The history of imperialism in Africa: [sample essay], 1167 words (2023)

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From the 15th to the 19th century, only 10% of Africa was colonized by European powers. These ten percent of the colonies were generally established along the mainland coast to be employed in the slave and ivory trade. The central regions of Africa were left largely unsettled by the European powers during the era of conquest. Well over a thousand native tribes of Africa controlled eighty percent of the continent until the early 1880s ("Background Essay"). However, at the end of the 19th century, the “Race for Africa” broke out, contributing significantly to Europe managing practically the entire African continent. European powers began to colonize Africa when the Industrial Revolution increased the need for colonies as sources of supplies and raw materials, and new advances made travel to the continent possible. However, the altruistic goal of bringing "Christianity, commerce and civilization" to Africa was used as a justification for colonialism, a justification used by many such as Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, European missionaries and map makers of Africa (" An Essay Fund").

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The European powers began to fight over more than just the African continent. However, the organization was necessary to encourage trade and prevent violence. Chancellor Otto van Bismarck met in Berlin with Belgium, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway and the United States. Thus, the Berlin Conference took place from November 15, 1884 to February 26, 1885. In the course of this conference a process for the colonization of Africa ("Antecedent Essay") was drawn up, whereby the drafted the General Act of the Conference. of Berlin defined only some borders of the European powers. This conference had a lasting impact on Africa, as European nations drew state borders without regard to the continent's native cultural, linguistic, or social fabrics ("The Berlin Conference: Dilemma: Opening"), as no African leader was a gift. These established borders led directly to the current African nation-states, and Europe gained control of all of Africa, except Liberia and Ethiopia, in 1914. Ironically, 5 countries present at the Berlin conference did not reach any territory, and these 5 countries they had much more influence in the division of Africa than the Africans themselves (Myers). While the African borders defined at the Berlin Conference are the result of the current internal turmoil, since changing them will be in vain, they were only a single element that led to Africa's current instability. Other causes are related to political and economic events.

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The arbitrary boundaries of the Berlin Conference ignored native ethnic and linguistic boundaries ("Background Essay"). In essence, these were the two causes of the major problems in Africa that continue to this day: divided ethnic and linguistic groups and the mixing of separate African societies in general (Maddox). Communities were divided, a multitude of different and often contradictory social groups combined collectively ("Background Essay"). For example, the conference brought together the Ibo and Yoruba conflict groups leading up to the 1967-1971 Nigerian Civil War (Myers). The current violence in Africa can be linked to the initial violence used in the creation of Africa: Europe had to manage its territories, so it had to send troops and armed forces just because the native Africans fought back. The violent struggles of colonialism and imperialism, however, are affecting the African continent: in British East Africa, for example, the struggle for leadership lasted until the outbreak of the First World War. In German East Africa, the revolts began in the 20th century. World War I finally ended the fighting in Somalia. It took ten years to administer Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of men and women were killed in German Southwest Africa. Five to ten million people were killed in the Belgian Congo Free State. Only Ethiopia defeated the European powerhouse (Myers). Because the borders only served the European powers and their interests, post-colonial Africa saw corrupt leaders, racism, civil wars, class divisions, and in some places, cruelty and forced labor ("Background Essay").

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However, the current instability in Africa is not only due to much more orderly and systematic borders and has more than one specific cause. Although the borders resulting from the Berlin conference affected the African continent, Africa learned to manage and deal with the final results. Supporting the concept that borders were not the only factor in the current turmoil is the argument that redrawing borders would not resolve the current instability and therefore redrawing borders is not the answer (Maddox). If one border is changed, the borders of all other African nation-states may have to be changed, emphasizing once again that changing borders is not the solution (Myers). Historically, African states have failed whenever they have tried to achieve more than other African states. For example, Libya was unable to absorb Chad and Uganda was unable to absorb Tanzania or Kenya. All attempts to unite the African states are also successful. Examples of this are Ethiopia and Eritrea, which could not be added collectively, resulting in Eritrean independence sooner or later. Although tensions remained, it was ultimately wartime. The unification of Italian and British Somaliland in Somalia also failed. And although Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania, there was still conflict. The only two places where land redistribution has been beneficial are Sudan and Darfur. Congo and Nigeria, for example, are still in conflict and still have a long way to go to achieve stability (Maddox). No matter where the lines were drawn, the current themes would have surfaced anyway. Another result of the instability in Africa, which occurred shortly before the imposition of the borders of the Berlin Conference, was the different forms of government of the native African societies. Due to the many and varied political structures, conflicts on the African continent preceded and immediately continued beyond the borders. According to Jeffrey Herbst, “modern African states have become hollow. They have hard shells that involve a very weak institutional infrastructure” (Maddox). It is only thanks to this program that the rulers and the urban elite have access to energy and wealth, pitting them against the rural masses for internal control, leading to conflict and further instability. Mahmood Mamdani argues that "political conflict arises simply because urban elites seek to gain power by imposing a typical ethnic despotism on the population", adding to the existing unrest on the African continent (Maddox). Africa's greatest dilemma, however, was "the forced integration of African societies into the modern planetary economy, which predated the scramble for Africa and would certainly have occurred without it" (Maddox).

