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    Grade 8

    Grade 8 - Term 3: The Scramble for Africa: late 19th century

    The colonisation of Africa was part of a global European process reaching all the continents of the world. European colonisation and domination changed the world dramatically. Historians argue that the rushed imperial conquest of the African continent by the European powers started with King Leopold II of Belgium when he involved European powers to gain recognition in Belgium. The Scramble for Africa took place during the New Imperialism between 1881 and 1914. The focus of this lesson will be on the causes and results of European colonisation of the African continent, with special focus on the Ashanti kingdom (colonised by the British as the Gold Coast, and today the independent African country of Ghana).

    European colonisation of Africa in the late 19th century

    Africa before European colonisation

    Due to worldwide insufficiency of world knowledge, the size and abilities of Africa as a continent was majorly undermined and oversimplified. Before colonisation, Africa was characterised by widespread flexibility in terms of movement, governance, and daily lifestyles. The continent consisted not of closed reproducing entities, equipped with unique unchanging cultures, but of more fluid units that would readily incorporate outsiders into the community with the condition that they accepted its customs, and where the sense of obligation and solidarity went beyond that of the nuclear family. Pre- colonial societies were highly varied, where they were either stateless, run by the state or run by kingdoms. The notion of communalism was accepted and practiced widely; land was held commonly and could not be bought or sold, although other things, such as cattle, were owned individually. In those societies that were not stateless, the chiefs ran the daily affairs of the tribe together with one or more councils. The colonisation of Africa through Europe brought about many forms of government that are still visible today. Before colonisation, however, there were many forms of government in Africa, ranging from powerful empires to decentralised groups of pastoralists and hunters.

    Africa before European colonialism Image source

    The use of iron tools marks a significant turning point in African civilization. Iron tools enhanced weaponry, allowed groups to manage and clear dense and thick forests, plough fields for farming, and making everyday life more convenient. Because the iron tools allowed Africans to flourish in their natural environment, they could live in larger communities which led to the formation of kingdoms and states. With this creation came the formation of modern civilizations, common languages, belief and value systems, art, religion, lifestyle and culture. Another unique characteristic of pre- European Africa was the favouring of oral tradition within these societies. Stories were told and handed down generations in verbal form. This poses a threat to the survival of these stories because certain aspects could be forgotten or told in a different way. National borders were also not much of a concern before colonization. European countries fought over African countries mainly for their natural resources. Lines were drawn through African communities which had existed for many years, and these lines can presently be seen as national borders. “A brief history of European Colonisation in Africa”

    Berlin Conference 1884

    The Conference of Berlin and British ‘New’ Imperialism, also known as the “Congo conference” began. In 1884 at the request of Portugal, German Chancellor Otto von Bismark called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate questions and end confusion over the control of Africa. The countries represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time. Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, and Spain were competing for power within European power politics. One way to demonstrate national pre-eminence was through the acquisition of territories around the world, including Africa. Another reason for European interest in Africa is the industrialization when major social problems grew in Europe: unemployment, poverty, homelessness, social displacement from rural areas, etc. These social problems developed partly because not all people could be absorbed by the new capitalist industries. Europe saw the colonization of Africa as an opportunity to acquire a surplus population, thus settler colonies were created. With this invasion, many European countries saw Africa as being available to their disposal. However, several disputes took place regarding which European country would colonise a specific African country. Thus, in 1884, Portugal proposed a conference in which 14 European countrieswould meet in Berlin regarding the division of Africa, without the presence of Africa.

    The first meeting at the Berlin Conference, 1884 Image source

    Source : www.sahistory.org.za

    Southern Africa

    By the time the Cape changed hands during the Napoleonic Wars, humanitarians were vigorously campaigning against slavery, and in 1807 they succeeded in persuading Britain to abolish the trade; British antislavery ships soon patrolled the western coast of Africa. Ivory became the most important export from west-central Africa, satisfying the growing demand in Europe. The western port of Benguela was the main outlet, and the Ovimbundu and Chokwe, renowned hunters, were the major suppliers. They penetrated deep into south-central Africa, decimating the elephant populations with their firearms. By 1850 they were in Luvale and Lozi country and were penetrating the

    European and African interaction in the 19th century

    European and African interaction in the 19th century “Legitimate” trade and the persistence of slavery

    By the time the Cape changed hands during the Napoleonic Wars, humanitarians were vigorously campaigning against slavery, and in 1807 they succeeded in persuading Britain to abolish the trade; British antislavery ships soon patrolled the western coast of Africa. Ivory became the most important export from west-central Africa, satisfying the growing demand in Europe. The western port of Benguela was the main outlet, and the Ovimbundu and Chokwe, renowned hunters, were the major suppliers. They penetrated deep into south-central Africa, decimating the elephant populations with their firearms. By 1850 they were in Luvale and Lozi country and were penetrating the southern Congo forests.

