Scramble for Africa

Areas of Africa controlled by European colonial powers in 1913, shown along with current national boundaries.
  Independent

The Scramble for Africa, also called the Partition of Africa or the Conquest of Africa, was the occupation, division, and colonisation of African territory by European powers during the period known to historians as the New Imperialism (between 1881 and 1914). In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under formal European control; by 1914 it had increased to almost 90 percent of the continent, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia), the Dervish state (a portion of present-day Somalia)[1] and Liberia still being independent. There were multiple motivations for European colonizers, including desire for valuable resources available throughout the continent, the quest for national prestige, tensions between pairs of European powers, religious missionary zeal and internal African native politics.

The Berlin Conference of 1884, which regulated European colonisation and trade in Africa, is usually referred to as the ultimate point of the Scramble for Africa.[2] Consequent to the political and economic rivalries among the European empires in the last quarter of the 19th century, the partitioning, or splitting up of Africa was how the Europeans avoided warring amongst themselves over Africa.[3] The later years of the 19th century saw the transition from "informal imperialism" by military influence and economic dominance, to direct rule, bringing about colonial imperialism.[4]

Background

David Livingstone, early explorer of the interior of Africa and fighter against the slave trade

By 1840, European powers had established small trading posts along the coast, but they seldom moved inland.[5] In the middle decades of the 19th century, European explorers had mapped areas of East Africa and Central Africa.

Even as late as the 1870s, Western European states controlled only ten percent of the African continent, with all their territories located near the coast. The most important holdings were Angola and Mozambique, held by Portugal; the Cape Colony, held by the United Kingdom; and Algeria, held by France. By 1914, only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent of European control.[6]

Technological advances facilitated European expansion overseas. Industrialisation brought about rapid advancements in transportation and communication, especially in the forms of steamships, railways and telegraphs. Medical advances also played an important role, especially medicines for tropical diseases. The development of quinine, an effective treatment for malaria, made vast expanses of the tropics more accessible for Europeans.