Arming the Periphery: The Arms Trade in the Indian Ocean by Emrys Chew (auth.)

By Emrys Chew (auth.)

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These arms transfers from Europe, along with weaponry recycled through the Cold War or acquired from arsenals in the former Soviet Empire, are still consigned via intermediaries to markets across the frontiers of Africa and Asia. In terms of weapons technology, it is debatable whether ‘smart’ technologies belong to a ‘baroque’ phase of the ‘Scientific Revolution’, or form the vanguard of a new ‘Digital Revolution’ that would drive the next wave of the arms transfer system. 33 Global arms trading in the age of industry and empire In surveying the patterns of military innovation, production, and diffusion that have systematized international arms transfers, it becomes apparent that something decidedly transformative occurred over the period 1780–1914.

H. Lecky was critical of these developments: Experience has already shown how easily these vague and ill-defined boundaries may become a new cause of European quarrels, and how often, in remote African jungles or forests, negroes armed with European guns may inflict defeats on European soldiers which will become the cause of costly and difficult wars. 63 The initial, relative absence of colonial authority or centralized indigenous rule simply encouraged European adventurers and concession-hunters to pursue rivalries in the ‘backyards’ of other peoples.

By augmenting and accelerating arms transfers from metropolitan centres in the Western hemisphere, the new imperial dynamic would eventually arm the periphery with the most modern, rather than the most obsolete, of weapons. The imperial encounter would turn the small arms trade into an ever-ramifying international experience. The metropolitan arms trade evolved into a multi-layered, manysegmented ‘imperial game’ about profit and power-broking. Its products were sought as standard, if illicit, stock-in-trade inasmuch as they were means of establishing political and social hegemony.

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