Colonization of Africa The Occupation Research Paper

  • Length: 23 pages
  • Sources: 15
  • Subject: Literature - African
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #67200466

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Imperialism and African Colonization:

Imperialism is empire building and occurs when one state is more powerful than the other state's obstacles (such as peoples, geographic obstacles, physical obstacles and technological obstacles) to expansion. Imperialism became a popular cause for the first time in Western countries in the 1890s due to a significant degree by propaganda that sought to make nationalism and imperialism popular (Pieterse par, 2). Towards the end of the nineteenth century, European civilization experienced a period of extraordinary rapid expansion around the world. European countries had become very influential due to industrialization and organizational efficiency. This process in global expansion begun in the fifteenth century but the process gathered speed in the nineteenth century.

Latin America, the seaports of Asia were the first to be colonized by Europeans with Africa being the last continent to be colonized by European colonialists. European rule murdered and thoroughly dominated Native Americans. According to the web site, "Most Latin American descendents (Latinos) of the Spanish conquerors gained independence from Spain by the early 19th century, while many indigenous peoples remained subject" (par, 3). The African climate, disease and geography were the reasons for the delay in European colonization until the 19th century.

Scramble for Africa and Colonization:

This was a period (1880-1900) of rapid colonization of the African continent by European nations because of economic, social, and military evolution that Europe was going through. In early 1880s only a small part of Africa was under European rule. The area was mainly limited to the coast and a short distance inland along major rivers such as the Niger and the Congo. The European countries that had control of the small part of Africa were Britain (which had Freetown in Sierra Leone), France (which had settlements in parts of Senegal), Portugal (in Angola) and Spain (which had small enclaves in North West Africa). There were several factors that created the momentum for the Scramble for Africa, most of which were to do with events in Europe rather than in Africa:

End of the Slave Trade:

As Boddy-Evans says,

"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" (par, 4).


In the nineteenth century, a year would not end without a European voyage into Africa. The explosion of exploration was activated by the formation of the African Association by wealthy Englishmen in 1788. These wealthy Englishmen wanted someone to find the fabled Timbuktu city and the course of the Niger River. As the years moved on, European exploration was changed from traveling out of pure curiosity to recording details of markets and goods for the wealthy generous contributors who sponsored their trips.


The need for commerce between Europe and Africa was realized at the end of European trade in slaves. Although the industrialist may have seen the light over slavery, they still wanted to exploit the Africa. This was made easier due to the fact that European explorers had located gigantic reserves of raw materials, plotted the course of trade routes, navigated rivers and identified population centers (which could be a market for European manufactured goods).

Henry Morton Stanley:

Of all the explorers of Africa, Henry Morton Stanley (an American born in Wales) is closely connected to the start of the Scramble for Africa because he had crossed the continent and located the missing Livingstone. Though Stanley is infamously known for his explorations on behalf of King Leopold II of Belgium, his work generated a rush of European explorers to do the same for different European countries.

Steam Engines and Iron Hulled Boats:

The face of international relations between Europe and the rest of the world changed when the "Nemesis" arrived at Macao, south China in 1840. The "Nemesis" was a composition of a five-foot shallow draft, a hull of iron, and two powerful steam engines. The "Nemesis," which was heavily armed, could find a way through the non-tidal sections of rivers thus allowing access inland. Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley and Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza are examples of the people who used steamers to travel.

Medical Advances:

Due to medical advances, Europeans could now survive the ravages of the diseases in Africa. Most of the Europeans sent out to the African continent would die in their first year during the eighteenth century. The discovery by two French scientists, Pierre-Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Bienaime Caventou proved to be the solution to malaria, a disease that was killing most of the Europeans.


The room for expansion in Europe was over after the unification of Germany and Italy in 1871. The capital of the two was moved to Rome after a long process. As a result, Britain, France and Germany were in a complicated political situation as they tried to maintain their dominance and empire. France looked to Africa to gain more territory because it had lost two of its provinces to Germany in 1870. Britain's focus was in gaining control of Egypt and the Suez Canal as well as chasing territory in gold rich southern Africa. Germany later embraced the idea of overseas colonies under the leadership of Chancellor Bismarck.

Military Innovation:

Europe was slightly ahead of Africa in terms of available weapons at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This was because traders had long supplied their weapons to local chiefs and many had accumulated guns and gunpowder. The incorporation of percussion caps into cartridges and the breach loading rifle were the two innovations that gave Europe a massive advantage. The breach loading guns had between two to four times the rate of fire as compared to the older model muskets, held by most Africans. The older muskets were front loaders, slow to use and had to be loaded whilst standing. Europeans, who had eyed colonization and conquest of Africa, constrained the sale of the breach loading guns to Africans in order to maintain military superiority.

The Scramble for Africa, which lasted for only 20 years, brought the change of the African political face. It was only Liberia, which was a colony run by ex- African-American slaves, and Ethiopia that were free of European control as the rest of Africa was violently conquered, despite many instances of African resistance (Giblin par 35). This mad rush into Africa in the early 1880s saw a swift increase in European nations claiming African territory.

The Practice and Legacy of Colonialism:

African historians believe that colonialism is morally wrong because it is a political system where an external nation takes total charge of a region in another part of the world. it's also wrong because the colonized people do not invite the colonial power and don't determine how they are governed. The practice of colonialism is by and large un-democratic.

In spite of the widespread recognition that colonialism is morally culpable, there are differing opinions on the social, economic, and political results of colonialism. With the difference in the practice of colonialism throughout Africa, the consequences of colonial rule differ from colony to colony. The outcomes of colonialism in Africa can be divided into three major categories i.e. political, social and economic legacies.

Political Practice and Legacy:

The political practices of colonial rule in Africa were in four different forms of namely company rule, direct rule, indirect rule, and settler rule as discussed earlier. it's important to note that the governance system was different depending on the form of colonialism. Despite of the differences, all the colonial governments shared certain characteristics which include:

Un-democratic colonial political systems:

Regardless of the form the colonial rule took, all colonial systems were totally un-democratic. This is because the colonial governments did not allow popular involvement. The African peoples only contributed a little in the decisions and policies that were made. There were no mechanisms for the Africans to express their opinions even in cases where decisions or policies would have benefited them.

Peace was the primary objective of colonial governments:

Maintenance of peace, law and order was the main concern of colonial governments because the locals were not happy with being governed without any representation. The fear of civil disobedience and outright resistance was a threat that the colonial rulers faced. In most of the African colonies, more money was spent on developing and maintaining a police force and an army than was on key things such as education, housing, and health-care combined ("The Practice and Legacy" par, 5).

Colonial governments lacked capacity:

Most colonial governments were not rich because their colonial practices were not fully-funded by the European colonial powers. Therefore, each of the colonies was responsible for raising a higher percentage of the money needed…

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