French and British Colonialism and Imperialism in Africa
Africa is home to countless cultures that all have their own unique ideas and customs. During the past couple of centuries, these cultures were threatened to the point where they almost ceased to exist. The Berlin Conference was a very important occurrence in Africa and Europe's history. It legitimized what the European powers, mainly France and Britain, had been doing for the past hundred years, without the approval of any African country. During the late nineteenth century, France and Britain began imperialistic ventures into Africa, which eventually led Leopold II to conquer the Congo. It was Leopold's II presence in Africa that to led the Berlin Conference.
The Berlin Conference took place first and foremost to legitimize what was already taking place in Africa (Berlin). Africa had recently experienced the European countries' greed. The British and the French, along with a few other European nations, had started to carve up Africa however they pleased. By 1880, about half of the coastal countries saw some type of European presence (Wessling cover). The French began to take control of Algeria and parts of Gabon and Senegal. The British occupied much of Southern Africa and parts of the western coast. Until 1884, no one could encroach upon inner Africa. Before this, the imposing countries had mainly concentrated on the coasts. By 1884 there was road connecting the Congo River to the coast, and the remaining European powers wanted in a piece of the action. The disagreements that resulted from this sudden urge to conquer Africa were what made the Berlin Conference so important (Part IV).
Many reasons beyond the obvious also existed. The Berlin Conference was a political move made by the great Prince Von Bismarck: Chancellor of Germany from 1871-90 (Bismarck). After the 1881 elections, his party no longer controlled the Reichstag (The German House of Representatives). He had to do something to regain some of the lost power since the elections (Sempell 148). Bismarck did not see the need for colonies in Africa, but public opinion forced him to enter upon the global game of imperialism (150). This pleased Germany's constituents, and it eventually led to the obtainment of many valuable resources.
The late 19th century imperialistic mentality brought many countries into heated conflicts. The two biggest players, before the Berlin Conference, were France and Britain (Bennett 67). These two rivals had been among the first to take interest in colonies in Africa. The British, by 1880, were mainly located in South Africa (51). They had annexed South Africa way back in 1815, mainly because of the strategic importance it held for trade to British India (69). At first, the British did not observe a great reason for expansion. By 1880, the "economical advantages" began to present themselves more clearly (Hugon 30).
France, like Britain, saw the advantages of having colonies in...