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HIST252: Modern Africa

Unit 2: The Partition of Africa   The partition of Africa, also referred to as the scramble for Africa, between 1880 and 1914 resulted in the annexation or occupation of African lands by European powers.  By the  outbreak of World War I, only two countries—Ethiopia and Liberia—on a continent comprising 11.7 million square miles remained independent of European rule.  The immediate cause of this race for African territory was heightened by tension between competing European empires.  To avoid war, European countries negotiated the partition of Africa at the Berlin Conference.  This “New Imperialism” was justified by an appeal to the “three C’s”:  Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.  Missionaries urged European powers to intervene in Africa to create an environment in which missionaries could safely spread the Christian religion and suppress slavery.  Businessmen called on European governments to protect and expand their economic interests on the continent.  Finally, Europeans justified intervention in Africa through the idea of a “civilizing mission” to improve Africa, a concept rooted in scientific racism and social Darwinism, ideologies that viewed Africans as inferior peoples.  Africans resisted the political and religious pressure of European occupation, but could often do little to prevent annexation and invasion.

In this unit, we will examine the status of African developments just prior to the scramble and seek to explain the increased European involvement in Africa.  While relationships between Africans and Europeans have existed for several centuries, the end of the nineteenth century saw a sharp change in the nature of these relationships.  Here, we explore the reasons for this change, its manifestations in the form of colonization, and the ways in which African societies responded to colonization.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10.0 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 2.2: 4.0 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.2: 1.0 hour

☐    Subunit 2.2.3: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 2.2.4: 1.0 hour

☐    Subunit 2.3:  3.0 hours

☐    Subunit 2.4:  2.5 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Explain and analyze the significance of Christianity, commerce, and the idea of civilization for Europe’s increased involvement in Africa.
  • Evaluate the different rationales offered to explain Europe’s colonization of Africa.
  • Discuss the motivating factors and strategies of African resistance to colonization.

2.1 Before the Scramble   - Web Media: BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa:” “Part 17: Africa on the Eve of Colonialism” Link: BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa:” “Part 17: Africa on the Eve of Colonialism” (Windows Media Player or Real Player)
 
Instructions: Click on the link for “Part 17: Africa on the Eve of Colonialism” and select your preferred media format.  Listen to this entire audio clip (29 minutes).  It offers a glimpse into various African societies in the pre-colonial era.  Please note the descriptions of diverse political, economic, and social structures and systems present in African societies.  Far from barbaric, uncivilized, and primitive as the European colonizers wanted people to believe, Africans had developed sophisticated societies with advanced administrative structures.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

2.2 Explanations for Increased European Involvement in Africa   2.2.1 Christianity   - Reading: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa: “Unit 3: Studying Africa through the Humanities: Module 14, Religion in Africa” and St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “The Role of Missionaries in Conquest” Links: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa: “Unit 3: Studying Africa through the Humanities: Module 14, Religion in Africa” (HTML) and St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “The Role of Missionaries in Conquest” (PDF)
 
Instructions: For the Michigan State University resource linked here, read the section titled “Christianity in the Age of Colonialism” and examine the map titled “Map of African Religions.”  Then, read Dr. Mills’ lecture notes about the role of Christian missionaries in South Africa, and consider the two questions asked at the end of the document.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the MSU site above.  The St. Mary’s material above has been reposted with permission by Wallace G. Mills.  It can be viewed in its original form here (HTML).

2.2.2 Overseas Markets   - Reading: Marxists Internet Archive’s version of John A. Hobson’s Imperialism, Part 1, Chapter V Link: Marxists Internet Archive’s version of John A. Hobson’s Imperialism, Part 1, Chapter V (HTML)
 
Also available in:
ePub format in Google Books
 
Instructions: Read the excerpt to understand contemporary views about the economic causes of colonialism in Africa.
 
John Hobson was a prominent British economist.  In this excerpt, he discusses the idea that fierce competition among capitalists resulted in empire-building to find new customers for manufactured goods.  Hobson then proposes his own idea about why European countries sought colonies overseas, emphasizing the role of financial rather than manufacturing interests in encouraging imperialism in European countries.  
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.3 Medicinal and Technological Advances   - Reading: Saylor Foundation’s “Medicinal and Technological Advances” Link: Saylor Foundation’s “Medicinal and Technological Advances” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please download the reading linked above.  It offers a brief overview of the role played by medicine and technology in the conquest of Africa.

