The Scramble for Africa
Uploaded by Nategrey on Aug 05, 2005
By the mid 1800’s colonialism appeared to have become a thing of the past. Except for Canada, which was on its way toward self-rule, Britain had lost her American holdings. Spain and Portugal had lost control of most of South America and the Caribbean, and The Netherlands was having difficulties maintaining the East Indies (saburchill.com). The prevailing train of thought was that colonies were a burden to the mother country and should be formally acquired only if absolutely necessary. Most nations, especially Great Britain, preferred to avoid governing foreign lands, and instead strove to build influence with native leaders in order to secure their interests. Imperialism was seen as something that despots engaged in and was unfitting of civilized nations. As time progressed, these views changed and a second phase of colonization took place. This “New Imperialism” was seen as glorious and combined the European’s curiosity, innovation, and desires to spread civilization, with greed, arrogance, and nationalism. Within twenty years, every corner of the world that was not formally governed would be claimed by a European state (saburchill.com). Of any place on Earth, Africa saw the most dramatic colonization. Between 1880 and 1900, the second largest continent on the globe was divided between a handful of European leaders. This is known as the Scramble for Africa.
Europeans had known of Africa for centuries, and the Portuguese first established a chain of trading settlements along the West African coast in the 1400’s. The interior of the continent remained shrouded in mystery and untouched by Europeans well into the 19th century. The first Europeans to take an active interest in Africa were the missionaries who began arriving on the continent around 1800. The sheer size of Africa as well as other factors made penetration nearly impossible until the mid 1800’s when the quality of technology began to improve at an unprecedented pace. Technological advances facilitated overseas expansion: the steamship, the telegraph, medicines for tropical diseases, and the railway, made it possible for a few foreign countries to open up even the most remote of places. It’s no coincidence that the opening of Africa coincided with the closing of the North American frontier. People in Europe spoke of Africa as the “New Americas,” and after witnessing the Union Pacific and Canada Pacific railways take form, a trans-African rail system seemed realizable (Chamberlain...