Africa’s vast geography has resulted in a huge variety of cultures. Despite this variety, one of the common features of most African cultures is the central value of the village, extended family, clan, or kin group to each culture.
The slave trade was the first case of prolonged contact between Europeans and Africans. The exploration of Africa also led to the discovery of the Americas as Europeans sought a faster route to Asia than rounding Africa. With the discovery of the Americas, labor was in such great need to farm the vast Americas that millions of Africans were shipped to the New World as slaves.
The period of European imperialism was largely the result of the industrial revolution. As the Europeans began outpacing Africans technologically, Europeans took over African lands rather than trading for their labor. European rule was largely destructive as it disrupted the African governments, economic structures, and cultural patterns.
In addition to struggling with corrupt governments and economies dependant on Western factories, Sub-Saharan Africa faces an AIDS epidemic far worse than in any other region in the world.
One of the most famous examples of the cultural interaction in Africa is the policy of apartheid in South Africa which enforced a strict segregation of the races.
Chapter 4, Section 3
What were the causes of the triangle trade?
What was the triangle trade?
What were Africans’ roles in the slave trade?
What good was most commonly traded for slaves? Why is this important?
What were conditions like on slave ships?
During what century did the triangle trade reach its peak?
What events in Europe led to the end of the slave trade?
Historically, West Africa is associated with trading slaves, gold, and ivory. The historical roots of racial discrimination in the United States today can be traced back to North American slavery and the kidnapping of more than 20 million Africans.
It is easily assumed, therefore, that the African slave trade pit brutal, gun-wielding European slave traders against unsuspecting African victims. While the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, English and French slave traders were often brutal, they were not always working alone -- many Africans also worked together with European in the slave trade.
When Europeans first started a trading relationship with West Africans in the late 1400s, Europeans observed highly-developed governments and well-established kingdoms in Africa. As a result, European military technology was not strong enough at this time to allow them to force their way into the trade. Therefore it was most often Africans who controlled the trade.
In fact, Europeans often acted as junior partners to African rulers and merchants in the slave trade. European trade in West Africa took place most often on ships anchored away from shore and relied on skilled African canoe-men to transport goods from the coast to the large European ships waiting out at sea. Even in places where Europeans did step onto African land to trade, their work was slowed by the diseases of tropical Africa. As one can see, European merchants were rarely in a position to call the shots.
It is important to remember that slavery was a practice that had already existed in Africa before European traders arrived. Yet, Europeans treated their slaves differently, a property. Slaves owned by whites living in the New World were treated extremely brutally. Once in European hands, Africans faced being shackled with six hundred others on slave ships and going to the Americas. Space on the ships was so limited that Africans did not have enough room to sit up or roll over during their three month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
The role of Africans in the slave trade does not minimize the Europeans’ treatment of slaves or racist views, however. But it is important to remember that Africans are not one group of people. Instead, there are hundreds of different groups based on language, religion, and ethnicity. Some groups, such as Dahomey and Ashanti, got very rich and powerful by trading their rivals and enemies.
Understanding the African involvement in the slave trade is important to understanding African history and how it differs from later interactions with Europeans. But, the horrors of the slave trade should not be forgotten because of this involvement.
Age of European Imperialism & Effects– 4.4, 4.5
pg. 97-101, 102-104
Causes of European Imperialism
Industrial Revolution in Europe
Allows for the quick consumption & production of goods.
Desire to Spread Christianity & Western Civilization
Berlin Conference = for example – Royal Niger Company Treaty
Economically, Europeans adopted the attitude that they owned the resources immediately upon their colonization of Africa. Railroad systems were designed with only extracting material in mind. Europeans also eliminated native subsistence farming for cash crops. Lastly, Europeans established a money economy that replaced Africans familiar system of barter and used Africans as low-wage labor in harsh conditions extracting primary resources.
Politically, the scramble for Africa resulted in a hasty redrawing of boundaries. Europeans ruled their colonies in one of two ways by direct rule (European governor) or indirect rule (selecting an ally indigenous governor). In accordance with European ideals, colonial governments imposed abstract laws that replaced African political methods of discussion and consensus.
Socially, Europeans set up social classes that favored whites while building hospitals, schools, and communication systems. Religiously, missionaries used new hospitals, schools, and churches to minister Christianity to the native Africans.
Effects of European Imperialism
Africa: Imperialism – Summary of the Scramble for Africa In the 1500s and 1600s Europeans traded along the coasts of Africa. From West African trading posts, they carried out the transatlantic slave trade that provided labor for plantations and mines in the Americas as local African rulers supplied prisoners of war to the slave trade.
In an early attempt to colonize Africa, Dutch settlers came to southern Africa in 1652 and established the port of Cape Town. For the next 150 years, the Boers, as these settlers came to be called, conquered the lands around the port, which eventually became known as the Cape Colony. Before construction of the Suez Canal, the quickest sea route to Asia from Europe was around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Sensing the strategic value of Cape Colony, the British seized it in the early 1800s. This colony in southern Africa was an exception to the rule however.
