Categories World History

Imperialism and Free Trade: Rise of Neo-imperialism- Part II: Scramble for Africa

Imperialism and Free Trade: Rise of Neo-imperialism- Part II: Scramble for Africa

  • The “Scramble for Africa” was the invasion and occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the period of New Imperialism, between the 1880’s and the start of World War I.
  • In 1870, 10 percent of Africa was under European control; by 1914 it was 90 percent of the continent, with only Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Liberia still independent.

Before the Scramble for Africa — Europeans in Africa up to the 1880s:

  • The Portuguese had been the first post-Middle Ages Europeans to firmly establish settlements, trade posts, permanent fortifications and ports of call along the coast of the African continent, from the beginning of the Age of Discovery, in the 15th century.
  • There was little interest in, and less knowledge of, the interior for some two centuries thereafter. So Africa was called “Black/ Dark Continent”.
    • As late as the middle of the nineteenth century Africa, though so near to Europe, was one of the least known parts of the world. Its northern shores had indeed been known to Europe from a very ancient time, but its great interior remained unexplored until well into the nineteenth century.
    • Some of the European nations had indeed a few coastal stations in the east and the west, but they were like “dots of civilisation upon the borders of undeveloped barbarism”.
    • The reasons why Europe knew so little of and cared less for, Africa were largely physical.
      • The coasts of Africa are for the most part inhospitable: its interior is a plateau shut off almost everywhere by belts of desert land or by swampy malarious regions along the coast.
      • Even the rivers do not form convenient highways into the interior because they are difficult of navigation or any distance from their months on account of falls or rapids and the maze of tropical forest.
    • Besides the inhabitants of Africa being backward peoples with a few simple wants, trade with them was not a very profitable business. The few European settlements or the coast regions were sufficient for purposes of such trade as existed.
    • Hence there was little noteworthy expansion of European influence in Africa till the last two decades of the nineteenth century.
  • European exploration of the African interior began in earnest at the end of the 18th century. By 1835, Europeans had mapped most of northwestern Africa.
    • In the middle decades of the 19th century, the most famous of the European explorers were David Livingstone and H. M. Stanley, both of whom mapped vast areas of Southern Africa and Central Africa.
    • By the end of the 19th century, Europeans had charted the Nile from its source, traced the courses of the Niger, Congo and Zambezi Rivers, and realized the vast resources of Africa.
  • Even as late as the 1870’s, European states still controlled only ten percent of the African continent, all their territories being near the coast and a short distance inland along major rivers such as the Niger and the Congo.
    • During the 1st half of nineteenth century important European settlements were the French Empire in Algeria in the north, Angola and Mozambique, held by Portugal, the Cape Colony held by the English in the extreme south, and the Boer territories to the north of it.

What Caused the Scramble to Happen?

