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HIST252: Modern Africa

Unit 4: Colonial Rule   Power, prestige, natural resources, overseas markets and missionary fervor were forceful aspects of the European colonization of Africa.  Once territory and people had been conquered, the European powers began to establish colonial administrations that were geared towards the maintenance of order and the economic exploitation of resources and people.  Colonial rule took different forms in the colonies; the British adhered to an administrative system termed ‘indirect rule’ while the French, Germans and Portuguese practiced ‘direct rule.’ A third variant referred to as ‘company rule’ completes the primary forms of colonial rule.  In this unit you will learn about the key differences between these types of colonial rule and simultaneously explore the ramifications of colonialism.  Specifically, colonialism proved devastating for African societies.  It had sweeping impacts on African political, economic, and social structures as European powers simply imposed their foreign ideas of governance and social customs without respect for African indigenous practices and structures.  The persistent undermining of African norms and ideals, in conjunction with the imposition of artificial boundaries (both between peoples and territories) was accompanied by continuous activism on the part of Africans in resistance to colonialism.  Here, you will explore resistance movements that were based in political and religious principles.

Finally, this unit will introduce you to the arguments advanced in favor and against colonialism; these arguments expose the divisiveness among observers at the height of colonialism.  Today, it is commonly accepted that colonialism was ethically wrong and detrimental to the natural development of African societies.  Bear in mind the definition of colonialism: colonialism is a political system in which an external power forcefully subjugates a people and exerts complete control over a territory and its people without the invitation of its people.  Hence, colonialism is inherently undemocratic and exploitative in nature.  Nonetheless, there remain considerable disagreements among scholars and practitioners about the contemporary consequences of colonialism.  The materials presented in unit 8 will address some of these issues.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 14.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 4.0 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 4.1.2: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 4.1.3: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.4: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 4.2: 1.0 hour

☐    Subunit 4.3: 5.0 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.1: 0.25 hour

☐    Subunit 4.3.2: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.4: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5: 2.0 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and analyze various social and economic consequences of colonialism for African societies.
  • Differentiate between the different types of colonial rule pursued by European powers.
  • Explore the ways in which Africans resisted colonialism.
  • Examine the arguments put forth by supporters and critics of colonialism to justify their positions.

4.1 Types of Colonial Rule   4.1.1 Indirect Rule   - Reading: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “British Colonial Policies” Link: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “British Colonial Policies” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read through Dr. Mills’ lecture notes on British colonial policies.  Pay particular attention to the discussion on indirect rule, including its evaluation and criticism.  The system of indirect rule that the British espoused as its preferred method for colonial governance is characterized by a small number of European officials who rule through the continued use of existing African governing institutions.  At the district level, administrators from Europe persuaded African leaders to follow their orders (if they refused, they were replaced with more willing individuals); African leaders had to perform such duties as collecting taxes and rounding up people for forced labor.  African authorities were allowed to rule as they traditionally had, yet they were placed in the broader colonial state.
 
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).

  • Reading: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa: “Unit 2: Studying Africa through the Social Studies: Module 7B, African History, the Era of Global Encroachment” Link: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa:Unit 2: Studying Africa through the Social Studies: Module 7B, African History, the Era of Global Encroachment” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link above, and scroll down the webpage to the section entitled “Types of Colonial Rule.”  Read the entries on “Economic Companies,” “Direct Rule,” “Indirect Rule,” and “Settler Rule.”  This reading provides you with a brief overview of the four major types of colonial rule employed by the European colonizers.  Please note that this reading is informative for subunits 4.1.1 through 4.1.4.
     
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4.1.2 Direct Rule   - Reading: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “French Approaches in Colonial Policy” Link: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “French Approaches in Colonial Policy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read Dr. Mills’ lecture notes on French colonial governance and policies.  Here, Dr. Mills explores the French system of direct rule.  Driven by the notion of assimilation, the French administrative structure was characterized by smaller regional units with a French colonial official at the head of each unit.  While “traditional” rulers were maintained, they lost their typical responsibilities.  The French made no attempts at trying to understand the various African nations’ norms and practices.  Instead, they imposed the alien French legal codes, thereby totally undermining African notions of marriage, divorce, crime, etc.
 
