In All the Long Annals of Imperialism, the Partition of Africa is a Remarkable Freak!

In all the long annals of Imperialism, the partition of Africa is a remarkable freak!

The Scramble for Africa, also known as the Race for Africa, resulted in occupation and annexation of African territory by European powers during the New Imperialism period, between the 1880s and the First World War in 1914.


Image Courtesy :

As a result of the heightened tension between European states in the last quarter of the 19th century, the partitioning of Africa may be seen as a way for the Europeans to eliminate the threat of a European-wide war over Africa.

Popular ideas in the 19th century also aided the partitioning of Africa. The ideas of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution, the Eugenics movement and Racism, all helped to foster European expansionist policy. The last 20 years of the nineteenth century saw transition from ‘informal imperialism’ of control through military influence and economic dominance to that of direct rule.

The vast interior between the gold and diamond-rich Southern Africa and Egypt had key strategic value in securing the flow of overseas trade. Britain was thus under intense political pressure to secure lucrative markets such as British Raj India, Qing Dynasty China, and Latin America from encroaching rivals.

Thus, securing the key waterway between East and West the Suez Canal was crucial. The rivalry between the UK, France, Germany and the other European powers account for a large part of the colonization. Thus, while Germany, which had been unified under Prussia’s rule only after the 1866 Battle of Sadowa and the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, was hardly a colonial power before the New Imperialism period, it would eagerly participate in the race.

A rising industrial power close on the heels of Britain, it hadn’t yet had the chance to control overseas territories, mainly due to its late unification, its fragmentation in various states, and its absence of experience in modern navigation. This would change under Bismarck’s leadership, who implemented the World Policy and, after putting in place the basis of France’s isolation with the Dual Alliance with Austria- Hungary and then the 1882 Triple Alliance with Italy, called for the 1884-85 Berlin Conference which set the rules of effective control of a foreign territory.

The occupation of Egypt and the acquisition of the Congo were the first major moves in what came to be a precipitous scramble for African territory. In 1884, Otto von Bismarck convened the 1884-85 Berlin Conference to discuss the Africa problem.

The diplomats put on a humanitarian facade by condemning the slave trade, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and firearms in certain regions, and by expressing concern for missionary activities. More importantly, the diplomats in Berlin laid down the rules of competition by which the great powers were to be guided in seeking colonies.

Submitted by : Professor Madeline, Category : History, Tag : Imperialism