  • Most of factors were to do with events in Europe rather than in Africa.
  • Africa and global markets:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the last regions of the world largely untouched by “informal imperialism”, was attractive to Europe’s ruling elites for economic reasons.
    • During a time when Britain’s balance of trade showed a growing deficit, with shrinking and increasingly protectionist continental markets due to the Long Depression (1873–96).
    • Africa offered Britain, Germany, France, and other countries an open market that would garner them a trade surplus: a market that bought more from the colonial power than it sold overall.
    • The companies involved in tropical African commerce were relatively small, apart from Rhodes’s Mining Company.
      • Rhodes had carved out Rhodesia for himself; Leopold II of Belgium later, and with considerable brutality, exploited the Congo Free State.
      • These events might detract from the pro-imperialist arguments of colonial lobbies, who argued that sheltered overseas markets in Africa would solve the problems of low prices and over-production caused by shrinking continental markets.
      • This shrinking of continental markets was a key factor of the global “New Imperialism” period.
  • Capitalism:
    • The end of European trading in slaves left a need for commerce between Europe and Africa. Capitalists wanted to exploit the continent so that new ‘legitimate’ trade would be encouraged.
    • Explorers located vast reserves of raw materials,upon which European industry had grown dependent. They plotted the course of trade routes, navigated rivers, and identified population centers which could be a market for manufactured goods from Europe.
    • It was a time of plantations and cash crops, dedicating the region’s workforce to producing rubber, coffee, sugar, palm oil, timber, etc for Europe. And all the more enticing if a colony could be set up which gave the European nation a monopoly.
    • As Britain developed into the world’s first post-industrial nation, financial services became an increasingly important sector of its economy. Invisible financial exports, especially capital investments outside Europe, particularly to the developing and open markets in Africa such as to the white settler colonies, the Middle East, South Asia and South-east Asia benefited Britain.
    • Surplus capital was often more profitably invested overseas, where cheap materials, limited competition, and abundant raw materials made a greater premium possible.
    • Additionally, Britain wanted the southern and eastern coasts of Africa for stopover ports on the route to Asia and its empire in India.
    • Some disagrees with the link made between capitalism and imperialism, arguing that colonialism is used mostly to promote state-led development rather than “corporate” development as historically there has been a closer link between colonialism/imperialism and state-led approaches to development.”
  • End of the Slave Trade:
    • The abolition of slave-trade by Britain in 1807 and her subsequent crusade for ts universal abolition stimulated an increased interest in Africa.
    • Britain had had some success in halting the slave trade around the shores of Africa. But inland the story was different — Muslim traders from north of the Sahara and on the East Coast still traded inland, and many local chiefs were reluctant to give up the use of slaves.
    • Reports of slaving trips and markets were brought back to Europe by various explorers, such as Livingstone, and abolitionists in Britain and Europe were calling for more to be done.
  • Exploration:
    • About the middle of 19th century, there occurred a remarkable series of scientific explorations which opened up the heart of Africa and revealed to the world its resources and potentialities.
    • During the nineteenth century barely a year went by without a European expedition into Africa.
    • The boom in exploration was triggered to a great extent by the creation of the African Association by wealthy Englishmen in 1788 (who wanted someone to ‘find’ the fabled city of Timbuktu and the course of the Niger River).
    • As the century moved on, the goal of the European explorer changed, and rather than travelling out of pure curiosity they started to record details of markets, goods, and resources for the wealthy philanthropists who financed their trips.
    • Men of various nationalities took part in the affair, but the Britishers did most to explore the continent. The greatest name among the British explorers of Africa is that of David Livingstone whose trans-continental journey through the upper Zambesi valley, for the first time revealed to the world the main features of the Central Africa.
      • His work as explorer was continued by Stanley who in a series of famous journeys, discovered the course of the Congo river and explored the great lakes of the centre of the continent.
      • The publication of his book Through the Dark Continent containing an account of his thrilling adventures, aroused intense interest, and the European people began to realize the value of Africa as a field for commercial enterprise.
      • Similarly, French and German explorers were active in the north and north-west, investigating the hinterlands and the great Sahara desert beyond. By 1880 the map of Africa was largely filled in, if not completed.
    • Henry Stanley Morton: A naturalized American (born in Wales) who of all the explorers of Africa is the one most closely connected to the start of the Scramble for African.
      • Stanley had crossed the continent and located the ‘missing’ Livingstone, but he is known for his explorations on behalf of King Leopold II of Belgium.
      • Leopold hired Stanley to obtain treaties with local chieftains along the course of the River Congo with an eye to creating his own colony (Belgium was not in a financial position to fund a colony at that time).
      • Stanley’s work triggered a rush of European explorers, such as Carl Peters.
  • Missionaries were fired with zeal to carry the war against slave trade even into the darkest recess of “the continent and to reclaim Negroes for Christianity.
  • Monroe Doctrine:
    • European nations being debarred from South America by the Monroe Doctrine, turned their attention to Africa, no longer for human commodities but for those tropical products for which a great demand had been created by the Industrial Revolution.
  • Steam Engines and Iron Hulled Boats:
    • In 1840 the Nemesis arrived at Macao, south China. It changed the face of international relations between Europe and the rest of the world. The Nemesis had a shallow draft, a hull of iron, and two powerful steam engines. It could navigate the non-tidal sections of rivers, allowing access inland, and it was heavily armed.
    • Livingstone used a steamer to travel up the Zambezi in 1858, and had the parts transported overland to Lake Nyassa.
    • Steamers also allowed Stanley and Brazza to explore the Congo.
  • Medical Advances:
    • Africa, especially the western regions, was known as the ‘White Man’s Grave‘ because of the danger of two diseases: malaria and yellow fever. During the eighteenth century only one in ten Europeans sent out to the continent by the Royal African Company survived.
    • In 1817 two French scientists, Pelletier and Caventou, extracted quinine from the bark of the South American cinchona tree. It proved to be the solution to malaria; Europeans could now survive the ravages of the disease in Africa. (Unfortunately yellow fever continued to be a problem)
  • Napoleon‘s conquest of Egypt and the subsequent expulsion of the French thereform by the British, emphasised the strategic importance of that country and drew European attention to it.
  • Politics and Strategic rivalries:
    • After the creation of a unified Germany (1871) and Italy (1871) there was no room left in Europe for expansion.
    • The rivalry between Britain, France, Germany, and the other European powers accounts for a large part of the colonization.
    • France, which had lost two provinces to Germany in 1870 looked to Africa to gain more territory.
    • Britain looked towards Egypt and the control of the Suez canal as well as pursuing territory in gold rich southern Africa.
    • Germany, under the expert management of Chancellor Bismarck, had come late to the idea of overseas colonies, but was now fully convinced of their worth.
    • The vast interior between the gold and diamond-rich Southern Africa and Egypt had strategic value in securing the flow of overseas trade.
    • Britain was under political pressure to secure lucrative markets against encroaching rivals in China and its eastern colonies, most notably India,Malaya, Australia and New Zealand. Thus, securing the key waterway between East and West – the Suez Canal – was crucial.
    • Also there was a concern for the acquisition of military and naval bases, for strategic purposes. The growing navies, and new ships driven by steam power, required coaling stations and ports for maintenance. Defense bases were also needed for the protection of sea routes and communication lines.
    • Colonies were also seen as assets in “balance of power” negotiations, useful as items of exchange at times of international bargaining.
    • Colonies with large native populations were also a source of military power.
    • In the age of nationalism there was pressure for a nation to acquire an empire as a status symbol.
  • Military Innovation:
    • At the beginning of the nineteenth century Europe was only marginally ahead of Africa in terms of available weapons as traders had long supplied them to local chiefs.
    • But two innovations gave Europe a massive advantage.
      • In the late 1860s percussion caps were being incorporated into cartridges – what previously came as a separate bullet, powder and wadding, was now a single entity, easily transported and relatively weather proof.
      • The second innovation was the breach loading rifle.
        • Older model muskets, held by most Africans, were front loaders, slow to use and had to be loaded whilst standing.
        • Breach loading guns, in comparison, had between two to four times the rate of fire, and could be loaded even in a prone position.
    • Europeans restricted the sale of the new weaponry to Africa maintaining military superiority.
  • Colonial exhibitions:
    • The colonial empires had become very popular almost everywhere in Europe gradually: public opinion had been convinced of the needs of a colonial empire.
    • Colonial exhibitions had been instrumental in this change of popular mentalities brought about by the colonial propaganda, supported by the colonial lobby and by various scientists.
    • Thus, the conquest of territories were inevitably followed by public displays of the indigenous people for scientific and leisure purposes.
    • Karl Hagenbeck, a German merchant in wild animals and future entrepreneur of most Europeans zoos, thus decided in 1874 to exhibit Samoa and Sami people as “purely natural” populations.
      • In 1876, he brought from newly conquered Egyptian Sudan some wild beasts and Nubians people.
      • Presented in Paris, London and Berlin, these Nubians were very successful.
      • Such “human zoos” could be found in many European and American cities. Not used to the climatic conditions, some of the indigenous exposed died.
  • Colonial lobby, their Propaganda, and Jigoism:
    • In its earlier stages, imperialism was generally the act of individual explorers as well as some adventurous merchantmen. The colonial powers were a long way from approving without any dissent the expensive adventures carried out abroad.
    • Various important political leaders such as Gladstone (British Liberal politician) opposed colonisation in its first years. Although Gladstone was personally opposed to imperialism, the social tensions caused by the Long Depression pushed him to favor jingoism (patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy).
    • In France, then Radical politician Georges Clemenceau also adamantly opposed himself to it: he thought colonisation was a diversion from the “blue line of the Vosges” mountains, that is revanchism (the will to reverse territorial losses ) and the patriotic urge to reclaim the Alsace-Lorraine region which had been annexed by the German Empire with the 1871 Treaty of Frankfurt.
    • The expansion of national sovereignty on overseas territories contradicted the unity of the nation state which provided citizenship to its population.
      • Thus, a tension between the universalist will to respect human rights of the colonised people, as they may be considered as “citizens” of the nation state, and the imperialist drives to cynically exploit populations deemed inferior began to surface.
      • Some, in colonising countries, opposed what they saw as unnecessary evils of the colonial administration when left to itself; as described in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) – contemporary of Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden.
    • Colonial lobbies emerged to legitimize the Scramble for Africa and other expensive overseas adventures. In Germany, France and Britain, the middle class often sought strong overseas policies to insure the market’s growth.
  • No sooner was the exploration of Africa nearing completion than a scramble for its partition among the European Powers began.
  • With regard to the partition of Africa two important feature deserve notice.
    • First, it was accomplished without a European war. There were indeed keen rivalries which provoked international crises of greater or less severity, but they were all averted by diplomacy.
    • Secondly, the partition was not a slow, gradual process as in other continents, but an extraordinarily rapid development.
      • It began in right earnest in the eighties and was almost completed before the outbreak of the Great War.
      • The lightning rapidity with which the partition was effected was largely due to the addition of Italy and Germany, in the last quarter of the 19th century, to the list of Great Powers.
      • Their national prestige demanded a place in the sun and it was only to Africa that they could turn for the relations of their imperialistic ambition: Asia being largely occupied and America being closed to European exploitation by the Monroe Doctrine.
      • The appearance of these new comers stimulated the activity of the Powers like France and Britain who already had interests in Africa. The result was that international rivalry was intensified and this sped up the process of partition.