Both colonial administrative systems—direct rule and indirect rule—had catastrophic consequences for African societies.  Both were premised on the notion that Africans were divided into “tribes,” which maintained fixed political and legal systems.  The tribal unit, ergo, became the center of European administrations.  While “tribes” (people sharing common history, language, customs, religion, and physical features) existed, tribal identity was not very developed.  However, Europeans changed that.  Because they needed to rule through the tribal units, they emphasized tribal identities and even formed new tribes when none were present.  This created tribal/ethnic identities.  All of a sudden it meant something to belong to a specific tribe/ethnic group (for example political rights and land rights), therefore people started to identify with their ethnic group or tribe.  This invention of ethnic identities proves to be a continuing problem in post-colonial Africa.  Be sure to review the material in the reading for subunit 4.1.1 for this subunit.
 
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).

4.1.3 Company Rule   - Reading: Brigham Young University: Eugene Staley’s War and the Private Investor: “Chapter 11 – Modern Chartered Companies” Link: Brigham Young University: Eugene Staley’s War and the Private Investor: “Chapter 11 – Modern Chartered Companies” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this chapter on chartered companies from Eugene Staley’s 1935 book on the interplay between private investments and international politics.  Staley identifies the key characteristics of such companies and discusses the relationship between the companies and states engaged in the colonial endeavor.  Then, Staley describes the origins and undertakings of several chartered companies including the British South Africa Company, the Royal Niger Company, and the Imperial British East Africa Company.  Company rule was a distinctive form of colonial rule in the early years of colonialism.  While companies remained essential to the colonial enterprise, European governments took over the colonial administrations typically no later than the 1920s.  Be sure to keep in mind the material in the reading for subunit 4.1.1 to connect to this section.
 
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4.1.4 Settler Rule   - Reading: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “White Settlers in British Colonies” Link: St. Mary’s University: Dr. Wallace G. Mills’ “White Settlers in British Colonies” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read Dr. Mills’ lecture notes on the topic of white settlers in British colonies.  Settler rule as a type of colonial rule was found in those colonies in which large numbers of white Europeans established themselves. As such settler rule was limited to a relatively small number of colonies; Europeans primarily settled in the southern colonies of South Africa and Rhodesia as well as in Kenya.  Southwest Africa, Angola, and Mozambique also had white settlers but in fewer numbers.  Unsurprisingly, the interests of white settlers and Africans in the colonies clashed.  As you study the lecture notes, pay particular attention to the issues that were at the center of the disputes between settlers and Africans and to the ways in which settlers attempted to manipulate the political structures to their advantage.  Be sure to review the material in the reading for subunit 4.1.1 to connect to this section.
 
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).

4.2 Social Impact of Colonialism   4.2.1 Population Growth and Urbanization   - Reading: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa: “Unit 2: Studying Africa through the Social Studies: Module 7B, African History, the Era of Global Encroachment” Link: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa:Unit 2: Studying Africa through the Social Studies: Module 7B, African History, the Era of Global Encroachment” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above to access the webpage, and then scroll down to the section entitled “Social Practice and Legacy.”  Read the entries on “Movement of People,” “Dislocation of Families,” and “Urbanization.”  This reading provides you with a very brief overview of some of the social consequences of colonialism for African societies.
 
The colonial period brought about a dramatic increase in population; it was estimated that Africa’s population doubled between 1850 and 1950.  The reasons for this population explosion were manifold.  They included the end of the slave trade; estimates suggest that 11 million slaves were exported from Africa into the New World, but many more people lost their lives in the slave raids throughout Africa to procure slaves for export.  Also, there was the introduction of new crops.  Maize, cassava, and white Asian rice were introduced around 1900, and these staples brought new nutritional dimensions and higher yields.  The formation of economies allowed colonial administrations to ship food to famine areas.  At first, western medicine was only available to Europeans in Africa, but by the 1930s, most colonial regimes had begun to establish preventative and hygiene care centers for Africans, while epidemic diseases such as smallpox ceased to be major killers due to extensive vaccination programs.
 
