Motives for British Imperialism in Africa
Before the Europeans began the New Imperialism in Africa, very little was known about the inner parts of the continent. However, after some explorers delved deeper into the heart of Africa, the Europeans soon realized how economically important this area was, and how much they could profit from it. At the time, Britain had only small occupations of land in Africa, but after they realized that they could make money from the rich resources from the inner regions of Africa, they wanted to invade the African countries and take over. This led to the scramble and ultimately, the partition of Africa. During the Age of Imperialism, from 1870-1914, Britain was a major country, which proved to be true in the carving up and division of Africa.Britain was one of the strongest of the European countries, and had the power to take over much of the most valuable lands with the most rich and abundant supplies of raw materials and other resources. There were five main reasons for their imperialism. They were political and military interests, humanitarian and religious goals, ideological, exploratory, and lastly, but most importantly, economic interests.
As for the political reasons, Britain simply wanted to remain competitive with other countries, such as Germany and France. At the time, the British had no allies, and the other countries such as France and Germany, were getting economically more stable. By taking over Africa, and setting up colonies, they would have allies and a sense of protection. Germany and France were also some of the bigger powers in Europe, and the British feared them because they needed to keep up with the competition of their rival countries. They were pretty much forced to practice imperialism because of the growing threat of Germany and France. The British continued to be imperialists until the beginning of World War 1, in 1914, because they feared that they might lose their empire. They conquered and added on many parts of Africa, such as Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, the Suez Canal, etc In most cases, the reasons for this was that were able to colonize these people and gain alliances with them and also to send out the message to other countries that they were still competitive. One prime example of this, was how Britain bought the Suez Canal into their own power. Fredinand de Lesseps, a French entrepreneur, built the Suez Canal along with his company. Because this waterway was built in the country of Egypt, the ruler was the one who funded this project. However, money ran short, and he was unable to pay off the loans he had due. Therefore, in order to pay off his debts, he was forced to sell portions of the canal to Britain and remained to do so until the British gained control of it. This is example is directly related to the most important reason of British imperialism, economic, as will be discussed in the second to last paragraph.
The exploratory reasons was perhaps the least significant, however it did play a somewhat important reason in British imperialism. Before the Age of Imperialism, the inner parts of Africas landmass were not familiar to Britain, and other countries. Numerous expeditions of explorers revealed much of the geographical features of this continent. In this category, the name of the most influential figure of exploration must be mentioned, and that was Dr. David Livingstone of Britain. He was the most famous and recognized explorer-missionary. David Livingstone became the first of explorers to enter the depths of inner Africa. He took notes of all his accounts and opinions of what went on. With a more accurate land recognization, it made it easier for the British to go into Africa and take over.

The ideological reasons for the Age of Imperialism pertained to all of the European countries. However, Britain was the most influential, because they were strongest. They believed that they were the superiority of the world because of their race. Many Europeans thought that the conquering and destroying other weaker races was the best way of life and improving the species of human beings. They took up the scientific ideas of natural selection and the survival of the fittest and applied the concepts to the human social world.
However, some westerners actually genuinely thought that they should help and westernize the inferior countries of the world. The British went into Africa, thinking that it was their duty to spread their advances of medicine, law, western civilization, and the Christian religion. This was proved to be embraced in the anthem of imperialism, called the White Mans Burden by Rudyard Kipling. He expressed in the poem that the duty of the white man was to teach and help the people who they cast the inferior rank to. However, it is hard to believe that this was Britains most important goal in their imperialism.
Finally, the most important reason to British imperialism was their desire to advance economically. Their economy was primarily based on trade, and because colonies could be added as a form of imperial control, it only furthered and expanded trade. Because such countries as Germany and France began to rise to power, Britian was confronted with competition, so they felt that they had to take the African land first. The British feared that as the other countries began to become stronger and more stable, they would steal their markets, so that is how the scramble for Africa starts. As for the Suez Canal, it became extremely important for money making
The French, who built the Suez Canal in Egypt,s the dilemma between constant competition with continental Europe is in the case of Egypt. The French had retained control of the land in the Versailles Treaty and in 1869 the great French engineer Lesseps built the Suez canal as a money making scheme for France to grant passage for traders interested in an easier route to the east. However, such a project takes funding, so the French owners of the canal sold pieces off as stock. The British took advantage of this and bought the canal away from the French establishing the feud between France and England over control of Egypt. The British then bought off the Egyptian Khedive, further establishing their power in the area. British control of Egypt, the Suez, and even the Nile river is marked by a constant competition with France. In 1882 when Arab forces attempted to seize Egypt from European hands, the British out-did the French by taking on the strong military role and crushing the Arab forces.


