European Imperialism In Africa

By 1875 European possessions in Africa consisted of some forts and trading posts along the coast and a few tiny colonies. Between 1880 and 1910, however, Africa was divided up among the Europeans. For the next 50 years decisions affecting Africa and its people were made not in Africa, but in London, Paris, Lisbon and other European capitals. France acquired a huge empire in North and West Africa. Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Mali and other areas in West Africa came under French rule. Britain's colonies were scattered throughout the continent. Although the French controlled the most territory, Britain ruled the greatest number of people. Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Nigeria, South Africa, Rhodesia, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, the Sudan and others were taken over Eritrea, a large part of Somaliland and Libya. Southwest Africa, Tanganyika, Togoland and Cameroon were ruled by Germany until Germany's defeat in World War I. By 1914 there were two independent countries left in Africa-Liberia and Ethiopia. And even Ethiopia was taken over by Italy in 1935. (Italy controlled Ethiopia until 1942 when the British drove the Italians out.)

Reasons for Imperialism
There are several reasons why the European nations competed with each other to gain colonies in Africa. They all wanted to gain power and prestige. The more territory that they were able to control in Africa the more powerful and important they thought they could become. Africa was tremendously rich in natural resources, which could be brought to Europe and turned into manufactured goods. Europeans also needed markets for their manufactured goods. These goods could be sold in Africa for large profits. Often a European nation would take over territory in Africa simply to prevent another European country from taking it.

How Imperialism Spread

European rule came to Africa in many different ways. Sometimes a European trading company made agreements with Africa chiefs permitting the company to trade and keep order in the area. The traders then put pressure on their government in Europe to take over in order to protect them. In a few cases tribal chiefs voluntarily asked for the protection of one European nation in order to avoid being taken over by another European nation. Sometimes the Africans even asked for European protection against other African tribes.Treaties were signed by the African chiefs in which they gave the European company or government the right to keep order (govern) and to take over the land and resources in their area. Thousands of treaties were signed by African rulers giving away most of their rights to the Europeans, but the Africans never really understood these treaties and did not realize what they were giving away.

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