 

AFRICA AFTER SCRAMBLE,1914

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The Course of Partition

Africa Partition

Scramble of Africa

  • Colonization of the Congo:

    • Activity of Belgium in the Congo Basin:
      • It was the Belgian occupation of the Congo valley that immediately led to the grab for Africa.
      • David Livingstone‘s explorations, carried on by Stanley, excited imaginations. But at first, Stanley’s grandiose ideas for colonisation found little support owing to the problems and scale of action required, except from King Leopold II of Belgium.
        • From 1869 to 1874, Stanley was secretly sent by Leopold II to the Congo region, where he made treaties with several African chiefs along the Congo River and by 1882 had sufficient territory to form the Congo Free State.
        • Leopold II personally owned the colony as Congo Free State from 1885 and used it as a source of ivory and rubber.
      • In 1876 Leopold II of Belgium summoned an international conference at Brussels to consider the possibility of opening up the interior of Africa to trade and industry.
      • Out of this Conference arose an “International Association for the Exploration and Civilisation of Central Africa” with the Belgian King as its president.
        • The Association was to have committees in each country and these were to collect funds for the common object.
        • But the branch committees soon dropped all serious pretence of international action and became so many national organisations for purely selfish ends. viz., the acquisition of territory for their own states.
    • While Stanley was exploring Congo on behalf of Lopold II of Belgium, the Franco-Italian marine officer Brazza travelled into the western Congo basin and raised the French flag over the newly founded Brazzaville in 1881, thus occupying today’s Republic of the Congo.
    • Portugal, which also claimed the area due to old treaties with the native Kongo Empire, made a treaty with Britain on 26 February 1884 to block off the Congo Society‘s access to the Atlantic.
    • By 1890 the Congo Free State had consolidated its control of its territory between Leopoldville and Stanleyville, and was looking to push south down.
    • By the same time, the British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes was expanding north from the Limpopo River and starting a colony in Mashonaland.
    • To the West, in the land where their expansions would meet, was Katanga, site of the Yeke Kingdom of Msiri.
      • Msiri was the most militarily powerful ruler in the area, and traded large quantities of copper, ivory and slaves — and rumours of gold reached European ears.
      • The scramble for Katanga was a prime example of the period. Rhodes and Leopold sent many expeditions to Katanga.
      • Msiri was shot, and the expedition cut off his head and stuck it on a pole as a “barbaric lesson” to the people.
    • The half million square kilometres of Katanga came into Leopold’s possession and brought his African realm about 75 times larger than Belgium.
      • The Congo Free State imposed such a terror regime on the colonised people, including mass killings and forced labour, that Belgium, under pressure from the Congo Reform Association, ended Leopold II’s rule and annexed it in 1908 as a colony of Belgium, known as the Belgian Congo.
    • King Leopold II of Belgium’s brutality in his former colony of the Congo Free State, now the DRC, was well documented. Sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River.
    • A similar situation occurred in the neighbouring French Congo.
      • Most of the resource extraction was run by concession companies, whose brutal methods, along with the introduction of disease, resulted in the loss of up to 50 percent of the indigenous population.
      • The French government appointed a commission, headed by de Brazza, in 1905 to investigate the rumoured abuses in the colony.
      • However, Brazza died on the return trip, and his “searingly critical” report was neither acted upon nor released to the public.
  • The Berlin Conference (1884-85) created the Congo Free State and set the rules for dividing the continent (Berlin West Africa Conference):
    • The Central Association soon became, to all intents and purposes a Belgian body and set to work under Stanley’s guidance to create a neutral state in Congo basin under the protection of the Belgian King.
      • This led to disputes with France and Portugal who put forward rival claims on the ground of previous discovery.
    • To settle these disputes an international conference was held in Berlin in 1884 by Bismarck.
    • The conference, proposed by Portugal in pursuance of its special claim to control of the Congo estuary, was necessitated by the jealousy and suspicion with which the great European powers viewed one another’s attempts at colonial expansion in Africa.
    • It rejected Portugal’s claims to the Congo River estuary—thereby making possible the founding of the independent Congo Free State.
    • It recognised the existence of what now became the Congo Free State under the personal sovereignty of Leopold, but stipulated that trade and shipping in it was to be open to all nations, and the navigation of the rivers should be free to all. (Navigation on the Niger and Congo rivers was to be free to all.)
      • These stipulations were, however, not observed and the new state practically became a Belgian preserve.
    • The diplomats put on a humanitarian façade by condemning the slave trade, resolved to end slavery by African and Islamic powers, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and firearms in certain regions, and by expressing concern for missionary activities.
      • An international prohibition of the slave trade throughout their respected spheres was signed by the European members.
      • Because of this point the writer Joseph Conrad sarcastically referred to the conference as “the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs” in his novella Heart of Darkness.
    • The Berlin Conference also laid down the rules to be followed in acquiring territory in Africa.
      • It declared that any Power in annexing African territory must notify the other Powers of the fact, and
      • no annexation should be made of territory which was not effectively occupied. (occupied (a Principle of Effective Occupation).
    • However, the competitors ignored the rules when convenient and on several occasions war was only narrowly avoided.
    • This conference ensured that partition is done without war fought among European nations.
  • Congo Free State became Belgian Colony:
    • Belgium, one of the smallest countries in Europe, carve out an empire, almost ten times as large as its own size and embracing the choicest “rubber country” in the Congo region.
    • The Belgian rule in the Congo Free State showed European imperialism in its worst aspect. The work of civilising the natives resolved itself into ruthless exploitation.
    • A crushing tribute of rubber was imposed on them and among the penalties for non-payment was mutillation.
    • Harrowmg tales of almost incredible cruelties perpetrated by the Belgians shocked the conscience of even imperialistic Europe.
    • Criticism both at home and abroad, became so insistent that Leopold was compelled in 1908 to make over his personal estate to the Belgian Government in return of liberal compensation.
    • Thus from what purported to be an international state, the Congo Free State first became the personal property of the Belgian King and was then converted outright into a Belgian colony, subject to Belgian Parliament.
  • Scramble for Africa:
    • The success with which Leopold II of Belgium carried on the game of empire-building in the Congo valley aroused the ambition of the other European states and there followed a feverish rush for territory in all the regions of Africa.
      • France led off by seizing Tunis in 1881, and next year England entered upon her “occupation” of Egypt.
      • Italy, aggrieved by the French seizure of Tunis which she had earmarked for herself, secured a foothold on the western shores of the Red Sea, which developed into the future colony of Eritrea.
      • Germany, a new aspirant to colonial empire, established herself in south-west Africa.
      • Portugal began to enlarge her ancient possessions both in the east and the west.
      • Thus before the Berlin Conference met, the scramble for Africa had begun.
    • After 1884 the activity of the European Powers in exploration and annexation became more furious than ever.
    • France extended her dominion from Algeria in the north to the Guinea Coast in the west, occupying its hinterland, and ambitions of a French empire extending across the Sahara from ocean to ocean.
    • The rapid shrinkage of African territory roused Great Britain to the danger of exclusion from vast areas and she began to enlarge her possessions in the south and the west.
      • She began to push steadily northwards from Cape Colony, acquiring Rhodesia and seeking to establish an empire, stretching uninterruptedly from the Cape to Cairo.
    • Germany was also bent upon carving out large slices of Africa and busied herself both in the east and the west.
    • This scramble often led to frictions and diplomatic complications, but the Powers made up their differences by a series of treaties among themselves, which settled the boundaries of their claims and defined their respective “spheres of influence.”
    • By 1914 the whole of Africa was parceled out among the European Powers, with the exception of Abyssinia and Liberia (a colony run by ex- African-American slaves).

