In the 19th century, the interior of Africa ("The Dark Continent") was largely unknown to Westerners. But in just a few years, many Europeans laid colonial claims to Africa, sparking a mad dash for land and riches. How much do you know about the Scramble for Africa?
The Scramble for Africa was a major push (mostly by European countries) to colonize and annex as much as Africa as possible, in order to take control of the area's natural resources and manpower.
In the late 1800s, there were many technological improvements that made it easier for Europeans to travel into undeveloped areas. As they traveled, they mapped the areas and sometimes claimed them for their homelands.
In the 1880s, the colonization of Africa was haphazard, at best. Europeans sent out random teams of men to explore various areas. Sometimes they were successful, sometimes they were not.
The Berlin Conference brought together many European powers, which then divvied much of Africa into pieces that could then be claimed by colonization … with no regard for the locals and their established territories.
In the late 1870s, Belgium's King Leopold II sent famed explorer Henry Morton Stanley deep into Africa, in large part to lay claims on the lands. When other countries found out, they scrambled to send their own expeditions.
Stanley's trip through the Congo filled in many blank spots on European maps of Africa. So by the early 1880s, Africa was mapped and ready to be carved up into pieces by various European powers.
Belgium was just a small country with little power. But King Leopold's land grab alarmed other Europeans, and they began plotting their own colonization plans.
There were 13 Europeans countries at the conference, as well as a far-away country called the United States. Everyone from France, to Russia, to Spain wanted parts of Africa.
Slavery was still common in Africa in the 1880s. The Europeans figured that if they were going to take over these lands, they should all agree that slavery was to be abolished. Because, you know, it would give them higher moral standing as they robbed the locals of their lands.
Without regard for the locals or the realities of the terrain, they often just drew straight lines through certain areas on a map. It seemed, at the time, a logical way to cut up a continent.
At the conference, the Europeans established the Principle of Effectivity. Essentially, these were rules for colonization areas of Africa.
Britain, of course, was a potent force in the world and managed to grab many of the best parts of Africa, including the areas of Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.
The Niger and Congo Rivers were important inland routes that made Africa more accessible to everyone. They were designated as open routes for all Europeans.
Africa provided a way for Europeans to vent their latent hostilities at one another without open warfare. They also didn't want to fight each other because if the Africans saw Europeans dying, they'd realize that white men could be killed, just like black people.
Some tribes picked up weapons to fight off the invasions, but European weapons (including machine guns) were so advanced that it was impossible for the Africans to win. The Africans almost immediately gave up the fight.
The continent was strewn with political fractures numbering in the thousands. There was very little order.
France set out to spread French culture throughout its colonies. In doing so, it invited Africans to take part in the effort to "tame" the savage areas.
They genuinely believed that they were bringing civilization to an area filled with nothing but savagery. In many instances, it was the Europeans who were savages.
After hearing stories of machine gun-fueled carnage, the kings knew they were beaten. Many of them signed away their kingdoms without a fight.
The Battle of Omdurman was fought for the area around Sudan. It was one of the very few major clashes between European colonizers and the natives.
Armed with a few dozen water-cooled machine guns, the battle turned into a massacre. The British took only a few casualties while mowing down thousands of Africans.
Many Europeans treated the Africans as if they were children. They taxed them, divided them into contrived tribes and exploited their natural resources.
In the span of about three decades, Africa went from unexplored to conquered. By 1914, Europe was in control of the entire continent except for two small countries.
Liberia used many principles of the U.S. Constitution to develop its own constitution. And many former American slaves left (or were forced) to emigrate to Liberia.
India's revolution emboldened African desires for armed resistance. The Europeans saw this as a very troubling development.
World War I meant the end of Germany's colonies in Africa. Britain and France divvied up German colonies for themselves.
Britain was broke after years of fighting the Nazis; it didn't want to start more wars in Africa. It simply abandoned some of its African colonies.
World War II fractured countries and caused remapping of many parts of the world. In the aftermath of the war, some African nations began taking back their independence.
Some white settlers took up arms to defend their colonial lands. But most saw the writing on the wall and returned to their homelands.
The beginning of colonization was often violent, but independence mostly came peacefully. Europeans had to treat their own wounds at home instead of colonizing other countries.