fter 1890, the reasons behind British imperialism in Africa were the same, with a new one added. The British had no allies. Colonies would provide them with allies around the world. They believed that they were already in an economic war with Germany, and a real war would not be far behind. Some referred to imperialism as gearing up for war. During 1897 France was still angry about losing the Suez Canal. Russia looked interested in India, and was encouraging France to be angry against England. France and Britain also began the “Battle of the Flags,” a dispute about towns along the Niger River that almost led to war. In 1898 the British took Khartoum. In 1901 they annexed from Ashanti to the Gold Coast, and in 1903 they added to Nigeria. The British war hawks turned out to be right; World War I began in 1914.
From 1869 until nearly the start of World War I, the British practiced imperialism in Africa out of fear of losing their empire. They took South Africa and Egypt to keep India from being stolen, and they annexed other parts of Africa (such as areas around the Niger) to compete economically with France and Germany, and to keep the land they already had from being taken by France and Germany. They also annexed land in order to have allies in case a war should start. The British claimed they didn’t want to practice imperialism; that Germany and France forced them to do it to keep their empire. Maybe so, but fear of losing the British economic status and the British empire to Germany and France, not Germany and France forcing imperialism down the English people’s throat, seems to be the better answer to why the British practiced imperialism in Africa from 1869 to 1913.
Their economy was primarily based on trade, and because colonies could be added as a form of imperial control, it only furthered and expanded trade. Because such countries as Germany and France began to rise to power, Britian was confronted with competition, so they felt that they had to take the African land first. The British feared that as the other countries began to become stronger and more stable, they would steal their markets, so that is how the scramble for Africa starts.
Survival as an empire was another reason for Britain’s interest in Africa after 1869. The British economy has always depended heavily on trade, and having colonies was the way to expand trade. Before the 1870’s, the British had very little competition in gathering colonies–Germany and Italy were not unified, the French were busy fighting with the Prussians, and the revolutions of 1848 created internal instability in other European countries. They didn’t have any interest in external affairs. However, by 1871, Germany and Italy were unified. France had just lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans after the Franco-Prussian war, and were being encouraged by the Germans to look for colonies in Africa to regain national pride (and also to try to help them to not be so upset over losing Alsace-Lorraine). In order to encourage the French, Bismarck, who had never wanted colonies before, began some imperialism in Africa. France quickly followed. The English were suddenly faced with competition. They felt if they did not take over land first, the Germans or the French would and thus take away their markets. They also believed that if Britain didn’t expand, she would lose the colonies she already had to Germany and France. Because of this, the British mentality was that the Germans and French forced them to expand to save the empire. An economic depression in Europe in the 1870’s and the 1880’s didn’t help matters. The British believed that markets were scarce because foreigners (especially Germans) were taking them all, and if other countries cut Britain off in foreign trade, she would no longer be economically first, no longer an empire. So, in 1883 the British divided up the Niger with France, and began taking colonies in 1884 out of fear after Germany claimed Togo and Cameroon as protectorates. They tried to take control of the Sudan while supporting the Italians against Menelik in 1896. The British also had an excuse for their imperialism; many of the colonies were supported by trade and not by taxpayers. In short, land was cheap.
was one of the strongest countries. which occupied all over Africa by the. In the nineteenth century, Britain had a huge empire, extending to many different regions of the globe. Before 1869, Britain only controlled a small amount of land in Africa. The British concentrated on imperialism in other, more profitable places around the world; places that would give them more markets for trade and more opportunity to increase their economy. Suddenly, the British were annexing land in places like Egypt and South Africa; in 1869 these were places that did not have monetary value. What in the world at that time changed, to change the British attitude toward Africa? What were the reasons for their continued imperialism in Africa after 1869, even though their experience in Africa consisted mostly of conflicts and embarrassments (such as the Boer war and Isandalhwana)?
Before the 1870’s, thanks to the influence of Livingstone, the main reason for British imperialism in Africa was to bring Christianity and European-brand civilization to African countries. They also practiced imperialism for trade purposes, but very little in Africa. The British economy has always depended heavily on trade, and Britain did want the West Coast of Africa for its palm oil. They took control of it simply because the native political structure was too unstable for good commerce without British control. For trade purposes, they concentrated on practicing imperialism in India and the Caribbean. Since the slave trade in Europe was stamped out in the 1830’s, the British were not very interested in Africa. People had been one of the few resources they were interested in. However, after the 1870’s, the motivations behind British imperialism in Africa changed drastically, for several reasons.
Probably the greatest reason the British attached land in Africa after 1869 was to protect their biggest money maker: India. In 1869 the French completed the Suez canal in Egypt. This was a quick route to India, but if another country had control of the canal, the possibility existed that they would cut off the British and take India for themselves. In 1875 the British had their opportunity: they bought shares in the canal from the Khedive of Egypt and gained control of it. The French were very upset, to say the least. Later in 1882, the English gained sole control of Egypt after the battles of Tel el Kabir and the Nile.
The British also annexed South Africa in 1877. Once again, the motivation behind this was the fear of losing India to another country. Capetown was an essential stop on the route to India. The British didn’t fear losing South Africa–there was nothing there except Boers and Zulus. Nothing there, that is, until 1870–gold and diamonds were discovered. The British decided to annex all of South Africa to save their route to India. They endured a crushing defeat at the hands of the Zulus at Isandalhwana in 1879, and went to war with the Boers in 1899. Keeping India was essential to Britain’s survival as an empire.
