The Scramble for Africa and the Berlin Conference

6 years ago

The Scramble for Africa and the Berlin Conference
What was the Scramble for Africa? In the 1800s, European countries were rushing into Africa to plant their flags into the land and claim colonies
Because of Industrialization, Europe wanted Africa’s valuable resources
Some of these included: palm oil, cotton, gold,diamonds, and rubber
The control of the Suez canal was also extremely important for countries wishing to trade with India and China
Overall, the Europeans thought: the more colonies they had, the larger their military would be, making them a more powerful country
In the midst of this scramble to place flags on crucial African lands disputes popped up over who had the best claim.
When this began to disrupt trade and travel, Otto Von Bismarck called together a meeting called The Berlin Conference
In 1884, 14 countries (minus anyone from Africa) met in Berlin.

The major countries at the conference were: Britain, France, Belgium, and Portugal.
These countries gained much of the most strategic pieces of land
The French gained control of northwestern Africa (including Algeria)
The British had control of both South Africa and Egypt (which included influence over the Suez Canal)
King Leopold II of Belgium gained the Congo (in Central Africa)
and the Portuguese established their control of the Western and Eastern edges of Africa

What effect did this have on the native African population?
While Europe their primary goal to be the end of slavery in Africa, their actions resulted in the increase in the women and children slaves
They also claimed to be the “most civilized” but in reality they carried out horrible travesties in their colonies. In particular in King Leopold II’s Congo River Basin over 5 million were murdered and hundreds had their hands chopped off

Europeans also arbitrarily drew boundaries without any regard for the local people groups.
It was common for the controlling European power to exploit any existing animosity between people groups in order to keep the population divided and weak
This led to countless disputes, civil wars, and even genocide
You might recall the recent stories of thousands upon thousands murdered in the Sudanese Civil War, in the ongoing conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis, and in the Darfur Massacre
The Industrial Revolution in Europe pushed countries to acquire colonies which could supply raw materials while at the same time become a captured market to sell their manufactured goods.
This rush for colonies (a.k.a. The Scramble for Africa) led to the drawing of arbitrary boundary lines, resulting in tragic unintended consequences that are still affecting Africa today.

* Primary source of the Treaty of Berlin 1885:
– A. Supan, Die territoriale Entwicklung der Euroaischen Kolonien. Gotha: 1906. p. 254. Extent of Colonialism.
– Berlin, Conference of. (2013). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1.
– Hargreaves, J. (1984). The Berlin West Africa Conference: a timely centenary?. History Today, 3416-22.
-The Berlin Conference: Creating a Better Africa. A Brief History of the Berlin Conference.
– Verstraelen, F. J. (1984). Hundred years after the Berlin conference [on the Congo] 1884-85. Mission Studies, 1(2), 84-86.
– Allen, R. C. “Why The Industrial Revolution Was British: Commerce, Induced Invention, And The Scientific Revolution.” Economic History Review 64.2 (2011): 357-384. Business Source Premier. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
– Bragg, M., & Drayton, R., Rathbone, R., Lewis, J., (2013, Oct 31). The Berlin Conference. BBC 4 Radio. Podcast retrieved from
– Hochschild, Adam. “Leopold’s Congo: A Holocaust We Have Yet To Comprehend.” Chronicle Of Higher Education 46.36 (2000): B4. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
– Abimbola, Olaifa Temitope, and Danjibo Nathaniel Dominic. “The 1994 Rwandan Conflict: Genocide Or War?.” International Journal On World Peace 30.3 (2013): 31-54. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.


The Struggle Continues

21 thoughts on “The Scramble for Africa and the Berlin Conference”

  1. Very basic there were hundreds more reasons for the confrence. You also forgot about the Germans who first called the conference the Italian areas. And the map was inaccriot. Please do more research and don't vilify one side. Because they did a lot of good to. Railroads. They did help end slavery. And they gave the natives new tools tech and skill that would improve there lives. Thank you.

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