Imperialism and the conquest and colonization of Africa by Europeans - About history (2023)

- Notice -

Imperialism, or the degree of domination or control by a nation-state over territory beyond its own borders, reached its zenith in the 19th century when European powers extended their rule across the globe. the hugeAfrican continent(three times the size of the continental United States) was particularly vulnerable to European conquest. The Africa split was a quick event. In 1875, less than a tenth of Africa was under European control; In 1895 only a tenth part was independent. Between 1871 and 1900 Great Britain added 4.25 million square miles and 66 million people to its empire. Britain's estates were so extensive that many boasted that "the sun never set on the British Empire." During the same period, France added more than 3.5 million square miles of territory and 26 million people to her empire. The French controlled the sparsely populated Sahara and did not rule as many people as the British. By 1912, only Liberia and Ethiopia in Africa remained independent states, and Liberia was actually a protectorate of American rubber companies, most notably the Firestone Company.

Imperialism and the conquest and colonization of Africa by Europeans - About history (1)

The face of Africa has changed forever.

At the end of the 19th century, the map of Africa looked like a patchwork quilt from different colonial empires.

France controlled much of North Africa, West Africa, and French Equatorial Africa (united in 1910).

The British controlled much of West Africa, the Nile Valley, and much of Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Spanish ruled small parts of Morocco and the coastal areas along the Atlantic Ocean.

The Portuguese ruled Angola and Mozambique, and Belgium ruled the vast territories of the Congo.

The Italians had secured Libya and parts of Somalia in East Africa.

Germany conquered southwestern Africa (now Namibia), Tanganyika (now Tanzania), and Cameroon.

Great Britain had the largest empire and France the second largest, followed by Spain, Portugal and Belgium.

Germany and Italy, among the last European nations to join, arrived too late in the fight for Africa and had to settle for less desirable and less profitable territories.

Imperialism and the conquest and colonization of Africa by Europeans - About history (2)

What motivated imperialism?

There were many different motivations for 19th century imperialism. The economy was a big motivating factor.

Western industrial powers wanted new markets for their manufactured goods and cheap labor; they also needed raw materials. JA Hobson and Vladimir Lenin attributed imperial expansion to new economic forces in industrialized nations.

(Video) A Brief History of The Scramble For Africa

Lenin even wrote that imperialism is an inevitable consequence of capitalism.

As European imperial powers exploited Africa's vast natural resources, many Africans became workers in European-owned mines or agricultural plantations.

Harsh treatment or punishment of workers on rubber plantations in the Belgian Congo has resulted in millions of deaths.

However, economics was not the only motivation for imperial acquisitions.

In some cases, such as the French takeover of landlocked Chad in North Africa, the imperial powers actually spent more managing the territory than they gained in raw materials, labor, or markets.

Nationalism fed imperialism as nations vied for the vainglorious right to have the largest empire.

Nations also wanted control of strategic waterways like the Suez Canal, ports, and naval bases.

Christian missionaries traveled to Africa hoping to attract converts.

When opposed or even attacked by Africans who rejected cultural encroachment and denial of traditional religions, Western missionaries often urged their governments to provide military and political protection.

That is why it was said that “the flag followed the Bible”. The discovery of Scottish missionary David Livingstone by Henry Stanley, an American of English descent, was widely reported in the Western press.

Livingstone wasn't really lost, he just lost touch with the Western world.

Explorers, adventurers and entrepreneurs like Cecil Rhodes in Rhodesia andKing Leopold II of Belgium, who owned all of the Congo as personal property, also supported imperial acquisitions of territories.

Richard Burton, Samuel and Florence Baker, and John Speke were famous for exploring the Nile Valley in an attempt to find the source of this great river.

His books and public lectures on his exploits sparked the Western imagination and interest in Africa.

Imperialism and the conquest and colonization of Africa by Europeans - About history (3)

(Video) Imperialism: Crash Course World History #35

cultural imperialism

Cultural imperialism was another important aspect of 19th century imperialism.

Most Westerners believed that they lived in the best possible world and that they had a monopoly on technological advances.

European powers often built ports, transportation, communication systems, schools, and improved medical care in their imperial possessions, bringing the benefits of modern science to less developed areas.

Social Darwinists argued that Western civilization was the strongest and best, and that it was the duty of the West to bring the benefits of its civilization to "inferior" peoples and cultures.

Western ethnocentrism contributed to the idea of ​​the "white man's burden," a term popularized by the poet Rudyard Kipling.

Racism also played a role in Western justifications for imperial conquests.

European nations have developed a number of different approaches to avoid armed conflict on African soil.

Sometimes nations declared a protectorate over a particular African territory and exercised complete political and military control over it.

