The Scramble for Africa
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Before the age of European imperialism in Africa, the core of the continent was totally unknown to European civilization. Prior to the colonial interests of the major European nations, the age of exploration in Africa opened up many parts of the continent’s interior. Numerous expeditions of many explorers made the rapid colonization of Africa possible by showing the European nations what Africa held for them. Although explorers were the key that would open up entirely new issues of rivalry and conflict between the European powers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
One of the first, and most well-known, explorers to search the interior of Africa was Dr. David Livingstone, a British physician and missionary. He was sent to South Africa as a medical missionary during 1840, and thanks to his expeditions and discoveries many parts of the African map were revealed. Among his many important contributions were his discovery and exploration of the Zambezi river in its entirety, as well as several African lakes. During a visit to England in 1865, he wrote a story of an Expedition to the Zambezi and its tributaries, revealing the commercial possibilities of the Zambezi region. Dr. Livingstone marked the beginning of the invasion of explorers into Africa’s interior.
Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, both from England, together explored Somaliland during 1854, and located Lake Tanganyika in 1858. Speke who was traveling alone, discovered Lake Victoria, the main source of the Nile, a accomplishment which many explorers, even Dr. David Livingstone, had failed to accomplish. Their explorations contributed to the desire and idea that some parts of Africa could be used for economic purposes.
During 1850 to 1853, Heinrich Barth, from Germany, explored the middle section of the Niger River and Timbuktu. He published a magazine called Travels and Discoveries of North and Central Africa in 1858, which contained detailed maps and information on many of Africa’s little-known regions. Likewise, his explorations mapped parts of many rivers, which would support trade by providing a means of transportation.
Pierre-Paul-Francois-Camille Savorgnan de Brazza was an Italian count and he explored the Ogowe river from the coast of Gabon to the interior. Being an officer in the French navy, he secured many treaties with local chiefs in 1880 which would eventually result in a French colony over the area that became the French Congo. De Brazza secured France a part in the race for African territory, once it had begun.
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, an Anglo-American journalist and explorer, led numerous explorations intended to continue the work of Dr. David Livingstone, who he had lead an expedition to find, in 1871. “Funded by the New York Herald and the London Daily Telegraph, Stanley circumnavigated Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria, and navigated down the Lualaba and Congo rivers between 1874 and 1877.” In 1878, Stanley explored much of the Congo, under the sponsorship of Leopold II, and claimed the part that de Brazza had not claimed for France.
Before the age of exploration of Africa had finished, the “scramble” for Africa had begun, with the help of these explorers. Most of Europe interpreted their expeditions as economic, ethical, and spiritual reasons for the colonization of Europe. Indeed, most of these explorers strongly urged the colonization of the interior of Africa by their countrymen. Even Dr. David Livingstone told his assistants in the Zambezi expedition to remember that they went among the river’s tribes “as members of a superior race and servants of a Government that desires to elevate the more degraded portions of the human family.”[Christopher Hibbert] They opened Africa to European civilization, creating many opportunities for Africa to modernize and to start the Scramble for Africa.