Q. “In all the long annals of Imperialism, the partition of Africa is a remarkable freak.”Comment.

Ans:

  • The “Scramble for Africa”, which led to the partition of Africa, was the invasion and occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the period of New Imperialism, mostly between 1881 and 1914.
  • Desire of colonies by newly united Germany and Italy, European greed of new market for manufactured goods and source of raw material, new inventions of steam engines and hulled boats, medical advances against African diseases like malaria, explorations by Livingstone and Stanley, the ideas of Charles Darwin evolutionary theory, Eugenics movement and racism etc. worked toward a rush among European countries for occupation of more territories.

In all the long annals of imperialism, the partition of Africa is a remarkable freak because of the following reasons: –

  • According to historians John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, the partition of Africa was freaky as there was no comprehensive cause of purpose behind it.
    • Few events that have thrown an entire continent to revolution have been brought so casually.
    • Bismarck and Ferry, Glandstone and Salisbury had no solid belief in African Empire.; indeed, they sneered at the movement as something of a farce.
    • A gamble in jungles and bush might interest a poor king such as Leopold II of the Belgians but the chief partitioners of the 1880s glimpsed no grand imperial idea behind what they were doing.
    • They felt no need of African colonies and in this they reflected the indifference of all but the lunatic fringe of business and politics.
  • In any matter of dispute regarding territories, European countries avoided war and solutions were reached through diplomacy, such as Berlin conference of 1884-85 and Algeciras conference of 1906.
    • In the history, no colonization had happened without war. In this case, war followed partition. Berlin conference ensured that partition is done without war fought among European nations.
    • It was agreed in this conference that no nation was to stake claims in Africa without notifying other powers of its intentions and no territory could be formally claimed prior to being effectively occupied.
  • Most of treaties signed between African chiefs and Europeans were fraudulent and bogus.
    • The Europeans gave gifts to African chiefs and made them sign their thumbs on any treaties.
    • Even when treaties were genuine, the Europeans misinterpreted the provisions in their favor.
    • For example, African leader signed agreements with one European powers seeking help against another European power but Europeans interpreted it as leader has accepted ‘protection’ of the country.
    • These interpretations were accepted by other European countries in the Congress among themselves where Africans had no representative.  Thus African occupation was done without any hindrance. By the end of 19th Century, the partition of Africa was nearly completed in this manner.
    • This is generally referred to as ‘paper partition’ because the actual partition took much longer time longer time (due to internal rebellions by Africans against the European powers).
      • In the African map, about thirty per cent of all boundaries in Africa are in straight lines, because the continent of Africa was partitioned on paper map, in the conference rooms of Europe.
  • Colonisation of Africa was probably fasted colonisation seen ever in the history of mankind.
    • Even as late as the 1870s, European states controlled only ten percent of the African continent, all their territories being near the coast and a short distance inland along major rivers such as the Niger and the Congo.
    • By 1914 it was 90 percent of the continent, with only Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Liberia still independent.
  • Partition of Africa was also freaky in the sense that new popular ideas of the 19th century were given for the justification of colonisation and partition of Africa.