Africa also became much more urbanized during the colonial period.  Between 1850 and 1950 the urban population growth averaged 3.9% in Africa (compared with 2.6% globally).  People left villages behind in search of employment opportunities or to escape patriarchal rural settings.  Many of Africa’s contemporary capital cities were formed during colonialism to facilitate the economic enterprises of the European colonizers.
 
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4.2.2 Education and Christianity   - Reading: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa: “Unit 2: Studying Africa through the Social Studies: Module 7B, African History, the Era of Global Encroachment” Link: Michigan State University’s Exploring Africa:Unit 2: Studying Africa through the Social Studies: Module 7B, African History, the Era of Global Encroachment” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and scroll down the webpage to the section entitled “Social Practice and Legacy.”  Read the entries on “Religious Changes” and “Education.”  This reading provides you with a very brief overview of the social consequences of colonialism pertaining to religion and education for African societies.
 
The colonial conquest stimulated many young Africans to “embrace the alphabet.”  Education was seen as a way to new opportunities.  While missionary education (the European powers mostly charged the missionaries with providing basic education to the colonial subjects) often stressed quantity over quality, Africans tended to embrace the little education they could receive.  Until World War II, colonial governments and missions focused strictly on primary education.  They wanted Africans to be just educated enough to follow orders and to fill low-level positions in the administrative machinery.  Yet, colonial regimes also needed some Africans who were highly educated (especially in British colonies).  Hence, higher level institutions were founded, which produced a new generation of leaders.  These highly educated individuals (many also studied at universities in Europe and the US) began to challenge the basic assumptions of colonialism.  Of course, such developments were rather uneven throughout Africa.  The Belgian Congo, for example, did not allow for education beyond the primary level. The motto was “no elites, no problems.”  The consequence of this policy was that at the point of independence there were only four Congolese individuals with university degrees.  Under these circumstances, a leadership crisis was inevitable.
 
Christianity became a major religion in Africa during the colonial period. Thousands of missionaries worked in Africa and trained Africans to preach the word of God.  Education and literacy as well as Christianity’s novelty were compelling reasons to join the missionaries’ association.  In 1910 there were 7 million Christians in Africa, in 1930 16 million, in 1950 34 million, and in 1970 143 million.  Competing missionaries spread different versions of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant); converts were aware of these discrepancies and felt that they could advance their own versions of Christianity.  Hence, many converts broke away from the mission churches and established independent churches (known as Ethiopian Churches).  These independent churches became focal points of anti-colonial protest.
 
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4.3 Economic Impact of Colonialism   4.3.1 Creation of Economic Zones   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Creation of Economic Zones in Colonial Africa” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Creation of Economic Zones in Colonial Africa” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please download the short reading linked above, and read the entire text.  The reading is a succinct overview of the establishment of distinct economic zones in sub-Saharan Africa during the colonial period.  Consequences of such economic developments are also discussed.

4.3.2 Infrastructure   - Reading: Transportation Research Forum: Ambe J. Njoh’s “Globalization Implications of Africa's Transportation Infrastructure” Link: Transportation Research Forum: Ambe J. Njoh’s “Globalization Implications of Africa's Transportation Infrastructure” (PDF)
 
Instructions: The link takes you to a page displaying the abstract of Dr. Njoh’s paper; click on “Download Paper” under the abstract to see a PDF version of the full 16-page paper.  Please read the entire paper.  Dr. Njoh discusses the nexus between transport infrastructure and development.  In doing so, he traces the development of such infrastructure in Africa from pre-colonial through post-colonial times.  The current status of Africa’s infrastructure, however, is largely attributed to the economic policies of the colonial governments.  Pay attention to the types of infrastructure developed by European colonizers and their rationale for building specific routes.  Dr. Njoh continues to explore the role of transport infrastructure for contemporary development.  This is ostensibly outside the scope of this particular subunit; nonetheless, it is illuminating for recognizing the connections between colonial and current events and dynamics.
 