    Colonial Southern Africa, 1884–1905

    European penetration into Southern Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

    The more sparse, agricultural Ovambo peoples to the south also were drawn into the ivory trade. Initially trading in salt, copper, and iron from the Etosha Pan region to the north, and supplying hides and ivory to Portuguese traders, the Ovambo largely had been able to avoid the slave trade that ravaged their more populous neighbours. By the mid 19th century the advent of firearms led to a vast increase in the volume of the ivory trade, though the trade collapsed as the elephants were nearly exterminated by the 1880s. By then, traders from Angola, the Cape Colony, and Walvis Bay sought cattle as well as ivory. With the firearms acquired through the trade, Ovambo chiefs built up their power, raiding the pastoral Herero and Nama people in the vast, arid region to their south.


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    The continuation of the slave trade

    British antislavery patrols drove the slave trade east, where ivory had been more significant. In the first decades of the 19th century, slave traders for the French sugar plantations in Réunion and Mauritius, who had previously drawn the majority of their slaves from Madagascar, turned their attentions to the coast of Mozambique, while the demand from Cuba and Brazil also escalated. Thus, by the late 1820s Mozambique’s slave exports were outstripping those of Angola, with demand from the French islands rivaling that of Brazil by the 1830s. The flow of slaves was augmented by turmoil in the interior of Southern Africa and by slaves captured by the Chikunda soldiers of the Zambezi warlords; by the 1840s rival Zambezi armies were competing to control the trade routes to south-central Africa.

    The most important area of slave raiding appears to have been in Malawi and northeastern Zambia, where predatory overlords devastated a wide area from bases in the Congo. To the east of Lake Nyasa, the Yao—keen ivory traders from the 17th century—turned to slave raiding, obtaining firearms from the Arabs, subjugating the Chewa agriculturalists, and building up powerful polities under new commercial and military leaders. Displaced from northern Mozambique by the Ngoni in the 19th century, the Yao in turn pressured the Manganja peoples of the Shire Highlands. The Bemba also were able to increase their power through the slave and ivory trade, raiding the loosely organized Maravi peoples to the west of the lake from their stockaded villages on the infertile Zambian plateau. Although they never became large-scale slave traders, preferring instead to incorporate their captives, the Ngoni invaders added to the turmoil. While the first European observers probably exaggerated the extent of the depopulation, the political geography of the region was transformed as people moved into stockaded villages and towns and began to raid one another for captive women to work the fields while the men engaged in warfare. Vast numbers of people, especially women, were torn from their social settings, and earlier divisions based on kin came to matter less than new relationships between patron and client, protector and protected.

    British pressure on the sultan of Zanzibar to ban the slave trade was easily circumvented, and, though the abolition treaty forced on the Zanzibaris in 1873 was more effective, the reduced coastal demand for slaves led to even more ruthless methods in the interior of east-central Africa; slaves were no longer needed for export and thus were exploited locally. East coast Arabs began to play a much more active role in the interior. Initially operating through local chiefs, they came to exercise wide military and political jurisdiction over the northern routes from strategically placed commercial centres; many of these became slave-based plantations.

    Effects of the slave trade

    It is not possible to compile an exact balance sheet of the devastation caused to Southern Africa by the slave trade, and historians differ in their estimation of the numbers involved and of the extent of the damage inflicted. In the 17th century some 10,000 to 12,000 slaves were exported annually from Luanda. Although this figure includes captives from both north and south of the bay, it does not include those smuggled out to escape official taxation. In the 18th century about a third of the slaves exported to the Americas probably came from Angola. The figure probably represents a relatively small proportion of the total population of a huge area in any one year, but it was a significant proportion of economically active adults. The figure also does not take account of the depopulation and social dislocation resulting from incessant warfare and banditry, resulting famine and disease, and the intensification of slavery within African society, where it was usually the young women who were taken as captive “wives” because of their utility as kinless and therefore unprotected agricultural labour.

