In Weeks 1 and 2, we saw how the expansion of European “war capitalism” in Africa in the 15thto 17th centuries resulted in the Atlantic Slave trade in west and west-central Africa, the Portuguese destabilization of the Swahili in the Indian Ocean trade, and the Dutch settlement on the southern-most tip of the continent.

The Atlantic Slave Trade ended in the early 19th century, and ushered in a period of intensive Euro-Africa trading relationships in agricultural products, ivory, and mineral resources from Africa, in exchange for manufactured products from Europe’s newly-established factories.

This relationship, however, shifted dramatically from the 1870s, when Europe decided that rather than continuing to trade with Africa, Europe would conquer and colonize the continent and forcibly take over all of Africa’s land and resources.

This was a momentous period in Africa’s history, with far-reaching consequences, that continue even to the present.

The theme of European conquest and colonization of Africa and Africa’s struggle for freedom will take us to the end of the semester.

READ pages 373-377 AND Chapter 10 of our textbook, Robert Harms, Africa in Global History. These pages provide very clear explanations of why European countries conquered and colonize Africa in the last two decades of the 19th century, as well as fascinating narratives of Africa’s resistance to the conquest of their homelands.

It’s not as simple as saying that Europeans colonized Africa because Europeans were ‘greedy.’ You must understand the specific historical contexts in which the conquest and colonization happened.


1. Robert Harms argued that up to the 1870s, it would have been unimaginable for Europeans to march into the interior of Africa to conquer Africans. But then things began to change rapidly after the 1870s. READ pages 373 – 377 closes and identify the major changes that altered the relationship between Africa and Europe, and which created the conditions for the European scramble for Africa. Rank them in terms of the ones you considered to be the most important, and why.

2. What were the roles played by European geographical societies and Christian Missionaries in the colonization of Africa at the end of the nineteenth century?

3. What issues were discussed at the Berlin Conference, and how were they resolved?


4. Given the military imbalance between Europe and Africa at the time of colonization, would you argue that it was “suicidal” for Africans to have even bothered to resist? Should African leaders have just surrendered and averted the massive slaughter of their people as happened in many parts of the continent during the period of conquest?

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