What is Third World History

Historians ask what constitutes the history of the developing world.

'The Soviet Union’, The Times (April 22, 1985) informs us, 'is a third world economy with first world weapons.' That statement may indicate what a slippery concept is 'the third world'. The term has been used in three ways: as a residual category after the abstraction of the Old World and the New; as another residual category after the abstraction of the Communist East and the Capitalist West; and as a shorthand for describing those parts of the world with the lowest standard of living. Depending upon which definition is chosen different countries will comprise the third world and, although the categories overlap, decisions about inclusion and exclusion will always be arbitrary. The historian of the third world needs an axe before a pen.

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