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4.3.3 (Under)Development?   - Reading: Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen: Dr. Howard Stein’s “Economic Development and the Anatomy of Crisis in Africa: From Colonialism through Structural Adjustment” Link: Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen: Dr. Howard Stein’s “Economic Development and the Anatomy of Crisis in Africa: From Colonialism through Structural Adjustment” (PDF)
 
Instructions: The link above takes you to a listing of publications by the Centre of African Studies at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.  Scroll down to “2001,” and click on the third paper listed there (Occasional Paper, 2001: Stein, Howard: "Economic Development and the Anatomy of Crisis in Africa: From Colonialism through Structural Adjustment"); this will take you to the PDF version of the 27-page long scholarly paper.  Please read the entire paper, paying special attention to the section entitled “The Antecedents of Crisis: the Colonial Period.”
 
Dr. Stein’s paper explores the structural causes of Africa’s abysmal development record in the post-independence period.  In doing so, his focus rests on the economic policies of the colonial period and the structural adjustment programs that African governments were compelled to adopt in later years.  The economic legacy of colonialism includes a discussion of such aspects as infrastructure investments, education policies, commerce regulations, and attitudes toward African enterprise.
 
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  • Reading: Marxists Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa: “Chapter 6: Colonialism as a System for Underdeveloping Africa” Link: Marxists Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa: Chapter 6: Colonialism as a System for Underdeveloping Africa” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This reading is not mandatory but recommended for a radical viewpoint on the impact of colonialism for African development.  This chapter of Dr. Rodney’s groundbreaking book entitled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972, explores the colonial system itself and argues that colonial structures allowed Europe to exploit Africa and ensured that Africa’s previous advances in the economic realm were reversed.  He carefully constructs an argument designed to expose the negative ramifications of colonialism for the African continent and its peoples.  His book has been very influential in the field of African studies, both for its introduction of new viewpoints and its controversial nature.
     
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4.4 African Resistance to Colonialism   4.4.1 Religious Resistance   - Reading: BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa:” “Religious Conversion and Resistance” Link: BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa:” “Religious Conversion and Resistance” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this brief overview of how Africans used religion to organize resistance against European colonialism across the continent. Compare and contrast the information presented with Dr. Talton’s essay “African Resistance to Colonial Rule” in subunit 2.4.
 
“The Story of Africa” is a text and radio project from the BBC World Service that tells African history from an African perspective.
 
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  • Reading: BlackPast.org: Ryan Hurst’s “Mahdist Revolution (1881-1898)” and Alys Beverton’s “Maji Maji Uprising (1905-1907)” Links: BlackPast.org: Ryan Hurst’s “Mahdist Revolution (1881-1898)” (HTML) and Alys Beverton’s “Maji Maji Uprising (1905-1907)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: First, read Hurst’s short article to see how Muhammad Ahmad led a holy war against the Egyptian and British governments. Then, read Beverton’s short article to understand how indigenous leaders used religious beliefs in magic to unify Africans in modern-day Tanzania against German colonial troops.
     
    Sudan (often rendered “Soudan”) was a colony of Egypt, which was itself under British control, until 1881.  Muhammad Ahmad declared himself the “Mahdi” (the “guided one,” an important figure in Islamic eschatology), and preached against European encroachment and political and religious corruption in the Egyptian government and the entire Islamic world.  Mahdist forces annihilated an Anglo-Egyptian army in 1883 and captured the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, in 1885.  Although the Mahdi died in 1885, his successors ruled Sudan until 1898, when a new Anglo-Egyptian army backed by gunboats and a railroad toppled the Mahdist government.  
     
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  • Web Media: Wikimedia Commons’ version of The Strobridge Lith Co.’s “The War in the Soudan” Link: Wikimedia Commons’ version of The Strobridge Lith Co.’s “The War in the Soudan” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Examine the depictions of Africans in this poster for an American theater performance to see how Western audiences viewed imperialism in Africa.
     
    Telegraphs, newspapers, and photographs allowed audiences in the West to follow events in Sudan, and the final British campaign against the Mahdist government in the late 1890s was closely followed by audiences.  The war was extremely popular in Britain, where the British public interpreted the campaign as retribution for the death of Charles Gordon, a popular British general killed in 1885 during the Mahdi’s attack on Khartoum.
     