2.2.4 Scientific Racism   - Reading: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “Racism and Social Darwinism” Link: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “Racism and Social Darwinism” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read Dr. Mills’ lecture notes about the development of racism in Europe and its ramifications for imperialist policies (the section on “Anti-Semitism” is not required).  According to such thought, which was prevalent in Europe in the 19th century, Africa’s black people did not fit the conventional narrative of civilization.  This kind of thinking cut two ways: on the one hand, promoters of the “civilizing mission” argued that Europeans needed to bring civilization to Africa to “uplift” African peoples, to plant Western civilization on the continent.  On the other hand, Social Darwinists argued that Africans lacked the ability to create civilized societies, and therefore did not deserve the right to control their own governments and natural resources.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission by Wallace G. Mills.  It can be viewed in its original form here (HTML).

2.3 The Conquest   2.3.1 Berlin Conference of 1984/85   - Web Media: Pine Crest School: Dan Snyder’s version of Jeffrey Gaydish’s “African Political Entities before the Scramble” Link: Pine Crest School: Dan Snyder’s version of Jeffrey Gaydish’s “African Political Entities before the Scramble” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Examine the map, and read the brief comments to see where major African states existed prior to the Berlin Conference.
 
This website is maintained by Dan Snyder as a teaching tool at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.  The content linked here was adapted from Collins, et al.’s (eds.) Historical Problems of Imperial Africa.  The original grey-scale map, copyrighted by University of California, Santa Barbara, Geography, was altered here by Jeffrey S. Gaydish.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: West Chester University: Dr. Jim Jones’s Overview of ‘The Congress of Berlin (1884-1885)” and St. Clair County Community College: Bob Hunckler’s “The Berlin Conference” Links: West Chester University: Dr. Jim Jones’ Overview of “The Congress of Berlin (1884-1885)” (HTML); St. Clair County Community College: Bob Hunckler’s “The Berlin Conference” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Dr. Jones’s overview of the Congress of Berlin (also referred to as Berlin Conference) to understand the underlying motivation for the convening of the conference and its outcomes.  Dr. Jones includes a link to the actual text of the “General Act of the 1885 Congress of Berlin” (click on the link under ‘Results’).  For the second reading, examine the map of Africa to see how European countries divided the African continent.
     
    The Berlin Conference established a formal framework for establishing European colonies in Africa.  The signatories agreed to respect each other’s territorial claims, to suppress the slave trade, and to maintain a free trade zone along the Congo River. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed in the webpages above.

2.3.2 Why did Europe Colonize Africa?   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Why Did Europe Colonize Africa?” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Why Did Europe Colonize Africa?” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please download the reading linked above and read the entire prose piece.  As you read through the document, make note of the different explanatory arguments presented.  Do you believe one is more plausible than the others in accounting for the question of why Europe colonized Africa?  Also, please keep these possible explanations in mind when you reflect on the material in Unit 3.

2.4 African Responses to Colonization   - Reading: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture: Benjamin Talton’s “African Resistance to Colonial Rule” and St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “African Responses to European Intrusions” Link: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture: Dr. Benjamin Talton’s “African Resistance to Colonial Rule” (HTML) and St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “African Responses to European Intrusions” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read Dr. Talton’s essay on “African Resistance to Colonial Rule” in its entirety.  While the essay goes beyond the scope of this particular subunit, the greater part of the essay addresses the initial responses of African leaders and communities to the European conquest.  The essay goes on to include responses to colonial rule; this material will be explored in detail in a later unit.  Then, read Dr. Mills’ lecture notes on the topic.  As you read these pieces, pay particular attention to the varied responses of Africans to colonization.  It is readily apparent that Africans did not remain idle in the face of European conquest.   Rather, their options were carefully weighed and courses of action were determined based on local realities.  It should become clear that African responses to colonization cannot easily be categorized into resistance and collaboration.  Also, be sure to study the images and captions provided on the right of Dr. Talton’s essay.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Schomburg Center site above.  The St. Mary’s material above has been reposted with permission by Wallace G. Mills.  It can be viewed in its original form here (HTML).

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Reading Questions” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Reading Questions” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please write a well-developed paragraph in response to each of the following questions. Refer to the appropriate readings as well as the explanatory notes in this unit for all relevant information; additional research is not needed to gather the information. Your answers should be thorough yet succinct. When you have completed the task you are encouraged to check your work against the Saylor Foundation’s “Guide to Responding to Unit 2 Reading Questions” (PDF) for some notes on possible answers.