    Source : www.britannica.com

    Southern Africans and the Advent of Colonialism

    Southern Africans and the Advent of Colonialism

    Jared McDonald (author), Adrian S. Wisnicki and Megan Ward (editors), First edition: 2014, Second edition: 2015

    Cite page (MLA): McDonald, Jared. "Southern Africans and the Advent of Colonialism." Adrian S. Wisnicki and Megan Ward, eds. Livingstone Online. Adrian S. Wisnicki and Megan Ward, dirs. University of Maryland Libraries, 2015. Web. http://livingstoneonline.org/uuid/node/77590f20-a6f3-4721-85ff-22b52973f313.

    This essay provides a summary of the most important historical events and processes relating to the peoples of southern Africa. The essay also explains the social and political context of the sub-continent from the Stone Age through to the mid-nineteenth century, when Livingstone first arrived in the region. The essay concludes with a glossary that defines key terms used in the text.


    The Earliest Inhabitants

    Human Settlement and the Climate

    The Arrival of Europeans

    The Expanding Cape Colony

    The Advance of the Colonial Frontier

    The Transition from VOC to British Rule

    A New Mission Field Opens Up

    The Era of Reform

    Boer Discontent and the Great Trek

    Social and Political Change in the Interior

    Traders and Raiders along the Trans-Gariep Frontier

    The Mfecane and the Rise of the Zulu Kingdom

    The Mfecane Draws to a Close

    The Consolidation of European Political Power

    Livingstone in Context

    Acknowledgements Glossary Further Reading

    Introduction    Top ⤴

    By the mid-nineteenth century, southern Africa was a region characterised by intense conflict. The scale of this conflict had increased over the course of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, resulting in significant demographic shifts among the region’s population groups. In order to understand why, it is necessary to trace the history of human settlement in the African sub-continent from the pre-colonial period.

    The Earliest Inhabitants    Top ⤴

    The earliest inhabitants of southern Africa were the San, or Bushmen, who were descendants of Late Stone Age peoples. Over the course of several thousand years, the San came to pursue their nomadic lifestyle across the region, from the south-west to the north-east.

    With their primary mode of subsistence being hunting and gathering, and with their social organisation taking the form of small, kin-related groups, the San were highly mobile and adaptable to the changing environments of the sub-continent.

    An example of San rock art found in the Ukhahlamba/Drakensberg World Heritage Site. Copyright Jared McDonald. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported

    Following the San, were the Khoekhoe, who settled in southern Africa approximately 2500 years ago. The Khoekhoe supplemented their hunting and gathering with pastoralism. Unlike the San, the Khoekhoe tended to be more settled and the ownership of cattle and other livestock served as an important marker of status and authority.

    Khoekhoe groups sustained larger numbers than the San and tended to follow hereditary "chiefs." By the sixteenth century, Khoekhoe polities, such as the Hessequa, Nama and Attaqua, came to occupy most of the region south of the Gariep River (Orange River) and west of the Fish River.

    Human Settlement and the Climate    Top ⤴

    From 1100 CE onwards, during the Middle Iron Age, Bantu-speakers moved south from central Africa’s Great Lakes region in a series of migrations. There is also evidence of waves of migration from the west coast, around present-day northern Angola.

    The Bantu-speakers practiced mixed-subsistence farming and tended to form socially complex communities. Some of these communities became kingdoms, eventually developing into small African states. Examples of such kingdoms include Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe.

    By 1600 CE two Bantu-speaking branches had established themselves in present-day South Africa. The Nguni came to settle along the eastern coastal belt while the Sotho-Tswana settled across the eastern highland.

    Illustration of a complete set of divining bones from Bantu Studies, by K.M. Watt and N.J.V. Warmelo. Copyright Wellcome Library, London. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

    Both groups sought out reliable rainfall and soils suited to crop agriculture in order to sustain their agro-pastoral way of life. In addition to agriculture, their subsistence and economic activities included herding, hunting and trading.

    Human settlement in southern Africa thus reflects the region’s climatic conditions. The eastern half of southern Africa has a high summer rainfall pattern, while the western half is much drier and often experiences drought.

    In contrast to the rest of the region, the south-western Cape has a Mediterranean climate, characterised by wet winters and dry summers. The south-western Cape is also free of malaria and tsetse fly.

    Source : livingstoneonline.org

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