Until the 1800s Europeans knew little of Africa beyond its northern, western, and southern coasts. Because of difficult terrain, deadly diseases (such as malaria), and the possibility of wars, Europeans had avoided inland Africa. However, several technological advances made European exploration of inland Africa easier. The invention of steam-powered ships made river transportation possible, the discovery of natural ingredient, quinine, limited the threat of malaria, and the invention of the Maxim machine gun limited African resistance. These advances coupled with the decline of slavery and the slave trade in the early 1800s gave European nations new reason to explore Africa.
In the mid-1800s, a few brave explorers began to venture into the African interior. The most famous of these was Scottish doctor and missionary David Livingstone, who first went to Africa in 1840. For the next 30 years, Livingstone explored wide tracts of central and eastern Africa, setting up Christian missions and sending back to Great Britain detailed reports of his discoveries, such as Victoria Falls. When Europeans temporarily lost touch with Livingstone in the 1860s, the New York Herald hired a British journalist and explorer named Henry Stanley to track him down. The publicity surrounding the explorations of Livingstone and Stanley generated new interest in Africa throughout Europe. This interest swelled when subsequent explorers sent back excited reports about the continent’s abundance of resources.
Reports such as these helped set off a mad European scramble for Africa. Weakened by the population losses of the slave trade, African states began to trade these natural products, such as palm oil, ivory, rubber, cotton, and cacao beans, for European manufactured goods. To control this trade and to expand their coastal holdings, Europeans nations began to push inland in the 1870s. Between 1880 and 1914, the Age of Imperialism had started in Africa.
One European country after another laid claim to parts of Africa. In 1885, 14 nations met in Berlin, Germany, at the Berlin Conference to ease tensions about imperialism among European rivals. No Africans were invited to the meeting, but Europeans agreed to divide the prize King Leopold II of Belgium called “this magnificent African cake.” By 1914 European nations (especially Great Britain and France) controlled 90 percent of the continent.
As Europe made claims in Africa, old tribal boundaries were redrawn to fit the needs of Europeans. By maximizing access to natural resources and water transportation routes, the new boundaries often included many ethnic rivals or divided people belonging to the same ethnic group. With new boundaries drawn, the Europeans established government systems in order to best control the natural resources of a territory. In many cases, Europeans chose to govern their African colony with direct rule, where the traditional African leaders were removed from power in favor of a European official. In some cases, however, Europeans chose to govern their African colony with indirect rule, where traditional African leaders remained in power but were forced to carry out the Europeans’ will.
While governments were established, railroads and schools were built. The railroad systems were simple, usually making a direct line from the coastal port city to the natural resources. The new schools educated Africans on Christianity and the virtues of Western civilization. While these institutions served to educate Africans, they also stripped Africans of their native culture. Examples of European imperialism can be seen in the Congo Basin, Egypt, and South Africa.
In 1877, Henry Stanley explored the mouth of the Congo River and later described the river as a “grand highway of commerce to Central Africa.” As a result of Stanley’s exploration, Belgium’s King Leopold II claimed the Congo region as his own private plantation. He enslaved the Congolese people and had them cut down forests for rubber trees and kill elephant herds for ivory tusks. In pursuing his ambitions, Leopold stripped the Congo of many people and resources. Leopold’s brutal control of the Congo lasted about 20 years, despite the world’s outrage.
While the Belgians were claiming the Congo Basin, the British, the Germans, and the Italians, were doing the same in East Africa. Even Egypt came under heavy European influence. In 1859 a French entrepreneur, set up a company to build the Suez Canal. Joining the Mediterranean and Red Seas, this water way became a vital shortcut between Europe and Asia and was especially valued by the British as an important link to India. In 1875 Great Britain gained effective control of the canal and Egypt as a whole.
In South Africa, conflict developed between the British and Boers of Cape Colony. The Boers resented British rule, particularly laws that forbade slavery. They believed that they were superior to black Africans and that God had ordained slavery. As a result, about 10,000 Boers decided to leave Cape Colony rather than live under British rule. Migrating into the interior, the Boers established two independent republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. There the constitution of the Transvaal stated, “There shall be no equality in State or Church between white and black.” As a result Boers fought constantly with their African neighbors.
During the 1880s, British settlers in South Africa moved into the Boer-ruled Transvaal in search of gold and diamonds. Eager to acquire this wealth for Great Britain, Cecil Rhodes – the prime minister of Cape Colony – and other British leaders wanted all of South Africa to come under British rule. Growing tensions between the Dutch Boers and British erupted into a war in 1899 which the British later won. In 1910 Great Britain united the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, Cape Colony, and Natal into the Union of South Africa. However, the constitution of this British dominion made it nearly impossible for nonwhites to win the right to vote. Questions of racial equality set the stage for African independence movements after the Age of Imperialism.
As the Age of Imperialism drew to a close during World War I, Ethiopia and Liberia were the only two African nations to escape European domination.