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The Scramble for Africa
The Berlin Conference, nationalism, imperialism, Industrial Revolution
Age of Exploration Unit
This article is brought to you by the years 1880-1900 C.E. Let's say you live in a lovely house. It has a kitchen and a living room, a bathroom and a bedroom. It has a hallway and a porch and a balcony and many things to fill it all. That is, until a group of men show up. They have decided that they own your house now. They divide up your kitchen and turn it into two living rooms. They sleep in your bathroom and turn your bedroom into the place where they keep their clothes. Upset? I thought so. This might give you some idea of how the African people felt when Europeans came in and divided their land into colonies. This was called the Scramble for Africa. The breaking up of Africa began with something good: the end of slavery. This was not the end of all bad things though. People still wanted to get as much as they could out of the large continent. It began as trade, which brought back goods like rubber and sugar. But the European countries knew that making colonies in Africa would be faster and easier, giving them more control over how much was brought back and how much it cost. From 1884-1885, European countries came together in the Berlin Conference to talk about how to break up Africa between them and not get into fights with each other. Guess who was not there and did not know about any of this. Right. Anyone from Africa. Wait, what's wrong with the Europeans' home countries? Why did they not just stay there? First of all, Africa had many things that European countries did not, and they wanted them. Just as the men in your house might want that nice rug you have because they do not have one. Secondly, many of these countries had just come together as one. Germany had just become a country, and like many countries, they believed they were the best in the world and should have more land. Nationalism is feeling and acting like your country is better than others. It can bring people together. It can get things done. But it can also hurt other countries. What makes men believe that land outside of the land they are born in belongs to them? Europe's history up to this point was that of many different people spreading out until they could not spread anymore. They ran into the sea or the mountains or each other, which always ended in a fight. In Europe, people had gone out as far as they could and were now looking for more ways to grow their power. Imperialism is anything that grows a country's borders or powers, through fighting or trade. The good news is that the European countries were no longer fighting each other. The bad news is that they took over Africa instead. The people who ran the countries were not the only ones responsible for taking over Africa. There was a hungry machine of sorts working behind the leaders' choices. The Industrial Revolution was when machines became a lot better and faster between 1760 and the early to mid 1800's. Not only did machines become faster and better, but also business grew as well. Now people could buy goods cheap. They were always looking for newer and better things (and they still do). The European leaders would have had no need for the goods in Africa were there not such a high demand for them back home. Your rug is going to sell for a lot when the men take it away. Europeans went into Africa and drew new lines through it, taking the land they wanted. Nationalism gave the countries a great deal of pride in their people. Imperialism led them to believe they ruled better than anyone, causing them to find new land and make it theirs. The Industrial Revolution did not help, making better machines that worked quickly and cheaply and made people want more and more goods that came from Africa. The Berlin Conference began breaking up Africa's countries. Between the years of 1881 and 1914, Europe's place in Africa went from 10% to 90%. So what does that leave you in your house? The end of this one hall. If only there were a way to get these men out of your house . . .
African History. "What Caused the Scramble for Africa?" about.com, 2013. <http://africanhistory.about.com/od/eracolonialism/a/ScrambleWhy.htm>African History. "Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Divide Africa" about.com, 2011. <http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/berlinconferenc.htm>