Black History Selection 7

The Scramble For Africa

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African Decolonialism Part 2

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Introduction

Before 1870 Europeans had made little headway into Africa, either as conquerors or explorers, mainly because of their lack of resistance to the area’s tropical diseases.  This left Africa in a shroud of mystery that earned it the title of the “Dark Continent”.  After 1870, Europeans made rapid inroads into Africa thanks to the industrial revolution which gave them two new weapons: vaccines for combating the diseases and rifles and machine guns for combating the African natives.

Three lines of development got Europeans interested in Africa and triggered a virtual land rush there.  First of all was a highly publicized expedition by the journalist, Henry Stanley to find the colo1explorer David Livingston who had been missing for some time.  Stanley’s bestselling account, mostly remembered for the quotation, “Dr. Livingston, I presume”, especially interested King Leopold of Belgium who ruthlessly conquered and exploited the Congo (modern Zaire).

The other two lines of development concerned British expansion into Egypt and South Africa.  In Egypt, the ruler’s lavish lifestyle led to a growing debt and the eventual takeover of his shares of the Suez Canal by British bankers.  The loss of revenue from the canal further disrupted Egypt’s stability.  Therefore, in order to protect the Suez Canal from native revolution, the British government took over Egypt in the 1880’s.  Control of Egypt led to near hysteria over the outlandish possibility that the government in Sudan could cut off the source of the Nile and turn Egypt into a desert.  As a result, the British also conquered Sudan.
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