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The Berlin Conference & the Scramble for Africa

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steven laredo

on 29 November 2017

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Transcript of The Berlin Conference & the Scramble for Africa

The Berlin Conference & the Scramble for Africa
The New Imperialism and the Scramble for Africa 1880-1914

From about 1800-1860 European Imperialism entered a new phase. Economic gains were emphasized rather than political conquests. Many people came to believe that the idea of setting up colonies was out-dated and unnecessary, and should be abandoned.

While there had been some small European possessions in Africa since the 1500's, these were little more than small coastal areas around trading ports.

All of this changed with the beginning of the "scramble for Africa" around 1880.

This era was characterized by a frantic competition among European nations to gobble up as much of the world map as possible. This led these nations into conflicts with native peoples and with each other.

One of the biggest stories of the NEW IMPERIALISM was "THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA", which was well covered in the press and became an obsession for many politicians & people in the imperialist nations of the time.

The Mad Scramble

Before 1880 only 10% of Africa was controlled by European Powers. Small colonies dotted the coast of West Africa (from the defunct slave trade), settlements in southern Africa were held by the Dutch, English & Portuguese, and Algeria in the north was controlled by the French.

Within 20 years, by 1900, only Ethiopia and Liberia remained free of European control. The scope & speed of this conquest was unlike anything that had ever happened in all of History. It completely altered African society and had incredible impacts that are still seen in the world today.
Why & How did the Scramble Happen?

The scramble resulted from changes in technology as well as popular support for foreign conquest in the industrialized nations of the world. Popular support grew from nationalism and rivalries between Europe's powers: every country wanted to be seen as powerful and acquiring colonies added to the prestige of their leaders.

In 1865 Leopold II became King of Belgium and launched the New Imperialist movement. He started giving speeches in which he pushed the glories of exploration and conquest. In the 1870s Leopold set his sights on the heart of Africa and in 1876 he sent H. M. Stanley up the Congo River to establish trading posts. This opened up the question of the control of the bulk of sub-Saharan Africa and launched competition among the other European powers.

In 1880 France established a French protectorate on the north bank of the Congo in direct response to the Belgian Congo on the south bank. In 1882 Britain conquered Egypt, heating up fierce, unbridled competition among all the powers of Western Europe for control of the African continent.


Meeting in the capital of the new German Empire, the Western powers set up the rules for dividing up Africa. They agreed to honor the idea of "effective occupation" to claim territory. Basically, if a country could show that they were already occupying & using an area as a colony, the other powers agreed not to try to take it by force. This led to a GREAT PUSH into the interior reaches of the continent by competing European powers. Everyone wanted to occupy territory before it was claimed & used by other powers.

Imperialist Competition

In the 1880's France & Germany cooperated against England in Africa. Pushing south from Algeria, East from Senegal and North from the Congo, France conquered much of Western Africa (and some of Central). The British greatly expanded their holdings by pushing into the interior from their coastal colonies in the West, from South Africa north and east, and from Egypt south. The new country of Germany entered the fray with Togoland and Cameroon in West Africa, Southwest Africa (Namibia) and German East Africa. Italy also took colonies in Libya and Somalia while Spain developed colonies in coastal west Africa. Portugal expanded its large colonies in southern Africa while England & France competed to control African islands in the Indian Ocean.

European Conquest

Because of the technological advantages resulting from industrialization, European forces conquered African populations quickly. Organized resistance sometimes caused temporary setbacks, but the many large and small resistance armies were in time destroyed by the superior armaments of European armies. For example, in one major battle in the Sudan, British forces armed with modern weapons destroyed a Sudanese army of over 10,000 men while losing less than 30 of their own men.
By 1914 nearly the entire
continent was under European coloninal rule
Remember...Africa is really, really HUGE.
54 countries
1.1 billion people
over 100 widely used languages
Full transcript