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To What Extent Was The European ‘Scramble For Africa’ Driven By Economic Factors?

2337 words - 9 pages

The ‘scramble for Africa’ was a phenomenon in the world between the years 1880-1914. The ‘dark continent’ was relatively untouched by Europeans up until this point, with few ports of control on the coasts in the west, which were remnants of the slave trade, and in the south, Britain held the Cape, taken from the Dutch during the French Revolutionary Wars. So, during a period of 30 years, it came to pass that almost the whole of Africa was taken by Europeans. (Except Liberia a colony for freed American slaves, and Abyssinia managed to hold out against Italian aggression). It will be my objective in this essay to analyse the economic factors which resulted in the almost complete colonisation and takeover of Africa, and also to determine to what extent the scramble actually happened due to these factors. I am of the opinion that the scramble happened in different places for different reasons, some economic, some not, therefore each area of Africa will have to be analysed to be able to examine the extent of economic factors in the scramble.
The first part of Africa to examine is South Africa, seeing as it was Britain’s major hold in Africa pre-1980. British settlement started to begin in 182, with 5000 British emigrants arriving . At first Britain feared ruling large numbers of Africans and London appeared to want to avoid future wars and expansion at this time. However with the discovery of Diamonds in 1867 which led to an increased amount of settlement in the area, and with pressure being put on the British government to annex land . After the Diamonds were found imports through the Cape doubled in the years: 1871-1875 and shows a more vibrant economy in South Africa during this time. Subsequently Gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886 which resulted in the Transvaal becoming the largest single producer of gold in the world . Thereafter thousands of British immigrated to South Africa to work in or control the mining industry. It could be said that the ‘history of twentieth-century southern Africa is to a very large extent dominated by the history of mining’ which to a certain extent is true. Most of the imperial expansion in South Africa at first glance does appear to have economic reasons. This can be further seen with Cecil Rhodes when he extended British influence to the northern reaches of South Africa in search for a second rand in which his whole expedition looks to be like conquistadores in search of land and gold . In 1910 the Transvaal republic was annexed by Britain, while economic reasons seem reasonable at first it can be argued that ‘political control of the Transvaal was not sought in order to control the gold-mines nor secure access to the supply of gold’ , that the British wanted to unify the region as part of the British Empire. Originally however, the importance of South Africa to the British was to protect the sea route to India, which was still vital, even after the Suez Canal was built, because the British were...

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