Survival as an empire was another reason for Britain’s interest in Africa after 1869. The British economy has always depended heavily on trade, and having colonies was the way to expand trade. Before the 1870’s, the British had very little competition in gathering colonies–Germany and Italy were not unified, the French were busy fighting with the Prussians, and the revolutions of 1848 created internal instability in other European countries. They didn’t have any interest in external affairs. However, by 1871, Germany and Italy were unified. France had just lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans after the Franco-Prussian war, and were being encouraged by the Germans to look for colonies in Africa to regain national pride (and also to try to help them to not be so upset over losing Alsace-Lorraine). In order to encourage the French, Bismarck, who had never wanted colonies before, began some imperialism in Africa. France quickly followed. The English were suddenly faced with competition. They felt if they did not take over land first, the Germans or the French would and thus take away their markets. They also believed that if Britain didn’t expand, she would lose the colonies she already had to Germany and France. Because of this, the British mentality was that the Germans and French forced them to expand to save the empire. An economic depression in Europe in the 1870’s and the 1880’s didn’t help matters. The British believed that markets were scarce because foreigners (especially Germans) were taking them all, and if other countries cut Britain off in foreign trade, she would no longer be economically first, no longer an empire. So, in 1883 the British divided up the Niger with France, and began taking colonies in 1884 out of fear after Germany claimed Togo and Cameroon as protectorates. They tried to take control of the Sudan while supporting the Italians against Menelik in 1896. The British also had an excuse for their imperialism; many of the colonies were supported by trade and not by taxpayers. In short, land was cheap.
After 1890, the reasons behind British imperialism in Africa were the same, with a new one added. The British had no allies. Colonies would provide them with allies around the world. They believed that they were already in an economic war with Germany, and a real war would not be far behind. Some referred to imperialism as gearing up for war. During 1897 France was still angry about losing the Suez Canal. Russia looked interested in India, and was encouraging France to be angry against England. France and Britain also began the “Battle of the Flags,” a dispute about towns along the Niger River that almost led to war. In 1898 the British took Khartoum. In 1901 they annexed from Ashanti to the Gold Coast, and in 1903 they added to Nigeria. The British war hawks turned out to be right; World War I began in 1914.
From 1869 until nearly the start of World War I, the British practiced imperialism in Africa out of fear of losing their empire. They took South Africa and Egypt to keep India from being stolen, and they annexed other parts of Africa (such as areas around the Niger) to compete economically with France and Germany, and to keep the land they already had from being taken by France and Germany. They also annexed land in order to have allies in case a war should start. The British claimed they didn’t want to practice imperialism; that Germany and France forced them to do it to keep their empire. Maybe so, but fear of losing the British economic status and the British empire to Germany and France, not Germany and France forcing imperialism down the English people’s throat, seems to be the better answer to why the British practiced imperialism in Africa from 1869 to 1913.
The greater part of Britain’s experience in Africa between 1865 and 1912 is best described as being a competition with continental Europe, primarily Germany and England’s long time rival, France. The British had instituted protectorates and semi independent trade colonies in Africa for roughly 200 years before 1865, the approximate year of Britain’s development of a heightened interest in the “Dark Continent”. The gains made by other countries in colonizing the land mass spurred the British into action in an effort to retain their long held “upper hand” in the area of colonial trade. As other European nations made advancements in the settlement of the continent, Britain found herself pushed into a rat race to control Africa, to preserve her prestige as the “merchant nation” and to retain her vital role as the prime figure in the international trade scene.
The discovery of gold in the Dutch South African territory then known as Transvaal in 1866 led to Britain’s first real vie at African land, and to her first notable spot of competition with anther European force for such. Dutch farmers, or Boers, had settled the land 200 years before, and had, up to that point, not faced any competition for the land from non -Africans. Even after 1815, when the British acquired the land under the Congress of Vienna treaty they expressed little interest in the supposedly barren land except as a pit stop on the route to India around the cape of Good Hope. The discovery of rich gold mines in the area changed all this greatly. The ever business minded British were quick to move in on the land, ergo the Boers as well. By 1877 the Transvaal was under British rule, but by 1881, the Transvaal was independent from Britain once again. After an unsuccessful attempt by the British to overthrow the Boer government in 1895, the Dutch South Africans (under president declared war on Britain, with the support of Germany’s Kaiser Willhelm II. This led the British into a four year engagement known as the Boer War. The affair left England looking very badly to the rest of Europe, and is one the best examples of how British involvement in Africa was always characterized by a competition with another force. In a market that heavily depended on gold base, the South African mines were too much for Britain to let go.
Finally in 1898, France developed a plan to divert the Nile to Ethiopia. This would have rendered both Egypt and the canal useless, so the British gave leeway to the French in western Africa, which diverted their focus from the coveted path of the Nile. Again the British were forced to compete with another European power to achieve their goals and once again they came out on the up side. The British experience in the Niger River area of western Africa is marked with a constant competition with both France and Germany French encroachment on British company holdings on the river in 1897 led to the Battle of the Flags. The conflict in the region was eventually settled (mainly due to Britain’s military superiority in the situation), with Niger becoming a protectorate of Britain, and the French ceding their holdings along the central Niger.

