Original Thread: Africa: Made Better or Worse by European Colonisation?
Africa: Made Better or Worse by European Colonisation?
Africa: Made Better or Worse by European Colonisation?
With the European arrival in to Africa, it was followed by enslaving the local populace and in general causing chaos to the ancient social structures which had been formed over centuries by simply tearing it apart, using them all as slaves. This was followed by attempts at serious colonisation. However, from the extreme climate of the continent (ranging from arid to tropical) it was impossible to expand any further than having a few coastal settlements due to the lack of technology available to the Europeans to sustain an attempt without the colonists attriting away. However, even though slave trade was a reason why the Europeans came there were a few more. It was possible that there were many resources further in to the continent that were unavailable to the Western countries and the kingdoms in Europe were able to carve an empire in these foreign lands without intervention from other powers that would normally happen when conquest was attempted in their locality. There were explorers who came to the land lusting for riches and then there missionaries who wanted to "bring culture" to the natives and to convert them to the "true faith" or in pity of the Africans being sold en masse around the world in an attempt to change things.
"Early European expeditions concentrated on colonising previously uninhabited islands such as the Cape Verdes and Sao Tome Island, or establishing coastal forts as a base for trade. These forts often developed areas of influence along coastal strips, but (with the exception of the River Senegal), the vast interior of Africa was not colonised and indeed little-known to Europeans until the late nineteenth century." (wiki)
"At first African diseases and hostile natives repulsed most expeditions into Africa. However, as European society made progress with new inventions and discoveries" (hyperhistory)
Map of Africa 1794
Known areas circled. For the case of this post, exclude the circling of Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. This is on about Central and Southern Africa.
Over the time between 1400-1800 limited advance was made in to the continent with the most notable territories being either islands off the coast or the Dutch in South Africa (this was soon handed over to the British Empire), but by the 19th Century most powers finally had the technology to advance inwards in to Africa. This they did with rapid pace resulting in what is known as the "Scramble for Africa" in which most notably the French and British took enormous chunks of the continent to the point that Abyssinia remained the only independent African state at the end of the colonisation period (conquered during Mussolini's conquest in 1936).
By taking large swathes of land on the continent, the Imperialistic states in Europe were able to now supply themselves with rare exotic goods, and to circulate these around the world on a global scale (no longer did everything have to come from the Silk Route or from Arabia and Nubia) and these both helped to make them very rich and the other materials helped to expand further on the industrial boom that was going on throughout the world. It helped to start up new industries with the vast variety of goods found in Africa and it supported the current industries by providing them with large amounts of raw materials. However, this came greatly at the expense of the natives. The Europeans weren't afraid of exploiting them for their own benefit and didn't see the natives as even close to being comparable to them. They had no status at all, were pretty much regarded as objects by their foreign masters and could be punished at their whim too no matter how small the issue responsible for it may have been, even if there was one. Though to not cast too dim a light upon the colonists, it depended on their nationality so as to determine the harshness of the treatment.
"One unfortunate result of the African colonization, however, was the fact that the colonizers often mistreated the indigenous inhabitants in African colonies. Officials in the Belgian Congo won first prize as the most abusive of almost any other colonizer in Africa. After Leopold finally got the Belgian Congo running and making a profit, rumors began to reach Europe of atrocities occurring in the Congo river basin.
Leopold II used the "Belgian" Congo as a private asset rather than a state colony. He did not care what happened to the inhabitants so long as he profited from the colony's resources. When the British Foreign Office published the report, France paid little attention to it because France had started to follow the lead of the Belgian Congo, exploiting the land at whatever cost to the natives. British humanitarians and Christians, however, were shocked. Great Britain certainly did not treat the natives in British colonies the best, but at least they did not treat them as slaves or wild animals as officials treated them in the Belgian Congo or French Equatorial Africa." (hyperhistory)
The old tribal life of the African locals had been undermined and annihilated by the colonists who showed complete contempt for it and during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries drove them from their rural lifestyles in to the new cities they were constructing in Africa. These were poorly built, overpopulated and were in a terrible state. Even now, there are bitter reminders of their efforts to centralise the African communities in to big cities. They had been that way for millenia since the land hadn't supported large populations and that living in villages had meant that the spread of disease was minimal. If a village got it, it would remain a local issue and they would deal with it (or simply all die without a trace) but by concentrating them all in to cities, with the poor health levels already in place it simply meant that even the smallest disease would spread like a forest fire and cause a large death count. Despite this, the Europeans did bring a vast amount of technology with them. Since they needed it all to simply stay alive in the harsh climate it meant that the Africans were feeling the full effect of it. The colonists mingled with the local populaces too, which meant that they both learnt the ways of the Europeans and benefited from all the things they brought which would be advanced weaponry, industry, medicine and more. Even though all this helped African society to advance, the Europeans weren't teaching them anything. After the First and Second World Wars, which had completely exhausted the European powers there were strong senses of nationalism on the continent and with the colonies now unprofitable, the Europeans gradually withdrew all the while granting independence to arbitrary states. I say arbitrary, because the borders were merely hastily drawn up and failed to take in to account cultural borders which would make for a state of constant civil war on the continent which still continues to this day.
It was as if the Europeans had came in to Africa, took everything they could get and simply walked out. When they drew up the borders for the new states, they were nothing but shoddy and they had failed to teach the Africans how to govern themselves after decades of colonial rule. They had been accustomed to their traditional way of life, and when this was interfered with they had been under foreign rule which although wasn't the kindest administration it kept them from getting out at one another. With their independence though, comes new responsibilities but it also comes with a massive power vacuum that has simply been filled by the conflicting tribal groupings that have to co-exist in their "countries" with their rivals. Now as a final summation in bullet points:
European colonisation brought a vast amount of technology to a land which had practically been light years behind their European and Asian counterparts.Although they were strongly prosecuted against, the Africans themselves were able to trade with the Europeans (more so prior to full-scale colonisation) and to obtain their goods of which would help them.During the period of occupation, the European powers kept them in line. After they left, chaos ensued.
Prejudice towards the Africans resulted in atrocities from which the colonists went unpunished for.The Africans were sold en masse around the world to spend their lives as slaves.The society that had been in place prior to colonisation was destroyed. Life would never be the same, and not particularly for the better (judging by the state of modern-day Africa's cities)
Last edited by Lysimachus; March 13, 2010 at 02:10 PM.
Originally Posted by Geordie
the Holocaust is not the worst genocide in the 20th century
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