Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Christianity created missionaries who wanted to spread their religion in all areas that were considered heathen, or unconverted. Not only did Christian missionaries spread religion, but they also spread European influence. They insisted that any African that converted to Christianity were to wear the clothing Europeans wore. They tried to turn the Africans into distant Europeans. (1) Missionaries were also the first way of imperialism. As the missionaries moved into areas, they would turn to their home countries for protection and supplies. This opened the door for military and economic presence of European powers that otherwise would not have opened so easily. (2) Yet it was the missionaries that would fight the result of imperialism, slavery. They sought to end the trade though not to make all men equal. (3) Christianity was the ‘in road’ for the European powers as the missionaries sought to ‘civilize’ the heathens.
Religion opened the door, but it was commerce that opened the flood gates. As Europe moved into an industrial revolution, supplies to meet demands increased at alarming rates. They also needed new markets for their cheap goods. Africa was the ideal location as it was not near as advanced as Europe and would buy the items Europe made. (4) The biggest advantage was the ability to seize the resources that Africa had that would enable European powers to compete on a whole new level against each other and the world. Europeans found vegetable oils, rubber, diamonds, and gold that they could use and grow in power and prestige. (5) The need for more economic power and the desire to possess the source of that drove Europe to slice and dice Africa changing its history forever.
These two factors combined to create the argument that many gave for the colonization of Africa: civilizing the tribes. Africans did not have the technology of Europe. Combined with that and the fact of the vast differences in culture, Europe saw that the continent ‘needed’ to be brought up to mimic Europe. The best way was to become part of the European powers which would give Africa things such as education and technology it had never had before. It was the perfect excuse to take over the land. All three of these attributes worked together to open the era of European imperialism. It would take generations before those involved saw the scars it would leave on the land.
(1) Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, 2nd edition, (Oxford: Macmillan, 3005), 290.
(2) Ibid, 292.
(3) Ibid, 291.
(4) Ibid, 303.