On other occasions they negotiated through diplomatic channels or held international conferences.

At the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, 14 nations decided the borders of the Congo, which was under Belgian rule, while Portugal remained with Angola.

The term spheres of influence, in which a nation claims a monopoly on a territory to prevent it from being seized by rival imperial powers, was first used at the Berlin Conference.

However, the disputes sometimes brought European nations to the brink of war.

Britain and France had plans to build a north-south and east-west railway across Africa; Although neither railway was completed, the two nations nearly went to war during the Fashoda Crisis over control of Sudan, where the railways are said to have crossed.

Britain also sought to control the upper reaches of the Nile to protect its interests in Egypt, whose existence depended on the waters of the Nile.

After diplomatic negotiations, the dispute was resolved in favor of the British, and Sudan became part of the British Empire.

(Video) Colonization of Africa - Summary on a Map

Africa, imperialism and War 13 broke out in 1899 between the British and the Boers for control of South Africa.

In 1902 the British were victorious and South Africa was added to their empire.

In West Africa, the European powers built long, narrow states from north to south, giving everyone access to sea trade routes and a port city.

Because most Europeans knew little or nothing about the local geography or demographics of the region, these new states often divided similar ethnic groups or united traditional enemies under a single administration.

Difficulties arising from these differences continue to plague contemporary West African nations such as Nigeria.

Imperialism and the conquest and colonization of Africa by Europeans - About history (4)

French and British rule

The French and the British had very different approaches to government in their empires.

The French believed in their "civilizing mission" and sought to assimilate the peoples of their empire by implanting the French language and culture.

The British followed a policy of "indirect rule". They did not try to assimilate the peoples of their empire and they trained few Africans to be civil servants.

A relatively small number of British soldiers and bureaucrats ruled Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa.

In East Africa, the British got Indians to work as government officials and in trade.

Otherwise the British tried to avoid encroaching on local rulers or life forms.

Although British and French policies differed radically, both were based on a belief in the superiority of Western civilization.

European settlers also settled in areas where the climate was favorable and the land suitable for agriculture.

A significant number of French settlers settled in the coastal areas of North Africa, particularly in Algeria and Tunisia, while Italians settled in Tunisia and Libya.


British colonists moved to what they called Rhodesia and Kenya. In Kenya, British farmers and ranchers moved into the highlands, displacing Kenyan farmers and taking much of the best land.

The Boers, Dutch farmers, fought against the Zulus for control of rich farmland in South Africa.

The Boers participated in the mass migration or Great Journey into the interior of South Africa from 1835 to 1841 and established two independent republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

Dutch farmers clashed with the British for control of South Africa in the Boer War. In Mozambique and Angola, Portuguese colonists (Prazeres) established large feudal estates (Brazos).

Throughout Africa, European settlers occupied politically, culturally, and economically privileged positions.

They opposed extending rights to native African populations.

Some groups, such as the Igbo in Nigeria and the Baganda in Uganda, allied with the British and gained privileged positions in the colonial administration. However, most Africans resisted the European takeovers.

Muslim leaders such as Abdul Kader in Algeria and the Mahdi in Sudan put up prolonged and effective armed resistance to French and British rule.

But both were finally defeated by the superior Western military power. The Ashante of Ghana and the Herero of South West Africa fought against European rule but were crushed in bloody clashes.

The Zulus, led by Shaka Zulu, used guerrilla tactics to stop Boer expansion into their territories, but after initial defeats, the Boers triumphed.

The Boers then employed the hit-and-run tactics they had learned from the Zulus in their war against the British.

The British defeated the Matabele and Mashona tribes in Northern and Southern Rhodesia.

In the 20th century a new generation of nationalistsAfrican leadersThey used a variety of political and economic means to resist the occupation of their land by European nations and settlers.

Imperialism and the conquest and colonization of Africa by Europeans - About history (5)

(Video) The Origins of European Imperialism


- Notice -


1. British Colonization of Africa | Animated History
(The Armchair Historian)
2. Colonization and Imperialism | The OpenBook
3. 20 European Conquest and African Resistance
(Jody Bain)
5. The Scramble For Africa Documentary The Causes and Motivations
(buddy strawbridge)
6. A Brief History Of European Colonization in Africa
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Carey Rath

Last Updated: 03/06/2023

Views: 6847

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Carey Rath

Birthday: 1997-03-06

Address: 14955 Ledner Trail, East Rodrickfort, NE 85127-8369

Phone: +18682428114917

Job: National Technology Representative

Hobby: Sand art, Drama, Web surfing, Cycling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Leather crafting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Pres. Carey Rath, I am a faithful, funny, vast, joyous, lively, brave, glamorous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.