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Events Leading to the Scramble for Africa

The Scramble for Africa (1880 to 1900) was a period of rapid colonization of the African continent by European powers. But it wouldnt have happened except for the particular economic, social, and military evolution Europe was going through.

By the beginning of the 1880s, only a small part of Africa was under European rule, and that area was largely restricted to the coast and a short distance inland along major rivers such as the Niger and the Congo.

There were several factors which created the impetus for the Scramble for Africa, most of these were to do with events in Europe rather than in Africa.

Capitalism: The end of European trading in slaves left a need for commerce between Europe and Africa. Capitalists may have seen the light over slavery, but they still wanted to exploit the continent. New legitimate trade would be encouraged. Explorers located vast reserves of raw materials, they plotted the course of trade routes, navigated rivers, and identified population centers which could be a market for manufactured goods from Europe. It was a time of plantations and cash crops, dedicating the regions workforce to producing rubber, coffee, sugar, palm oil, timber, etc for Europe. And all the more enticing if a colony could be set up which gave the European nation a monopoly.

Politics: After the creation of a unified Germany (1871) and Italy (a longer process, but its capital relocated to Rome also in 1871) there was no room left in Europe for expansion. Britain, France and Germany were in an intricate political dance, trying to maintain their dominance, and an empire would secure it. France, which had lost two provinces to Germany in 1870 looked to Africa to gain more territory. Britain looked towards Egypt and the control of the Suez Canal as well as pursuing territory in gold rich southern Africa. Germany, under the expert management of Chancellor Bismarck, had come late to the idea of overseas colonies, but was now fully convinced of their worth. It would need some mechanism to be put in place to stop