The ideas of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution, the Eugenics movement, Racism, White man’s burden, all gave justification for European expansionist policy.

The diplomats in Berlin Conference put on a humanitarian façade by condemning the slave trade, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and firearms in certain regions, and by expressing concern for missionary activities. These factors also became their justifications.

Brief summary of the possessions of the various European states in Africa

  • France:
    • France already held Algeria and she added Tunis in 1882.
      • In 1882 Tunisia became a French protectorate and the Transvaal regained its independence.
      • France occupation of Tunisia convinced Italy to join the German-Austrian Dual Alliance in 1882, thus forming the Triple Alliance.
    • France occupied Guinea. Rio de Oro claimed by Spain. French West Africa (AOF) was founded in 1895, and French Equatorial Africa in 1910.
    • She then turned her attention to Morocco which by 1912 became a French protectorate.
    • From these possessions on the north coast, she extended her sway over the whole of the Sahara region and at the same time pushed from her ancient foothold at Senegal eastwards towards the upper French waters of the Niger river.
    • Nor was this all. Not disposed to see Belgium grab the whole of equatorial Africa, France in 1884 seized a large block of territory opened by the intrepid French explorer De Brazza on the west coast and skirting the right bank of the Congo.
    • From this new colony, the French Congo, the French pushed north to Lake Chad thus opening up all-French route to the Mediterranean.
    • France thus built up a huge empire on the northwest shoulder of the Dark Continent and is in mileage the greatest African power.
    • Off the east coast of Africa she acquired the island of Madagascar in 1896 much to the annoyance of Britain.
  • Portugal:
    • Portugal also shared in the scramble.
    • She expanded her decaying coastal stations south of the Belgian Congo, and these developed into the large province of Angola.
    • On the west coast she had also founded the colony of Mozambique or Portuguese East Africa.
    • She tried to connect her eastern and western possessions by securing a belt of Portuguese territory right across Africa but British rivalry forced her to call a halt.
  • Italy:
    • Italy and Germany were new-comers to Africa. Italian Imperialism began in Africa when in 1883 Italy seized Eritrea on the Red Sea.
    • Next followed the acquisition of Italian Somaliland on the east coast of Africa. Italy next tried to link up these possessions by the conquest of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) but met with a heavy disaster at Adowa in 1896.
      • First Italo-Ethiopian War and Battle of Adowa:
        • The First Italo-Ethiopian War was fought between Italy and Ethiopia from 1895 to 1896.
        • It originated from a disputed treaty which, the Italians claimed, turned the country into an Italian protectorate.
        • Much to their surprise, they found that Ethiopian ruler Menelik II, rather than opposed by some of his traditional enemies, was supported by them, and so the Italian army, invading Ethiopia from Italian Eritrea in 1893, faced a more united front than they expected.
        • In addition, Ethiopia was supported by Russia with military advisers and the sale of weapons for Ethiopian forces during the war.
        • Full-scale war broke out in 1895. Italian defeat came about after the Battle of Adwa, where Ethiopian army delivered the Italians a heavy loss and forced their retreat back into Eritrea.
        • In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia alone had successfully defended its independence
    • Following its defeat in the First Italo–Ethiopian War (1895–1896), it acquired Italian Somaliland in 1889–90 and the whole of Eritrea (1899).
    • Checked there she turned to Tripoli in the north and snatched it away from the Turkey in 1912, along with Cyrenacia (modern Libya). These two provinces became the Italian colony in Libya.
    • In 1919 Enrico Corradini — who fully supported the war, and later merged his group in the early fascist party (PNF) — developed the concept of Proletarian Nationalism, supposed to legitimize Italy’s imperialism by a mixture of socialism with nationalism.
    • Second Italo-Ethiopian War or Second Italo-Abyssinian War (1935–36)
      • Italo-Ethiopian War (1935–36) was an armed conflict that resulted in Ethiopia’s subjection to Italian rule.
      • Often seen as one of the episodes that prepared the way for World War II, the war demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations when League decisions were not supported by the great powers.
      • The Second Italo-Abyssinian War would actually be one of the last colonial wars, occupying Ethiopia — which had remained the last independent African territory, apart from Liberia.
  • Germany:
    • Germany was the last European power to enter the field.
      • Germany was hardly a colonial power before the New Imperialism period. Fragmented in various states, it was only unified under Prussia’s rule after the 1866 Battle of Sadowa and the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.
    • A rising industrial power close on the heels of Britain, Germany began its world expansion in the 1880s. After isolating France by the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary and then the 1882 Triple Alliance with Italy, Chancellor Bismarck proposed the 1884–85 Berlin Conference.
    • Bismarck as noted before was averse to colonial enterprises but his hand was forced by a group of eager imperialists in Germany.
      • Hence when in 1884 the scramble for Africa began, we find Germany throwing herself very energetically into the game.
      • In 1881, Schleiden, a lawyer, published Deutsche Kolonisation, according to which the “development of national consciousness demanded an independent overseas policy”.
        • Pan-germanism was thus linked to the young nation’s imperialist drives.
    • The result was that within a short time of six years (1884-90) four important sections of Africa were won for the German Empire.
      • The first definite step towards colonisation was taken in the South west Africa where German missionaries were already at work and where a Bremen merchant Lederitz purchased a strip of territory had hoisted the German flag.
      • This was followed by the formal annexation of a large area which in 1884 became German South-West Africa.
      • The same year by concluding treaties with some of the native kings and chiefs of the Guinea Coast, Germany scheduled two provinces, Togoland and the Cameroons as her protectorates.
      • In the eastern coast, Germany brought under her control an extensive area in precisely the same fashion, thus forming the German East Africa.
    • Generally, Bismarck was opposed to widespread German colonialism (as he wanted to consolidate newly unified Germany), but he had to resign at the insistence of the new German Emperor Wilhelm II on 18 March 1890.
    • Wilhelm II instead adopted a very aggressive policy of colonization and colonial expansion.
      • Weltpolitik (world policy) was the foreign policy adopted by Kaiser William II in 1890, with the aim of transforming Germany into a global power through aggressive diplomacy, the acquisition of overseas colonies, and the development of a large navy. This was relayed by a real imperialist policy, backed by mercantilist thesis.
    • Germany was powerful but without colony unlike Britain and France. She could not have sit down quietly.
    • Germany’s expansionism would lead to the Tirpitz Plan, implemented by Admiral Tirpitz, who would also champion the various Fleet Acts starting in 1898, thus engaging in an arms race with Britain.
      • By 1914, they had given Germany the second largest naval force in the world (roughly 40% smaller than the Royal Navy of Britain).
      • This aggressive naval policy was supported by the National Liberal Party rather than by the conservatives, implying that imperialism was supported by the rising middle classes.
    • Germany became the third largest colonial power in Africa, in 1914 with its African possessions of Southwest Africa, Togoland, the Cameroons, and Tanganyika.
    • Following the 1904 Entente cordiale between France and the British Empire, Germany tried to isolate France in 1905 with the First Moroccan Crisis.
      • This led to the 1905 Algeciras Conference, in which France’s influence on Morocco was compensated by the exchange of other territories, and then to the Agadir Crisis in 1911.
      • Along with the 1898 Fashoda Incident between France and Britain, this succession of international crises reveals the bitterness of the struggle between the various imperialist nations, which ultimately led to World War I.
    • After World War I, Germany’s possessions were partitioned among Britain (which took a sliver of western Cameroon, Tanzania, western Togo, and Namibia), France (which took most of Cameroon and eastern Togo) and Belgium (which took Rwanda and Burundi).
    • Herero Wars and the Maji-Maji Rebellion:
      • During the period 1904-08 Germany’s colonies in German South-West Africa and German East Africa were rocked by revolts against their rule.
