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Western Imperialism - Essay Example

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Western imperialism is a recurrent theme in much of the historical and anthropological literature.By looking at a map of Africa,we can see a graphic example of how imperialism has affected the evolution of African countries and how the period of the "great empires" has devolved to "spheres of influence" in Africa today …
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Western Imperialism
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Download file to see previous pages Western imperialism is a recurrent theme in much of the historical and anthropological literature.By looking at a map of Africa, we can see a graphic example of how imperialism has affected the evolution of African countries and how the period of the "great empires" has devolved to "spheres of influence" in Africa today (Kindersley).The irony in analyzing imperialistic settling in Africa is that Africa provided the starting point for humanity over 2 million years ago. The great age of colonization from Europe started with the explorations of the Portuguese, shortly followed by the Spaniards, the Dutch, and then the rest of Europe.The English started the slave trade in the well-known "triangle" route between the UK, Africa and the Caribbean, starting in the early 1600's. On the route from the UK to West Africa, the ships' captains transported rum and trinkets, and sometimes firearms. They picked up slaves in West Africa, generally dealing with the coastal tribes who kidnapped or traded for slaves from the interior of the Continent. The slaves were then transported to the Caribbean, generally to work on sugar plantations. At that point, the ships dropped off slaves and bought rum to transport back to the UK. The French began a similar trade, sourcing slaves for their plantations in the Caribbean.The rest of Africa was largely ignored until the Dutch settlers-the Boers-came to Southern Africa in the late 1700's. They co-settled with the English and engaged in wars against the tough native Zulus, Bantus and other tribes of the southern part of the Continent.
The "golden," or "infamous," depending on your viewpoint, age of colonization was the 1800's. During that period, slavery declined but other forms of exploitation thrived. The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa and Rhodesia led to a renewed interest by Great Britain in that area. King Leopold of Belgium took over the Congo in the 1860's and ran it as a personal fiefdom for its mineral wealth. France took over what is now called French Africa (centered around the Ivory Coast), while Germany took what was then called Southwest Africa, but is now called Namibia. They also took Zambia. In East Africa, the British took Kenya and Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania), but failed to take the Sudan (Kitchener's famous routing in Khartoum). The French failed to take Madagascar, but took Reunion as an important naval base. They took Algeria, first as a French colony in the 1800's, then as a French "dpartement outre-mer," or non-contiguous state within France itself. The US only had a marginal role, with the 1820's founding of Liberia as a home for freed slaves. The capital of Liberia, Monrovia, was named after President James Monroe.
In the early 1900's, the Italians managed to take Ethiopia. Their control was always loose, and generally limited to the Coptic Christian part of the country. During the Mussolini years of the 1920's and 1930's there was a constant low-level war, which resulted in Italy's loss of Ethiopia in the early 1940's as they pulled back their troops to the home country.
Imperial rule in Africa varied from one conquering country to another. By far the worst human rights atrocities were committed by Belgium's King Leopold and his successors in the Congo and Rwanda, the two Belgian colonies in Africa. Brutal suppression by mercenaries kept the population down while the land was mined for copper, diamonds and gold. Probably the best (post-slavery) administrators were the French, who inculcated the West African colonies with language, investment and promotion of locals to important government posts.
With independence in 1960 and beyond, the European colonists gradually abandoned their colonies. Portugal (Angola), Germany (Namibia) and Belgium (Congo and Rwanda) have the least to do with their former charges. France has retained stronger contacts through the CFA zone (there is ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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