Other West African territories taken by the British were a result of a German land grab of Togo and Cameroon, for Britain was none to anxious to see Germany gain to much power in any region of Africa. The British experience in West Africa is noted by same characteristics as in the cases of South Africa and eastern Africa from Egypt to the Sudan: at all times the British were striving to simply keep their holdings above those of their European rivals, to keep the upper hand in trade and the precedent of bringing “European Perfection” to the Dark Continent. For every conquest made by the British on the African Continent, there was always a factor of competition with opposing European forces to occupy the land. Whether from the Dutch Boers, or the French and German governments, the British never were able to make a colony or a protectorate of a region without opposition from her competitors. This is why the British imperialism of Africa as best characterized as a simple competition with continental Europe. Had the powers that be in Europe not been so focused on the conquest of Africa, Britain would not have made such an effort in its acquisition either.

When discussing Britain’s role in the imperialistic scramble for Africa it is important to realize that the British government didn’t particularly want to go fiddling around in the African interior. England had trade agreement with nations in Africa awhile before the scramble started. These agreements were clean and let Briton trade with many parts of Africa with no hassle. There are several factors that led to the British getting entangled in African imperialism. First of all was Dr. Livingstones example of trying to establish the three C’s. Secondly with Bismarck’s urging France had decided to regain some status buy creating an African empire. With France (and later on Germany) in Africa which England had the most influence it was inevitable that there would be competition. Finally the mass media turned Africa into an adventure novel that made sensational reading, and sometimes pushed the government into action.

