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10.4 Imperialism in Africa

Several European explorers inaugurated the European penetration into the "Dark Continent." The most prominent among them were:

  1. David Livingstone, a Scottish physician, who went to Africa in 1840, as a Protestant missionary.

  2. Henry Stanley an Anglo-American journalist who went in search of David Livingstone.

  3. Karl Peters, a German student of British colonial activities.

  4. An Englishman Cecil Rhodes, an outstanding African ’empire-builder.’

Further, Baker, Burton, Grant and Speke explored the courses of the four great rivers the Nile, the Niger, the Congo and the Zambezi. Henry Stanley also described these explorations in his books: How I found Livingstone, Though the Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa.

King Leopold II of Belgium organized in 1878, a private commercial company, under the name of the International Africa (Congo) Association. He was the president and the chief stockholder. The purpose was the purchase of Congo land for the exploitation of rubber resources. The king then secured international sanction, at the Berlin conference (1884-1885) for transforming the Company’s lands into the Congo Free State, with himself as its personal sovereign. He earned great profits in this undertaking. By 1908, the government of Belgium took over the Congo Free State as a Belgian colony, on payment of liberal financial compensation to Leopold II.

Exhibit 10.1
European occupation of Africa

Many European nations such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Germany entered a race to acquire lands in Africa, owing to its valuable resources.

  1. Portugal established its hold over the province of Angola, to the South of the Belgian Congo. It also founded the colony of Mozambique, which came to be known as Portuguese East Africa.

  2. Spain acquired Morocco, the Canary Island, islands on the Guinea Coast, Rio Muni, and Rio de Oro.

  3. In 1889, Italy acquired the small territories of Eritrea and Somaliland, on the East Coast of Africa. It also acquired Tripoli and Cyrenaica, by defeating Turkey in 1911-1912.

  4. France established a protectorate over Tunis in 1881 as well as over Morocco. On the West Coast of Africa, Senegal was already under the control of France. It conquered Upper Nigeria in 1882 and Tibactoo in 1894. The French also carved out a big state in the Congo Valley, under the name of the French Congo.

  5. England acquired the Cape Colony in South Africa. In 1875, Disraeli purchased 176,000 shares of the Suez Canal Company from the Khedive of Egypt, with the idea of securing dominant control over the hundred-mile long Suez Canal. England established a protectorate over Egypt.

  6. In 1884, the German Karl Peters acquired Eastern African lands, which took the shape of Africa, lying between British Uganda and British Rhodesia. The Germans established three other protectorates, namely (a) German South-West Africa, lying on the west of British South Africa; (b) Cameroons on the South of the Congo and (c) Tologand.

The Boer Wars in South Africa

The Boers opposed the British rule in the Cape Colony, especially after 1833, when the British government made slavery illegal in the Cape Colony. This forced the Boers to emigrate from the Cape Colony. Piet Retief and his followers established the Republic of Natalia. In May 1842, British forces invaded the Republic of Natalia and converted it into a British colony. From Natal, many Boers again trekked northwards to the Orange River, where they established two states, namely Transvaal and the Orange Free State, respectively. However, as a result of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), both Transvaal and the Orange Free State became British colonies.

British colonialists under the leadership of Cecil Rhodes acquired three British protectorates namely Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland. By 1888 they founded British, East Africa and by 1894, they took Uganda. Nigeria was acquired by the Royal Niger Company between 1886 and 1889.

Thus in the span of forty years, the whole of the Dark Continent (except Ethiopia and Liberia) was divided between the European powers.

[ next page]


10.0 - Introduction
10.1 Meaning
10.2 Causes
10.3 Forms and Techniques of Imperialism
10.4 Imperialism in Africa
10.5 Imperialism in Asia
10.6 Significance and Consequences of Imperialism
10.7 Points to Remember

Chapter 11


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