The Scramble for Africa: A Period of Imperialism in Late 19th Century
The late 19th century was marked by a scramble for Africa, during which European powers used political and military means to divide up the continent. Germany, led by Carl Peters, annexed significant territory in Africa with the support of the National Liberals. This led to the declaration of German East Africa as a full colony in 1891. Meanwhile, France controlled large areas of the Sahara and equatorial west and central Africa, while eastern and southern Africa primarily belonged to the British and Germans. Italy also acquired territory in the horn of Africa with German support. The Chinese Empire was rich and populous and thus open to exploitation, with European powers taking out 99-year leases on treaty ports to gain free access to Chinese markets. This led to nationalist movements such as the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists emerging in response. The Spanish Empire was dismantled by the United States in the Spanish-American War, while Ethiopia defeated Italy in a humiliating defeat. The period of European domination over non-European nations illustrated a stark imbalance of power, which was built upon technological and military advantages, and peace and economic development under British naval hegemony.
Table of Contents
- Germany’s Annexation of Territory in Africa
- French Control in Africa
- Italy’s Acquisition of Territory in the Horn of Africa
- China’s Treaty Ports and Nationalist Movements
- The Spanish-American War and the Defeat of Ethiopia
- The Imbalance of Power between European and Non-European Nations
- The Establishment of Paper Colonies
- The Herero Genocide in German South-West Africa
- Violence and the Establishment of Settler Colonies
Q: Who was Carl Peters and what role did he play in Germany’s annexation of territory in Africa?
A: Carl Peters was a German explorer who founded the East Africa Company, which aimed to acquire land in Africa and establish German colonies. Peters used methods such as signing treaties with local chiefs that gave Germany control over their lands. These activities led to a revolt by Arab planters that was suppressed by German troops in 1889, which ultimately led to the declaration of German East Africa as a full colony in 1891.
Q: How was France involved in the scramble for Africa?
A: France controlled large areas of the Sahara and equatorial west and central Africa. In West Africa, France established an extensive network of roads, railways, and waterways to allow for easy transport of resources such as peanuts and rubber. In central Africa, France established trading posts and eventually gained control over the Congo River. French domination in Africa helped to secure its position as a great power.
Q: What was the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists and why did it emerge?
A: The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists was a Chinese nationalist movement that emerged in response to European imperialism in China. The society’s members, known as “Boxers,” were opposed to unequal treaties, the activities of missionaries and opium traders, and the increasing presence of Europeans in China. The Boxer Uprising, which began in 1899, was a violent response to these issues and resulted in the siege of the foreign legations in Beijing.
Q: What was the Spanish-American War?
A: The Spanish-American War was a conflict between the United States and Spain that took place in 1898. It was primarily fought over the issue of Cuban independence, with the United States supporting Cuban rebels who were fighting against Spanish colonial rule. The war resulted in the temporary takeover of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam by the United States.
Q: What was the Herero Genocide and why did it occur?
A: The Herero Genocide was a campaign of extermination and concentration camps that was carried out against the Herero people in German South-West Africa (Namibia) by the German colonial forces under General Lothar von Trotha in 1904. The conflict began when German settlers began setting up cattle farms in the area, leading to conflict with nomads whose livelihood was being undermined by disease outbreaks. The Herero were ultimately subjected to extermination and concentration camps, where prisoners were used as forced laborers and exposed to severe conditions.
The scramble for Africa was a dark period of imperialism in the late 19th century, during which European powers used political and military means to divide up the continent, often with disregard for indigenous cultures and the violence that ensued when settlers took land. The period of European domination over non-European nations illustrated a stark imbalance of power, which was built upon technological and military advantages, and peace and economic development under British naval hegemony. The mission for European powers to expand their empires ultimately led to the establishment of paper colonies, with a disregard for the cultures and welfare of the people living in the territories they colonized. The violence that was often a part of establishing settler colonies underscores the brutality of imperialism and the global impact it has had on the world both during and after this period.