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Although the borders assigned at the Berlin Conference affected indigenous social groups and provoked civil unrest, the borders are not the only culprits for modern instability, since the reassignment of borders will not solve the problems of Africa today. The current turmoil in Africa is rooted in a variety of other causes: colonialism as a whole different form of government and a forced transition to a modern economy. However, there is still hope for stability in Africa: some African states such as Senegal, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa have managed to create significantly better political and social structures (Maddox).

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What is an example of imperialism in Africa? ›

The Belgians took land in the Congo and the British conquered land in Kenya and South Africa. Central, East, and South Africa had nice climates and fertile soil, encouraging the British and Belgians to settle these areas.

What are the 5 causes of imperialism in Africa? ›

  • Economic. The Industrial Revolution stimulated the hunt for colonies. ...
  • Political. Every country wanted national hegemony – that is, to be the No. ...
  • Military. Every imperialist country was worried about its own national security: The competition among imperialist powers was vicious. ...
  • Cultural. ...
  • Religious.

What was imperialism in Africa really about? ›

Imperialist ambitions in Africa were boosted by the expansion of competitive trade in Europe. The main aim was to secure commercial and trade links with African societies and protect those links from other European competitors.

What were the 7 major causes of imperialism? ›

The following are the causes for the rise of Imperialism.
  • Industrial revolution : Industrial revolution in European countries resulted in a great increase in production. ...
  • National security : ...
  • Nationalism : ...
  • Balance of Power : ...
  • Discovery of new routes : ...
  • Growth of population : ...
  • State of Anarchy :

How did African imperialism start? ›

European imperialism in Africa started in the early 1800s with the establishment of colonies, or areas under the control of a faraway region. In a famous gathering in 1884-1885 called the Berlin Conference, European nations carved up control over Africa.

What were the 3 main reasons for the colonization of Africa? ›

The reasons for African colonisation were mainly economic, political and religious.

What are the 2 main reasons for imperialism? ›

The five main motives for imperialism include exploration, economic expansion, increased political power, the diffusion of ideological beliefs, and the spreading of religious beliefs and practices to others.

What were three effects of imperialism in Africa? ›

Answer and Explanation: Three effects Africa encountered because of European Imperialism were shortages of natural resources, death of Africans from European diseases, and increase of wars and revolutions.

What were the 3 main causes of the new imperialism? ›

This New Imperialist Age gained its impetus from economic, military, political, humanitar- ian, and religious reasons, as well as from the development and acceptance of a new theory—Social Darwinism— and advances in technology.

How did imperialism affect African culture? ›

Colonialism disrupted not only the political organization and economic production of the many African political entities, it also brought forms of cultural alienation, invasion, and disorientation. Control of wealth, natural resources, and cultural products were the main aims of colonialism.

Why did imperialists target Africa? ›

Many nations looked to Africa as a source of raw materials and as a market for industrial products. As a result, colonial pow- ers seized vast areas of Africa during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This seizure of a country or territory by a stronger country is called imperialism.

What was the main point of imperialism? ›

Imperialism is when a country extends its power into other territories for economic or political gain. The goal of imperialism is to acquire resources, often through exploitation and force. Motives for imperialism include economic, cultural, political, moral, and exploratory control.

What are the 3 main characteristics of imperialism? ›

My analysis is structured according to Lenin's five characteristics of imperialism: (1) the role of economic concentration; (2) the dominance of finance capital; (3) the importance of capital export; (4) the spatial stratification of the world as result of corporate dominance; and (5) the political dimension of the ...

What are 4 causes of imperialism in Africa? ›

Some specific causes of imperialism are economics, ethnocentrism, exploration, politics, and religion. Two events that were caused by imperialism was World War One and the invasion of Africa.

How did Africa Stop imperialism? ›

First, many Africans refused increased colonial labor demands. Second, religious movements shaped how African peoples interpreted what was happening to their societies once the war in Africa began.

What impact did colonialism have on Africa? ›

Colonialism made African colonies dependent by introducing a mono- cultural economy for the territories. It also dehumanized African labour force and traders. It forced Africans to work in colonial plantations at very low wages and displaced them from their lands.

Why did European colonize Africa so quickly? ›

The benefits of the commerce were more effective for Europeans; thus, they established a colony. Secondly, Europe was well developed in terms of military innovation compared to Africa. Therefore, due to Europeans' military superiority over Africa, it was easy for them to colonize Africans.

Who colonized Africa first? ›

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a physical presence in Africa, in the 1480s, but through the 1870s European outposts were restricted to ports along the African coasts focusing on trade and diplomacy.

What is a good example of imperialism? ›

An example of imperialism includes France's control of Vietnam from the mid- to late-1800s. Other examples of imperialism include Britain's control of several countries in the early 1900s, including India, Australia, and many countries in Africa.

What was the first example of European imperialism in Africa? ›

Western Imperialism in Africa

Europeans first established colonies in Africa in the 17th century. The Dutch established a colony in South Africa and the Portuguese formed a colony in Angola.


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