Livingstone had gone into Africa in 1841, and it had been several years since he had been seen. Livingstone had been living with a peaceful tribe of natives in Africa and had been trying to bring Christianity. When Henry Stanley Found Dr. Livingstone in 1971 the whole case was opened to the public. Stanley wrote about Livingstones great humanitarian efforts, and his wish to end the slave trade that was still taking place in Africa. This of course spurred on a wave of wan-a-be Livingstones. Of course some of these were killed which published drew more support for Livingstones invitation for England to help bring the three C’s (Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization) to Africa.

After the Franco-Prussian war the Prussians had terribly humiliated the French. Bismarck knew that revenge was weighing heavy on the French minds. To divert their attentions Bismarck encouraged them to establish an empire in Africa. As soon as the French moved to get in on Africa the British fate was sealed. Britain simply could not allow France to beat them at anything, least of all somewhere where the English had a majority of the trading interest. Although England was doomed to a colony war with France they had a policy of letting colonies eventually gain independence. This reflected their wish to disentangle themselves from being stuck in Africa.

Another reason why England became entangled in Africa is because of a wonderful thing called mass media. Africa became the treasure of many a sensational journalist. Africa had long been a place of mystery for Europeans. When Africa began to be opened up by adventurers and the like it was something that would sell. Everyone wanted to here about strange Africa. So explorers like Burton and Speek Became heroes. And little no name battles where a few British officers fought with some enraged natives, shot a couple then went on there way, showed up in the newspaper. This kind of coverage also made it hard for Britain to back down without getting the public mad. As in the example of Gordon, a British general allowed himself to be caught in a siege then publicly asked for British assistance. The government was forced to at least make a pretense of going to his aide. When it was found out that they had deliberately delayed the public was outraged.

The reason that Africa became an object of a nationalist focus for humanitarianism and media was because it was cheap. As I said before just a few British officers and a small body of British trained Africans could conquer entire regions. So a vast majority of the people who died conquering Africa were Africans.

As you can see the British didn’t have a whole lot of choice in their joining the scramble for Africa. All the political forces, such as the competition with France, the need to keep the Suez canal, and the media informed public, pushed England toward Africa. Looking backwards Britain was right to hesitate before plunging into Africa, because Africa was not on the whole good for England. They lost several thousand solders to the battles against the boars, in which they were beaten several times before finally annexing some people who hated them. Besides that they lost many thousands of dollars running peoples governments for them (like Egypt). However it did benefit parts of Africa through the humanitarian aide and ending the slave trade. These were some of the goals of the first one to bring the interior of Africa to the attention of most people in Europe, David Livingstone.
John A. Hobson, Imperialism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1948),pp.35 7172,7778,8081,9293
The Influence of India on British Imperialism in Africa, or, “Why the World Revolves Around India”
by Guarav Misra
The policies of the British Empire concerning control of the African continent were dictated by their desire to maintain control of India. The British could not afford to lose possession of India because it had become the economic center of their empire. So, once colonizing Africa became an issue, the British strove to control the two major sea lanes to India, around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Suez Canal. Aside from this task, the British also focused some of their resources on limiting the power of France and on maintaining their reputation.
British control of India began in the seventeenth century in an attempt to circumvent the Persian spice traders and the land routes to the Orient. After Vasco da Gama discovered a route around the southern tip of Africa to the Indian Ocean, the British East India Company was formed and dozens of British trading boats set sail for India. Soon, the British traders in India had gained a significant amount of influence. After the fall of the Mughal Empire in 1707, the British East India Company established themselves as the economic rulers of India. Then, in 1858, Queen Victoria officially made India a part of the British empire
Once the British gained formal control of India, its importance began to increase. India became the British center of operations in Asia, and was the staging point for military excursions into Afghanistan, Burma, and other nearby territories. More importantly, though, the British began to force the Indian economy into working for the good of Britain. They used the vast Indian population as a captive market for poor quality British goods which wouldn’t sell anywhere else, and restricted the Indians from manufacturing these goods themselves. They also were able to gain control over the minerals and spices which provided the locals with sustenance. Finally, they used millions of Indian soldiers to fight their dirty little wars across the globe.

