One of the most important developments in literary and cultural studies in British, European and American universities in recent years – roughly parallel with the rise of popular interest in World Music and the academic development of ethnomusicology – has been the emergence of post-colonial studies, a discipline that focuses on the historical, political and cultural impacts of European colonialism on its former colonies. European colonialism, which began in the late fifteenth century and continued up to the second half of the twentieth century, was driven by political and commercial rivalry between the European states, a process which led to the ‘discovery’ by European explorers of new lands and the ‘New World’. Many schoolchildren have memorised the following couplet (the name of the poet, Winifred Sackville Stonier Jr, is generally forgotten):

In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.