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European Imperialism in Africa - Essay Example

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The period of nineteenth century Western Imperialism, taken into historical context, was short lived, but its consequences still affect the world we live in today. In the period from 1870, until the eruption of the First World War, European powers spread their economic, political and social influence to the farthest corners of the globe…
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European Imperialism in Africa
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"European Imperialism in Africa"

Download file to see previous pages The aim of this paper is to show that while economic factors may have been an underlying motive for European incursion into the continent they do not fully explain the unprecedented rate of expansion.
Europe had been colonizing and investing in various parts of the world since the fifteenth century. Most notably during the 1700s trade between nations grew at an accelerated pace and European investment in railroads, ports, mines, factories and a wealth of other opportunities was notable. In some instances this signified European powers taking over the political reigns of power and imposing direct rule on the nations they were trading with, although Africa, other than for purposes of trade, had largely been untouched in this sense. Johnson (1985) claims of imperialism that "economic activity was increased by colonial rule, but the terms were different: now the African produced and worked for the European company, railroad, or office."2
It wasn't until the onslaught of the period of European Imperialism that Africa would see more direct involvement and would become a pawn in European states drive to create vast political empires. The reasons for the sudden race by Europeans for control of this continent are numerous. Competition for trade, military strategies, nationalist politics and beliefs in 'the white man's burden' are all factors contributing to the sudden onslaught of Western Imperialism. To further complicate matters European nations were not entirely homogenous in the factors that drove them into Africa. While France may have had the expansion of trade and nationalistic politics in mind when it took control of a large part of Africa, Britain, it can be argued, was largely motivated by military strategies and its concern over the protection of other shipping routes when it moved into Egypt.3 Yet, of all the reason leading to the partitioning of Africa by European powers, the two that have received the most debate are economic factors, which encompass the demand for natural resources and need for new markets and, secondly, competition brought on by European Imperial rivalries.
Was Europe largely driven to carve up Africa amongst them as the result of the search for natural resources and new markets There is no doubt that economics was a leading cause. The two most well known preponderates of this theory are Hobson and Lenin. Vladimir Lenin (1916), in his pamphlet 'Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism', was one of the first theorists to make such a strong connection between economics and Imperialism. He claimed that Imperialism was "a direct continuation of the fundamental properties of capitalism in general."4 Hobson (1948) claims that the true impulse behind Imperialism was one of capitalistic greed, despite the higher moral excuses put forth by imperial powers. The need for cheap natural resources and new markets was at the heart of Imperialism, according to Hobson. More specifically he claims that the need for new markets for a surplus of manufactured goods was behind British Imperialism. He states,
These new markets had to lie in hitherto undeveloped countries, chiefly in the tropics,
where vast populations lived capable of growing economic needs which our
manufacturers and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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