With so much of the British Empire dependent on India, it was important to keep the sea lanes around Africa open. This hadn’t been a problem until the Franco-Prussian war of 1871. After defeating the French, the Germans tried to prevent the French from exacting revenge by suggesting that they focus their resources on colonizing Africa. This threatened the few British ports which had been established ddon the western coast of Africa in order to refuel ships bound for India. Naturally, the British found it necessary to step in and assert their presence.

The main route to India involved traveling completely around Africa to get to the Indian Ocean. The British had regularly spaced stations along both coasts designed to resupply ships as needed. They had also gained control of the Dutch possessions in South Africa as a result of the Congress of Vienna and had established a colony on the Cape of Good Hope. Once the scramble for Africa began, they moved in and formally established themselves in what was Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togoland, Gold Coast, Nigeria, and British Cameroon on the west coast and Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Kenya, and British Somaliland on the east coast. The British just normally expanded their established trading ports, but they did use threats of force against the locals when necessary, as in Zanzibar. To them, the importance of maintaining a sea route to India was reason enough to take any needed action.

With the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, a second sea route to India became available to the British. They secretly bought control of the canal, but along with that came control of Egypt. Control of Egypt, and implicitly the Nile, became one of the major thorns in the side of the British Empire. They were engaged in numerous unnecessary conflicts, some of which humiliated the empire and its army. Notably, the incidents in Khartoum in Sudan and the confrontation with the French at Fashoda were extremely unpopular with the British people, and caused waves of opposition to British involvement in Africa. The British hung on, however, because they needed the Suez Canal, and that required them to maintain control in Egypt and the surrounding territories.

Other than the Suez Canal, the northern sea route to India required the British to control the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and parts of the Arabian Sea. The British already had control of the Straits of Gibraltar and Malta, so their position in the Mediterranean Sea was secure. The Red Sea was a very important seaway, and British ships that passed through it would have been vulnerable to attack. To fortify their position, the British gained control of the strait where the Red Sea met the Persian Gulf, known as Bab el Maheb. This involved establishing a colony in Aden, across the strait from British Somaliland. The British also colonized the major groups in the Indian Ocean, the most important of which was the Maldives Islands. By 1890, these territories had all been colonized and the British ceased to actively expand their control on the continent.

Other British imperialistic actions were focused on limiting the increase of French power, responding to British public opinion, and maintaining the pride of the empire. The British were not motivated by a desire to better the African people, control Nigeria, stop the slave trade, or defeat the Boers because it was the right thing to do. They did such things because these actions were necessary for them to protect and fortify their coastal territories. There was no “white man’s burden” in the minds of the British policy makers, they were only concerned with ensuring Britain’s position as the richest, most powerful, and most prestigious country in the world. These qualities mainly came from money, and money came from India. That was the underlying tenet of all British imperialism.

Throughout history, the British have been a nation of sailors and businessmen. With the dawn of the imperial era, money began to equal power, and the wealth of the British elevated them to the top of the world. As Sir Walter Raleigh said,
“Whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.”
India was where the riches of the world came from, the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The British needed to dispel the threat of other Europeans in Africa to maintain control of India, and they did so efficiently. They quickly gained control of both the major sea routes to India and then turned their eyes to the rest of the continent. Whether the British were trying to foster public support or prevent another nation from becoming a threat, all British actions in Africa were directly or indirectly linked to India. The British were motivated by their desire to become powerful, and they skillfully combined enterprise and conquest to create a globe spanning empire centered around the wealth of India.

Words
/ Pages : 5,648 / 24