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4.4.2 Political Resistance   - Reading: BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa:” “Tax and Trade Wars” and Peace Pledge Union’s “Talking about Genocide:” “Namibia, 1904” Links: BBC World Service’s “The Story of Africa:” “Tax and Trade Wars” (HTML) and Peace Pledge Union’s “Talking about Genocide:” “Namibia, 1904” (HTML)
 
Instructions: First, read the entire BBC article to understand how taxation and other economic burdens imposed on Africans by Europeans provoked resistance.  Then, read the four sections titled “Before the Genocide,” “the Genocide,” “After the Genocide,” and “Witness” in the “Talking about Genocide” article.  Please note that the “Namibia, 1904” reading covers the topic outlined by subunit 3.6.3.  Also, be sure to compare and contrast the information presented with Dr. Talton’s essay “African Resistance to Colonial Rule” in subunit 2.4.
 
The Herero and Nama peoples of present-day Namibia initially peacefully coexisted with German settlers.  German seizures of land and cattle and other abuses provoked rebellion among the Herero and Nama peoples.  The German military responded by forcing the insurgents into the desert to die of thirst, and by killing thousands of others in concentration camps.  “The Story of Africa” is a text and radio project from the BBC World Service that tells African history from an African perspective.  The Peace Pledge Union is a British organization committed to educating the public about war and genocide.   
 
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  • Web Media: Vimeo’s version of the BBC’s “The Herero Massacre” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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4.5 Viewpoints on Colonialism   4.5.1 Supporters   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s version of Theodore Roosevelt’s (et al.) African and European Addresses: “British Rule in Africa” and The Saylor Foundation’s version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s version of Theodore Roosevelt’s (et al.) African and European Addresses: “British Rule in Africa” (PDF) and The Saylor Foundation’s version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read President Roosevelt’s short speech and Kipling’s famous poem on the merits of colonialism.  President Roosevelt’s speech discusses regions of Africa that he thinks were improved by colonial rule.  Roosevelt believed that European interventions in Africa were required to create political stability and to generate economic growth.  The British poet Kipling wrote “The White Man’s Burden” in 1899 to urge the US to pursue an imperialistic policy upon its recent acquisition of the Philippines.  He seems to espouse the notion that colonialism, while bearing a cost to the colonizer, is beneficial to both colonizer and colonized; indeed, the West is obligated to rule over non-Western peoples.  Both Roosevelt’s and Kipling’s writing embody the prevalent viewpoints of their time that allowed colonialism to proceed.
 
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4.5.2 Critics   - Reading: Milestone Documents: Excerpt from Edmund Dene (E.D.) Morel’s The Black Man’s Burden and Marxists Internet Archive: Karl Kautsky’s Socialism and Colonial Policy: “The Ethic of the Colonial Policy” Link: Milestone Documents: Excerpt from Edmund Dene (E.D.) Morel’s The Black Man’s Burden (HTML) and Marxists Internet Archive: Karl Kautsky’s Socialism and Colonial Policy: “The Ethic of the Colonial Policy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the excerpts from E.D. Morel’s The Black Man’s Burden and Karl Kautsky’s observations on “The Ethic of the Colonial Policy.”
 
The French-born Morel, upon learning of the atrocities committed in King Leopold’s Congo, led a campaign against slavery and exploitation in the Congo Free State from his home in Great Britain.  His book The Black Man’s Burden, published in 1920, makes direct reference to Kipling’s poem and presents a thorough discourse on the fallacies of colonialism.  Karl Kautsky, a Czech-German socialist philosopher, contributed to the intellectual debate raging among German Marxists/Socialists in the early 19th century about the virtues of colonialism.  His treatise Socialism and Colonial Policy, written in 1907, rejects the legitimacy and value of colonialism on ethical grounds.  Both Morel and Kautsky, while out of line with contemporary thought on the issue, must still be regarded as racialists; both believed that the white race was superior to other races and that contact with the white race was inherently beneficial to those races.  However, the exploitative nature of colonialism was objectionable to the activists/thinkers.
 
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  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Units 3 and 4 Reading Questions” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Units 3 and 4 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 these units 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 Units 3 & 4 Reading Questions” (PDF) for some notes on possible answers.