Colonization of Africa: Berlin Conference
In 1881 the Scramble for Africa began which consisted of European powers invading and occupying African territories. A few years later the Berlin Conference took place which civilized the diving of Africa between these powers.
Africa was not invited to the conference thus having any say in decisions made. The Berlin conference included 13 European powers and the United States.
Active Parties at the Conference
They were Austria- Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Spain, Sweden– Norway, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The imperialistic ways of these countries and powers caused harm to not just the African land but to the African people too. The land was stripped of its natural resources, and the people enslaved on their own native land to serve these imperial forces.
The Berlin Conference civilized the distribution of African land between European powers, which disrupted the cultural practices in Africa.
The result of the Berlin conference had a significant impact on today’s African political climate because of the varying imperialistic influences of the countries that colonized the African land.
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Before the Berlin Conference
Before the Berlin Conference, Africa was split up into different sections consisting of multiple native groups. The land was divided by distinct physical characteristics.
These physical characteristics included the mountain ranges in Africa, the rivers, and the trade routes they have formed. There were hundreds of different languages between these native tribes.
Most of them had their own religious traditions but a lot of the tribes learned new beliefs such as Muslim or Christianity. There was early European exploration to Africa but a lot of the time these explorers would become sick along the way and die.
This discouraged exploration into Africa for a long time because Europeans had never experienced the living conditions there.
Early Exploration in Africa
Exploration of Africa started in the 15th century. These explorations were usually pretty limited to the amount of time and resources spent on doing so. Up to the 19th century, smaller explorations were done in Africa by slave traders while they were there for collecting slaves to bring back and trade.
The majority of the important explorations of Africa happened in the 19th century starting with a man called David Livingstone. He traveled all around Africa finding major waterways from the East tot he West.
He was a missionary from Scotland that explored Africa from 1840 to about 1871 when he was found by the explorer named Henry Morton Stanley, the man int he pictures on the right.
He found the Congo waterway which was very important to the Europeans at this time because it was one of the biggest waterways in Africa because it is the second biggest waterway other than the Nile which they were trying to find. This was the start of the Scramble for Africa.
King Leopold II from Belgium found out about the Congo river and wanted it for himself. This event led to the Berlin Conference.
The Berlin Conference
On November 15, 1884 the Berlin Conference took place. The Berlin Conference was the meeting between European powers and the United States to divide up Africa in a fair and civilized way.
The nations involved were Austria- Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden- Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Although the conference was about Africa, Africa was not invited nor involved in any way in the dividing of their native land.
The way the conference unfolded was that the countries involved all sat at a table with a map of Africa and decided what was going to happen, who was going to get what territory, and the agreements about trade. The agreements on trade were based around the rivers, so there was free trade along the Niger and the Congo river.
Before the conference, only ten percent of Africa was colonized by Europeans. By the end of the conference, ninety percent of Africa was colonized by Europeans.
Results of the Berlin Conference
The Berlin Conference ended on February 26, 1885. The results of the conference are shown in the map on the right. Britain and France claimed the majority of the territory while other European powers claimed smaller areas or areas of more importance to them.
One of these areas of importance was the Congo which was controlled by Belgium. This was a major importance to King Leopold II and was one of the reasons the Berlin Conference started.
Although all of this land was taken by the European powers there were still two areas that were free. These areas were Ethiopia and Liberia.
Effect on Africa
After the Berlin Conference, there were some positive impacts on Africa and also some negative impacts. One of the most important positive impacts that came from the Berlin Conference was the nations involved getting rid of the slave trade.
This was one of the agreements made through the Berlin Conference, they all wanted to do this to make themselves look better to the people of Africa. Even though they did this just to make themselves look better to the public of Africa it still got rid of the slave trade which was a very good thing.
There were more negative impacts on Africa than positive ones coming from this. Some of the negative impacts included loss of land, enslavement in these new territories, natural resources being taken from the people, and European disease. The African people weren’t even asked or apart of the conference so they just had their land taken from them with no say at all.
This land being taken from them accounted for ninety percent of all of Africa. The next negative impact was that some of the territories enslaved the Natives that lived there. A major example of this was in the Congo territory ruled by Belgium. The King enslaved many Africans that lived there to gather the natural resources that we found on Africa for his own profit.
The people that didn’t listen to him got their hands chopped off. With the colonization of the Europeans came disease like always. The diseases brought over ended up killing a lot of the Native Africans already there. These were some of the impacts that effected the lives of the people living in Africa.
In conclusion, The Berlin conference was significant due to the major role it had in the colonization of Africa. It gave European nations the opportunity to take control of Africa and disregard the Natives that were there before them and just do what they wanted to do.
This caused many problems fro the Native Africans that were there long before the Berlin Conference decided their fate. This was not fair for Africa and the people that basically got their culture and way of living forced away from them by new education and religion being forced upon them.
The Berlin Conference involved 13 European powers and the United States. Africa was split up which resulted in Britain and France gaining the majority of the land and the rest being controlled by the other nations involved. The conference abolished the slave trade but ironically still allowed and enslaved many people within their territories.
The African land was used for the immense amounts of natural resources that were found in Africa including, gold diamonds, and rubber. The conference had positive and negative impacts on the African people but sadly most of them were negative. The Berlin Conference was one of the biggest events to happen in the world at this time.
This is still a very important piece of world history to this day that shaped the continent of Africa forever.
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