Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
The carving up of the African continent did not follow traditional tribal lines. The European nations chose their own boundaries. Tribes were now split apart and meshed with other tribes. To the Europeans, they were all the same. To the Africans, their worlds were torn apart. Yet the changes went beyond that. The white Europeans were now in control of everything.
The control by the Europeans meant that Africans had “little opportunity to obtain the new forms of knowledge and economic opportunity” that Europeans brought with them as the Africans were “confined to menial, poorly-paid occupations.” They found more and more of their land disappearing. France was the main one pushing forward and obtaining treaties with local rulers as it looked to “extend territorial control inland.” The knowledge and technology that the Europeans brought with them pushed the colonization even further. An example was motorized vehicles that allowed the new controllers to expand further faster and clear the land for more crops to grow and export to enhance the pockets of the Europeans. Africa was changing with dollar signs shining from European eyes.
Europeans moved in to possess Africa with no thoughts but money. Running the territories was not thought out as it all “based on a variety of ad hoc arrangements determined largely by local conditions” and the goals of the colonizers. Greed and racism ended up ruling the countries as the natives were seen as pagan and deemed to be “inherently disloyal.” The European powers moved in with no regard for the people. An example was the method France used when they took over a territory. They quickly abolished “uncooperative African ruling structures” while the British looked to use the rulers already established as long as they got their end results of items to export. African life was changed like never before.
The biggest change was found in the Congo where King Leopold had promised to “care for the improvement of the conditions of their [the native tribes] moral and material well-being”. Despite signing The General Act of the Berlin Conference promising to do that, it was in the Congo Independent State that the “most devastating social disruption and loss of life” occurred during the colonization period under Leopold’s rule. The only goal Leopold possessed was the ivory and rubber that could be found in the region of the Congo river basin. Labor resources were used and abused until they were tossed aside once they were no longer able to produce. The world caught wind of it in the early 1900s and began voicing protests to the treatment of the African natives.
Colonial rule was not looked at by all Africans as something bad as they tried to “turn it to their own advantage” to find opportunities for better lives and to get ‘in’ with the ruling countries. It all came at a cost. Africans had a new society to live in which included new obligations imposed by the Europeans such as taxes, an increase in work, and the loss of land as the white settlers came in to claim it and force the natives to work for. Life was not turning out too well for the natives. It took two world wars to show them how week European rule really was and that they had the chance to stand on their own feet.
James Giblin. “Issues in African History.” University of Iowa. http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/history/giblinhistory.html.
Guisepi, R. A., ed. “African Societies, Slavery, and the Slave Trade”. Africa And The Africans In The Age Of The Atlantic Slave Trade. http://history-world.org/Africa%20in%20the%20age%20of%20the%20slave%20trade.htm.
Iliffe, John. Africans: The History of a Continent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Ocheni, Stephen and Basil C. Nwankwo. "Analysis of Colonialism and its Impact in Africa." Cross - Cultural Communication 8, no. 3 (2012): 46-54. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1033045297?accountid=8289.
Parker, John and Richard Rathbone. African History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Shillington, Kevin. History of Africa, 2nd Edition. New York: Macmillan, 2005.
“The Berlin Conference: The General Act of Feb. 26, 1885”. African Federation http://www.africafederation.net/Berlin_1885.htm.
“The Story of Africa: Independence”. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/