        • In both territories the threat to German rule was quickly defeated once large-scale reinforcements from Germany arrived, with the Herero rebels in German South-West Africa being defeated, the Maji-Maji rebels in German East Africa being steadily crushed by German forces slowly advancing through the countryside, with the natives resorting to guerrilla warfare.
        • German efforts to clear the bush of civilians in German South-West Africa then resulted in a genocide of the population.
      • Characteristic of this genocide was death by starvation and the poisoning of the population’s wells whilst they were trapped in the Namib Desert.
  • Great Britain:
    • In the partition of Africa Britain secured the lion’s share which includes the best regions of the Continent.
    • In the north she controlled Egypt where form she extended her sway over the Sudan.
    • The acquisition of British East Africa, followed by the establishment of protectorate over Uganda gave her a continuous stretch of territory from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean.
    • At the southern end of the Continent there were four colonies viz, the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, all united since 1910 in the “Union of South Africa”.
    • North of this Union was the Protectorate of Bechuanaland and to its north again extends Rhodesia reaching the Southern boundary of German East Africa.
    • Thus pushing northwards from the Cape Colony, Britain came to control an unbroken sweep of territory up to Lake Tanganyika, and but for German East Africa, her Empire would have extended in a continuous stretch from the Cape to Cairo.
    • Her holdings in other parts of Africa included Gambia, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Nigeria on the west and part of Somaliland on the east coast of Africa.
    • Growth of British influence in Egypt:
      • Egypt had long been ear-marked by France as her preserve but she eventually lost the prize to Britain.
      • French interest in Egypt did not cease with the withdrawal of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Mehemet Ali, the Viceroy of the Turkish Sultan in Egypt, made himself practically independent of his nominal suzerain, France patronised him and thereby secured Considerable political influence in that country.
      • Equally great were her trading and financial interests. Later on, she designed and executed the Suez Canal.
        • Ferdinand de Lesseps (French diplomat and later developer of the Suez Canal) had obtained many concessions from Ismail Pasha, the Khedive (Viceroy) of Egypt and Sudan, in 1854–56, to build the Suez Canal.
        • Many workers died over the ten years of construction due to malnutrition, fatigue and disease.
      • But the position of Egypt on the road to the East, combined with the construction of the Suez Canal which commanded the shortest all-sea route to India, made that country of vital strategic importance to Great Britain.
      • Shortly before its completion in 1869, Khedive Isma’il borrowed enormous sums from British and French bankers at high rates of interest. By 1875, he was facing financial difficulties and was forced to sell his block of shares in the Suez Canal.
        • When the extravagance of Khedive Ismail Pasha compelled him to sell his shares in the Suez Canal Company, the astute British minister, Disraeli, purchased a large block of them in 1875 on behalf of the British Government. He sought to give his country practical control in the management of this strategic waterway.
    • Joint control of Egypt by Britain and France:
      • Before long the Egyptian Government became almost bankrupt and so in 1876 France and Britain set up a condominium or joint control of its finance in order to ensure the payment of interest on the Egyptian debt held by their Citizens.
      • The dual control lasted for about six years. Ismail resented this foreign tutelage and so the Powers procured his deposition from his overlord, the Turkish Sultan, and made his son eldest son Tewfik Pasha Khedive in his place.
      • The Egyptian and Sudanese ruling classes did not relish foreign intervention.
      • As under the dual control hundreds of foreigners were appointed to high posts, there arose strong anti-foreign feeling in the country. In 1882 this feeling flared up in a nationalist uprising headed by Arabi Pasha who raised the cry of “Egypt for the Egyptians”.
    • Abolition of dual control:
      • Armed intervention on the part of the Powers became necessary, and France and Britain proposed to take joint action.
      • But in the end France drew back, fearful of the international complications that might result.
      • Hence Britain proceeded alone and crushed the insurrection. This was the beginning of the British political control over Egypt.
      • Originally the British Government had no intention of remaining in Egypt and hoped to evacuate the country as soon as order would be restored. But the task of restoring order and re-establishing the finances of the country, together with the outbreak of troubles in the Sudan, indefinitely postponed the evacuation.
      • The result was that Britain remained in Egypt in an anomalous position, exercising real control under the nominal authority of the Khedive.
      • As an incident of the Great War, Britain regularised her position in Egypt by establishing a protectorate over it. This step became necessary as Turkey, the nominal suzerain of Egypt joined the Central Powers against Britain and her Allies.
    • Anglo-French rivalry over Egypt:
      • The British occupation of Egypt was a source of continuous friction between France and Britain.
      • The French could not forget that they had lost a great prize and much acrimonious bickering took place between the two Governments.
      • The Egyptian question intensified the rivalry between the two countries in other fields-in the Niger region, over Siam and Madagascar.
      • Not until the Entente in 1904 was the embitterment healed.
    • Extension of British control over Sudan:
      • Through Egypt Britain was drawn into the Sudan which constituted the hinterland of Egypt and was its dependency.
      • During the 1870s, European initiatives against the slave trade caused an economic crisis in northern Sudan, precipitating the rise of Mahdist revolt (the leader of a sect of dervishes) in 1881 in Sudan under Muhammad Ahmad, severing Tewfik’s authority in Sudan. The same year, Tewfik suffered rebellion by his own Egyptian army.
        • The Egyptian forces sent against him were defeated.
        • In 1882, Tewfik appealed for direct British military assistance, commencing Britain’s administration of Egypt (France pulled out of joint occupation) which ruled over Sudan and parts of Chad, Eritrea, and Somalia .
        • British intervention proved equally disastrous, General Gordon being killed at Khartum while trying to withdraw the Egyptian garrisons (1885).
      • For about a decade the Sudan remained abandoned. But then England resolved to recover the territory, which she did by her victory at Omdurman in which General Kitchner annihilated the power of the dervishes (1898).
      • The Sudan was then placed under the joint Anglo-Egyptian control but Britain (rather than Egypt) was in effective control of Sudan.
    • Fashoda incident:
      • Fashoda Incident (September 18, 1898) was the climax, at Fashoda, Egyptian Sudan, of a series of territorial disputes in Africa between Great Britain and France.
      • The disputes arose from the common desire of each country to link up its disparate colonial possessions in Africa.
        • Great Britain’s aim was to link Uganda to Egypt via a railway from the Cape of Good Hope to Cairo,
        • while France, by pushing eastward from the west coast, hoped to extend its dominion across Central Africa and the Sudan.
      • The Anglo-French rivalry over Egypt reached a very critical stage when the French sought to control the valley of the Upper Nile.
      • Having conceived the idea of connecting the French Sudan with the Red Sea and thus spanning the Continent from west to east, the French sent a mission under Captain Marchand to explore the upper waters of the Nile.
      • Equally determined to reconquer the Sudan, a British force under Sir Herbert Kitchener was ordered simultaneously to advance southward from Egypt up the Nile River.
      • Marchand reached Fashoda on July 10, 1898, and occupied an abandoned Egyptian fort; Kitchener reached Fashoda on September 18.
      • Marchand raised the French flag at Fashoda but was promptly warned by the British Government to withdraw.
      • This led to a severe tension of feeling between the two countries and war seemed imminent. But in the end the dispute was settled by agreement. France renouncing her claim to Fashoda.
        • The new French foreign minister, Delcasse, mindful of the incident’s international implications and anxious to gain British support against Germany, chose to ignore the outraged public’s reaction.
        • French and British governments eventually agreed (March 21, 1899) that the watershed of the Nile and the Congo rivers should mark the frontier between their respective spheres of influence.
      • Subsequently the French consolidated all their gains west of the watershed, while the British position in Egypt was confirmed. The solution of the crisis led to the Anglo-French Entente of 1904.

