Colonialism in Africa

 


Between 1880 and 1900, Africa went through a period of very fast colonisation by many of the major European powers. Interestingly, this was not because of Africa’s being a particularly valuable commodity but, rather, because of events in Europe’s social, political and economic environments.

By the late 1800’s, some of the African continent did belong to European countries. France ruled settlements in Senegal (Dakar and St Louis), Cote d’Ivoire (Assinie and Grand Bassam), Benin and some of Algeria, while Spain dominated parts of northwest Africa. The Turks had Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Portugal controlled Angola and Mozambique and Britain had their presence in Sierra Leone, southern Africa, and Lagos.

Image of The arrival by ox-cart of British explorer,  David Livingstone (1813 - 1873), Oswell and  party at Lake Ngami
The arrival by ox-cart of British explorer,
David Livingstone (1813 – 1873), Oswell and
party at Lake Ngami

One of the major influencing factors that pre-empted the colonisation of Africa was the fact that exploration of this “dark continent” had escalated. This actually began towards the end of the 18th century, as explorers set out on their quest to discover Timbuktu and the Niger River. Once these ones discovered that Africa actually had many resources to offer and goods with which to trade, they began to inform the rest of Europe, who quickly made their trek to this abundant land.

The end of the slave trade was another major influencing factor towards colonialism. Although the trade of human beings was legislated against, many of the Africans and Arabs continued the practice, particularly inland, where the European influence was less concentrated. Those Europeans committed to abolishing this practice were forced to settle in these inland locations in order to take direct and immediate action. Of course, slavery was a lucrative business and its abolishment meant that alternative trade and industry needed to be established throughout Africa. So, colonialists also came into the continent to find alternative trading routes, modes of transport and extra resources. They needed to educate the local civilisations about commercial development in order to maximise the output of the nations.

The end of the slave trade was another major influencing factor towards colonialism. Although the trade of human beings was legislated against, many of the Africans and Arabs continued the practice, particularly inland, where the European influence was less concentrated. Those Europeans committed to abolishing this practice were forced to settle in these inland locations in order to take direct and immediate action. Of course, slavery was a lucrative business and its abolishment meant that alternative trade and industry needed to be established throughout Africa. So, colonialists also came into the continent to find alternative trading routes, modes of transport and extra resources. They needed to educate the local civilisations about commercial development in order to maximise the output of the nations.

Image of Henry Stanley (1841 - 1904) and David Livingstone  are paddled by natives along the river Rusigi
Henry Stanley (1841 – 1904) and David Livingstone
are paddled by natives along the river Rusigi

For many decades, Africa’s propensity towards diseases like malaria deterred explorers, who stood little chance of effective treatment if they fell ill on the continent. In fact, only a tenth of European explorers entering Africa survived their trip, presenting a rather doomy outlook for these foreigners. It was only when some of these medical hurdles were overcome that travel into Africa became a more acceptable option.

For Britain to gain world dominance, it had to look outside of Europe (as Germany and Italy had become unified in 1871). The most obvious option was to begin to conquer African areas, leading to the colonising of as much land in as little time as possible.

By 1880, Europe had jumped onto the bandwagon, and flocked into Africa in its droves. Liberia and Ethiopia remained locally governed and independent, but all other regions, states and countries were brought under European colonialism. This was the status quo until the 1940’s, when World War II ended. After years of warfare, Europe’s strength was drained and their power depleted. This gave Africa the chance to regain independence, slowly and steadily and mainly over the course of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Independence was usually granted peacefully, preserving much of the existing African population.

For more information, please view: http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/405

Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations


Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.