see that
any nation developing in another part of the continent is a threat to them. A calamity
to be controlled that if left would impoverish the
continent of Europe (Von Humboldt, 1877). He disperses this fear and
encourages such a relationship since it would ensure that the consumer needs
are met, labor is available and that there is an exchange of products (Von Humboldt, 1877) this would,
in turn, G37 G38 strengthen their
international relationsip.G39 G40 

There are many trade
blocks that have been established from NATO, COMMESA and many others. These
organizations help to advance the development of nations by availing markets
that would be impossible to reach due to the international laws or border
policies . This, as a result, has led to unity and some restrain on invasions
on partners in trade.G41 G42 G43 

On
the other hand, it is important to state that free unregulated trade may also
be detrimental if not well considered. Partners in business are to be carefully
sought to guard the international concerns and unwarranted prejudices, for
example, the trade deals between Russia and Italy moderated the tone of Italy
in the Ukraine crisis. G44 G45 A strict measure taken
by Italy would mean losing Russia as a trade partner. This placed Italy in a
questionable state in terms of its position in the EU foreign relations policy.
Nonetheless, the benefits of trade surpass its limitations in the scope of
international relations.

 

Governance and
International Relations,G46 

 an elaborate system of governance is important
all over the world to check against abuse of power by a few or to ensure common
representation of all people in a state. Alexander doesn’t complete recording
the voyage without raising it to our attention. He notes the barbaric form of
oppression G47 in the Equinoctial Regions of America that
is exercised by a despotic leadership G48 whose desire is to go
on foreign conquest (Von
Humboldt, 1877) this kind of leadership always impoverish the public fortune
more than often (Von Humboldt, 1877).  .Anywhere where a poor government thrives
there is always a springing up of miseries that benumbs the economy. Corruption
thrives, justice is delayed and the powerful control the affairs of the
society.  He identifies despotic
governments as a danger to the society eating away the very coffers and living
the people without means dying under the yoke of unemployment and conflicts.
He, however, indicates that “Free and powerful institutions, adapted to
the interests of all, remove these dangers” G49 G50 (Von
Humboldt, 1877, p.124) a theory that is acceptable today as nations are
striving to establish governing institutions or conduct reforms.G51 G52 

He
points out that successful government must unite its people on the grounds of
common origin, sharing a G53 uniformity of language (Von Humboldt, 1877). This is
key to creating a sense of belonging.

Unity

Humanity
has tried to forge national and international unions across continents that are
aimed to bring stability and development. These unions are formed largely under
the sentiments “of common danger” (Von
Humboldt, 1877, p. 142) and have worked to the advantage of man since it has
promoted cooperation between men from various races. (Von
Humboldt, 1877).

Such
unions include the EU formed to remove the possibility of another world war, AU
to help the African crises and on a worldwide scope the UN. In this forums, the
G54 member countries are
represented and their needs negotiated. This creates some level of concern for
other people’s problems and needs thus promoting unity.

Alexander
notes that the formation of unions between The Capitania and New Grenada was actually precipitated by political
views (Von Humboldt, 1877). This can
be said to be true of the present unions. Political issues such as ISIS, Russia
meddling in Ukraine and tyrannical governments in Africa, and many others, all
are contributing factors that lead nations to forge together in forming unions.

With
the formation of unions and the competing nature of nations, there are bad politics
involved to bring down other fast developing nations. Alexander particularly
condemns any attempt by Europe to play down the new developments that were
taking place by arguing that the perpetuation of bad politics in the new world by
Europe as an effort to destroy its progressive development would bare a
negative consequence to Europe as it would destroy market for European products
from which Europe is already profiting (Von
Humboldt, 1877).

This
case is a clear indication that bad politics is associated with economic
downfall both locally and international levels.

He
also indicates that commercial Europe was to benefit in all these developments
in Spanish America in the control of barbaric states like Greece, north coast
of Africa and in countries under the Ottoman G55 tyranny (Von Humboldt, 1877).G56 

This
shows the power of unions in ending barbaric form of governments. Unions should
work together in ending injustices, war crimes and hunger on the continent, using
their economic and military tools, rather than become enemies designing fall of
others by perpetuating bad politics.

Alexander
notes that the hindrance to development in the ancient continent was due to prolongation
of old indifferences that are opposed to development and mutual understanding
which at last puts a check to economic growth and satisfaction of consumer (Von Humboldt, 1877).

 Unity is important to development and decision
making. This factor has been witnessed in the crisis hitting EU in terms of its
inability to make concrete decisions on international affairs. The UN and other
organizations are not left behind on this G57 subject. Old grievances
should be solved as they are a hindrance to healthy international relations.G58 

The
success of Brexit referendum (Archick,
2016)
hit the world as a surprise. Nonetheless, there are still challenges associated
with this first step to exit the EU. Attempts by Greece to exit also saw some
serious consequences associated. Separation from unions will be associated with
fear of condemnation and punishment. In his records, Alexander gives an example
of a peacG59 eful separation. He
notes that between the separation of Maine and Massachusetts in the year 1820
was carried out very peacefully (Von
Humboldt, 1877). He also warns that such separations have a likelihood of
becoming turbulent (Von
Humboldt, 1877). This is an example that should be pursued in international
relations. Exit plans that are not condemnatory in nature should be provided
within treatise and care should be taken to avoid turbulent outcomes like
Brexit and others.G60 

 

Conclusion

The
voyage, expeditions, and scientific recording of Alexander are botG61 h thrilling and his
arguments forceful and captivating. One would think himself living in that age,
walking those areas. His records are rich in matters of international relations
as he identifies his interest with those of any nobleman wishing for a peaceful
coexistence and good international relation. G62 

As
seen in the review, he makes efforts to show how the Fast growing Equinoctial
Regions of America needs Commercial Europe in terms of market, and how
Commercial Europe needs the Equinoctial Regions of America in solving
international problems and its development.G63 G64 

We see through his pen that good governance, good
intellectual education, equal rights for all and even established institutions
are key to development and proper international relations.

The book is a must-read for any person interested
in international relation as it also touches on immigration which is an
international concernG65  and
a crisis that is hitting the world and reshaping policies of nations.

 

References

Von
Humboldt, A. (1877). Personal
Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent during the
years 1799-1804 (Vol. 3). G. Bell.

Archick,
K. (2016). The European Union: Current challenges and future prospects. CRS
Report, 44249.

 

 

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