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Colonialism in Africa What does colonialism mean? The occupation and control of one nation by another. Over the last few hundred years, various European nations have colonized many areas of the world. These European colonies were in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and various smaller islands around the world. European nations colonized Africa from the late 19th century until the middle to later 20th century. Although Europeans had had contact with many parts of Africa much longer than this (for example, through the Atlantic Slave Trade), they did not impose a formal rule of law over Africa until this time period. The Atlantic Slave Trade Before the 1500’s, slavery was common in Africa. But slaves usually won their freedom after a few years. Some even became important citizens among the people who enslaved them. Their own people could even buy slaves out of slavery. Then the European powers began to build colonies in North and South America. They practiced a new kind of slavery there. The Europeans treated slaves like property, not like people. Freedom in the future was out of the question. The African slave trade did not end until the 1800’s. By then, millions of Africans had been taken from their homelands, never to return. Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch settlers in the Americas needed workers for their plantations and mines. At first they enslaved Native Americans, but then many became sick and died from diseases or brutal working conditions. Others ran away and to replace them the Europeans started to import enslaved Africans. The Europeans thought Africans would make good slaves. Africans were skilled farmers, miners and metal workers. They also did not know the territory they would be in and therefore they could not escape. By the 1700’s about 78,000 African slaves were being transported across the Atlantic each year. But even this did not satisfy the demand for slaves. Some African leaders began to kidnap people from neighboring areas to sell as slaves. Captured Africans were branded with hot irons. In the slave ships, captives lay side by side on filthy shelves stacked from floor to ceiling. They got little food or water on the journey across the Atlantic. As many as 20% of slaves died during each crossing and to make up for these expected losses the ships captains packed in more people for each trip. After the slave trade ended, Europeans then began to raid Africa’s interior for resources. They wanted resources to fuel the new factories that were springing up all across Europe. Europeans also saw Africa as a place to build empires. While Africans fiercely resisted European conquest, they were no match for the weapons that the Europeans had to defend themselves. The 19th century in Europe was a time of industrialization. Factories in Europe required raw materials to be manufactured into marketable products. As a result, Europeans sought both a source of raw materials, as well as, a market for manufactured goods in Africa. This economic motivation played a large role in the colonization of Africa Politics in Europe also led to the colonization of Africa. Nationalism-a strong of identification with and pride in one's nationresulted in competition between European nations. This competition often resulted in wars between nations. Competition over colonial expansion in Africa was another way that national competition between European nations was demonstrated in the late 19th century. One of the causes of the Scramble for Africa, (1885-1910) which resulted in the colonization of all of Africa in just twenty-five years, was the competition between European nations. No major nation wanted to be without colonies. The competition was particularly strong between Britain, France, and Germany, the strongest European nation-states in the late 19th century. In addition, ideologies of racial hierarchy were prevalent in Europe in the 19th century. Many Europeans viewed themselves as the most advanced civilization in the world, and some saw it as their mission to "enlighten" and "civilize" people in the rest of the world. European nations were able to make certain areas of Africa into their colonies in two main ways. Some African leaders were willing to sign treaties with Europeans for various reasons. In some cases, they saw it to their benefit to gain European allies. In other cases, there was not a clear understanding of what the treaties were about or what the consequences of them would be. Secondly, military force was used in some cases when there was a large amount of resistance to colonial rule. The Treaty of Berlin and the "Scramble for Africa" All of this treaty making and territory claiming by European nations caused a competitive rush for territory in Africa. This period is sometimes referred to as the "Scramble for Africa." As a result, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Germany initiated a conference in 1884 for European nations to regulate the rush for territory. The conference served several main purposes. First, European nations were interested in being assured access to various important trade routes, particularly along the Niger and Congo river basins. Secondly, there was a concern to suppress the internal slave trade that was still going on in some parts of Africa. Thirdly, a ban was put on importing firearms into Africa, which resulted in Europeans having a monopoly on guns in Africa. And finally, occupation of territories in Africa was discussed. The result of this conference was a treaty called the Treaty of Berlin. By 1900, almost 90% of Africa was under European control. The borders of African countries today were imposed from the outside by European nations. Often the people who drew these borders paid no attention to ethnolinguistic groups or existing political organization at the time of colonialization. Sometimes they grouped together people who had never been united under the same government before. Sometimes they divided existing systems of government at the time of colonial conquest. Also, note that the borders of African colonies in 1914 were still different than what they would become in the latter part of the 20th century. Economic Companies In the early days of colonialism, European nations allowed the establishment of private companies that were granted large territories to administrate in Africa. Businessmen who were interested in exploiting the natural resources of the territories they were allowed to govern formed these companies. These companies could set up their own systems of taxation and labor recruitment. For their part, the European powers that provided charters for these companies did so because the companies took responsibility for all of the expenses related to establishing and administering the colonies. This was a good deal for the European countries. They had the political benefit of having additional colonies in Africa, but not the expense! These companies were eventually unsuccessful in that they were unable to generate consistent profits for their shareholders. Governing a colony was expensive, and the companies faced opposition from Africans and missionaries over the harsh nature of company rule. By 1924, all Company rule was replaced by various forms of European colonial governance. Direct Rule One such form of colonial administration is called direct rule. The French, Belgians, Germans, and Portuguese are considered to have used this model in governing their African colonies. They had centralized administrations, usually in urban centers, that stressed policies of assimilation. This means that the colonialists had the intention of "civilizing" African societies so they would be more like Europe. As part of this strategy, colonialists did not try to negotiate governance with indigenous African rulers and governments. Indigenous authorities had a subordinate place in these administrations. Direct rule also used the strategy of "divide and rule" by implementing policies that intentionally weakened indigenous power networks and institutions. Module Ten: African Politics and Government will address direct rule in more detail. Indirect Rule Primarily, the British used indirect rule to govern their colonies. This system of governance used indigenous African rulers within the colonial administration, although they often maintained an inferior role. Overall, it was a more cooperative model than direct rule. Lord Lugard, a British colonial administrator, used this system of government first in Nigeria and later brought it to British East Africa. This system of government assumed that all Africans were organized as "tribes" with chiefs. However, this was not always the case. Remember that people in Africa had diverse types of government ranging from highly centralized states to "stateless societies." As a result, indirect rule increased divisions between ethnic groups and gave power to certain "big men" who had never had it before in pre-colonial history. Consequences of these significant changes in social organization and identity are still being felt today. Settler Rule Settler rule refers to the type of colonialism in southern Africa in which European settlers imposed direct rule on their colonies. Settler colonies differed from other colonies in Africa in that a significant number of immigrants from Europe settled in these colonies. These immigrants or settlers were not like missionaries or European colonial officials. Just like early European immigrants to the United States and Canada, settlers in Africa planned to make the colonies their permanent home. In order to thrive in the colonies, settlers demanded special political and economic rights and protection. Security and prosperity for the settlers depended on economic exploitation and political oppression of the African population that vastly outnumbered the settlers. Consequently, settler rule was characterized by its harsh policies toward the indigenous African population.