British and French Dreams:

  • The French thrust into the African interior was mainly from the coasts of West Africa (modern day Senegal) eastward, through the Sahel along the southern border of the Sahara, a huge desert covering most of present-day Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Chad.
  • Their ultimate aim was to have an uninterrupted colonial empire from the Niger River to the Nile, thus controlling all trade to and from the Sahel region, by virtue of their existing control over the Caravan routes through the Sahara.
  • The British, on the other hand, wanted to link their possessions in Southern Africa with their territories in East Africa (modern Kenya), and these two areas with the Nile basin.
    • The Sudan (which in those days included most of present-day Uganda) was the key to the fulfilment of these ambitions, especially since Egypt was already under British control.
    • This “red line” through Africa is made most famous by Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes advocated such a “Cape to Cairo” empire, linking the Suez Canal to the mineral-rich Southern part of the continent by rail.
    • Though hampered by German occupation of Tanganyika until the end of the First World War, Rhodes successfully lobbied.
CAPE TO CAIRO RAILWAY
  • If one draws a line from Cape Town to Cairo (Rhodes’s dream), and one from Dakar to the Horn of Africa (now Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia), (the French ambition), these two lines intersect somewhere in eastern Sudan near Fashoda, explaining its strategic importance.
  • In short, Britain had sought to extend its East African empire contiguously from Cairo to the Cape of Good Hope, while France had sought to extend its own holdings from Dakar to the Sudan, which would enable its empire to span the entire continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

Britain’s administration of Egypt and South Africa:

  • The British were primarily interested in maintaining secure communication lines to India, which led to initial interest in Egypt and South Africa.
    • Once these two areas were secure, it was the intent of British colonialists such as Cecil Rhodes to establish a Cape-Cairo railway and to exploit mineral and agricultural resources.
  • Britain’s administration of Egypt and the Cape Colony contributed to a preoccupation over securing the source of the Nile River. Control of the Nile was viewed as a strategic and commercial advantage.
  • Egypt was overrun by British forces in 1882 (although not formally declared a protectorate until 1914, and never an actual colony); Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda were subjugated in the 1890s and early 20th century; and in the south, the Cape Colony (first acquired in 1795) provided a base for the subjugation of neighbouring African states and the Dutch Afrikaner settlers who had left the Cape to avoid the British and then founded their own republics.
  • In 1877, Shepstone annexed the South African Republic (or Transvaal – independent from 1857 to 1877) for the British Empire. In 1879, after the Anglo-Zulu War, Britain consolidated its control of most of the territories of South Africa.
  • The Boers protested, and in December 1880 they revolted, leading to the First Boer War (1880–81). British Prime Minister Gladstone signed a peace treaty on 23 March 1881, giving self-government to the Boers in the Transvaal.
  • The Second Boer War, fought between 1899 and 1902, was about control of the gold and diamond industries; the independent Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (or Transvaal) were this time defeated and absorbed into the British Empire.

First Moroccan Crisis:
  • Although the 1884–85 Berlin Conference had set the rules for the scramble for Africa, it had not weakened the rival imperialisms.
  • The 1898 Fashoda Incident, which had seen France and the British Empire on the brink of war, ultimately led to the signature of the Entente cordiale of 1904, which countered the influence of the European powers of the Triple Alliance.
  • As a result, the new German Empire decided to test the solidity of such influence, using the contested territory of Morocco as a battlefield.
  • In 1904 France had concluded a secret treaty with Spain partitioning Morocco and had also agreed not to oppose Britain’s moves in Egypt in exchange for a free hand in Morocco. So, France’s influence in Morocco had been reaffirmed by Britain and Spain in 1904.
  • Germany, however, insisted upon an open-door policy in the area; and, in a dramatic show of imperial power, the emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Tangier and, from his yacht on March 31, 1905, declared for Morocco’s independence and integrity,  challenging French influence in Morocco.
  • The Kaiser’s speech bolstered French nationalism and with British support the French foreign minister, Delcasse, took a defiant line.
    • The crisis peaked in mid-June 1905, when Delcasse was forced out of the ministry by the more conciliation-minded premier Rouvier.
    • But by July 1905 Germany was becoming isolated and the French agreed to a conference to solve the crisis. U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt was prevailed upon by the German Emperor to help bring about the 1906 conference in Algeciras.

Algeciras Conference

  • The 1906 Algeciras Conference was called to settle the dispute.
    • Of the thirteen nations present the German representatives found their only supporter was Austria-Hungary.
    • France had firm support from Britain, Russia, Italy, Spain, and the U.S.
    • The Germans eventually accepted an face saving agreement, signed on 31 May 1906. France agreed to yield control of the Moroccan police, but otherwise retained effective control of Moroccan political and financial affairs.
  • Although the Conference temporarily solved First Moroccan Crisis, it only worsened the tensions between the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente that ultimately led to the First World War.
  • The First Moroccan Crisis also showed that the Entente Cordiale was strong, as Britain had defended France in the crisis.
    • So, the real significance of the Algeciras Conference is to be found in the substantial diplomatic support given France by Britain and the United States, foreshadowing their roles in World War I, to which the Moroccan Crisis was a prelude.

Second Moroccan crisis

  • Five years later the Second Moroccan crisis (or Agadir Crisis) was sparked by the deployment of the German gunboat Panther, to the port of Agadir on 1 July 1911.
    • Germany had started to attempt to surpass Britain’s naval supremacy – the British navy had a policy of remaining larger than the next two naval fleets in the world combined.
    • When the British heard of the Panther’s arrival in Morocco, they wrongly believed that the Germans meant to turn Agadir into a naval base on the Atlantic.
  • The German move was aimed at reinforcing claims for compensation for acceptance of effective French control of Morocco, where France’s pre-eminence had been upheld by the 1906 Algeciras Conference. 
  • This “Agadir Incident” sparked a flurry of war talk during the summer and fall (the British even made preparations for eventual war), but international negotiations continued.
  • In the midst of this crisis, Germany was hit by financial turmoil with plunge in stock market. This forced Kaiser to back down.
  • In November 1911 a convention was signed under which Germany accepted France’s position in Morocco in return for territory in the French Equatorial African colony of Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo).
  • France and Spain subsequently established a full protectorate over Morocco (30 March 1912), ending what remained of the country’s formal independence.
  • Furthermore, British backing for France during the two Moroccan crises reinforced the Entente between the two countries and added to Anglo-German estrangement, deepening the divisions that would culminate in World War I.

Dervish resistance:

  • Following the Berlin conference at the end of the 19th century, the British, Italians and Ethiopians sought to claim lands owned by the Somalis.
  • The Dervish State was a state established by Abdullah Hassan, a Somali religious leader who gathered Muslim soldiers and united them into a loyal army known as the Dervishes.
    • This Dervish army enabled Hassan to carve out a powerful state through conquest of lands sought after by the Ethiopians and the European powers.
  • The Dervish State successfully repulsed the British Empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region.
    • Due to these successful expeditions, the Dervish State was recognized as an ally by the Ottoman and German empires.
  • After a quarter of a century of holding the British at bay, the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 as a direct consequence of Britain’s use of aircraft.

Independent states:

  • Liberia, founded by the American Colonization Society of the United States in 1821; declared independence in 1847.
  • Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia) had its borders re-drawn with the establishment of Italian Eritrea; Ethiopia was occupied by Italy in 1936 during the Abyssinia Crisis.

Colonialism leading to World War I:

  • During the New Imperialism period, by the end of the 19th century, Europe added almost one-fifth of the land area of the globe – to its overseas colonial possessions.
  • Between 1885 and 1914
    • Britain took nearly 30% of Africa’s population under its control;
    • 15% for France,
    • 11% for Portugal,
    • 9% for Germany,
    • 7% for Belgium and
    • 1% for Italy.
  • In terms of surface area occupied, the French were the marginal victors but much of their territory consisted of the sparsely populated Sahara.
  • The political imperialism followed the economic expansion, with the “colonial lobbies” bolstering chauvinism and jingoism at each crisis in order to legitimise the colonial enterprise.
  • The tensions between the imperial powers led to a succession of crises, which finally exploded in August 1914, when previous rivalries and alliances created a domino situation that drew the major European nations into the First World War.

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