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10 thoughts on “The Scramble for Africa

  1. says:

    The Scramble for Africa The White Man s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912, is a fascinating book on the European division of African territory, known as the Scramble for Africa In this competition for territory, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain all carved territories out of the African continent, for various reasons Spreading the three C s Christianity, Civilization, Commerce was an important motivation for many European explorers, General s and Politicians to get involved Overt racism was another Naked competition and greed were also major factors The Scramble got under way for a few reasons First, France annexed Tunisia, nominally a province of the Ottoman Empire, in a bid to extend the security and profitability of their neighbouring colony in Algeria annexed formally in 1834 The British similarly became involved in financial scuffles in Egypt, also nominally Ottoman, but controlled jointly by French and British financial interests Tunisia was outright annexed to France, which ticked off Italy, which had many colonists and financial interests in the area Britain decided to covertly submit Egypt to vassalage, and jointly flew the British and Egyptian flag over Egypt and Sudan controlled by the Khedive as various provinces The animosity of the annexation of Tunisia between France and Italy, and French and German annoyance at Britain s heavy hand in Egypt, led to an increasingly rapid scramble for territory all over Africa, and increased tensions, leading Europe to the brink of war on multiple occasions over pieces of swamp and dessert with little commercial value Public opinion in France and Germany demanded colonial possessions, and Italy was game as well Britain, however, was reluctant for a long while to join the game, and only started taking land so it would not fall to its rivals The spoiling factor of this all was King Leopold of Belgium, who really wanted an African Empire to rule over, and couched his desires in humanitarian language, fooling much of Europe into cooperation, and bullying or playing off rivals in France, Germany and the UK against each other His Machiavellian maneuvers allowed him to annex the Congo now the Democratic Republic of the Congo , the literal heart of Africa, where the Congo and Nile river deltas spill, and a treasure trove of ivory, rubber, mineral resources and many other valuable goods Leopold would not be satiated with just this, however He dreamed of a Nile Empire, and came very close to grabbing both modern Uganda and chunks of Sudan to join to the Congo colony by playing off tensions between France and Britain, and utilizing Chancellor Bismark of Germany as his patron He used explorers and adventurers like Stanley, the British explorer who carved a bloody path through the Congo, and narrowly lost taking the entire Congo basin for Belgium Later on, Belgian soldiers and politicians created the Free State of the Congo , a fantastical state nominally controlled by King Leopold and formally annexed to Belgium at a later date This colony was brutally exploited, showing Leopold s overtures to free trade and humanitarianism to be farcical tools for expansion Leopold ran one of the worst colonies the world has ever seen, killing millions of his subjects, mutilating many , and brutally exploiting slave labour, stamping out independent Kingdoms and tribes, and exploiting resources.Britain, as mentioned, was a reluctant colonial regime at first Britain s most profitable colonies were its Dominions, first Canada, and then Australia and New Zealand These colonies brought profitable trade goods, were white and Christian, and nominally politically independent Britain gained all of the profits of a colony without the headache of having to pay for garrisons or politicians This led to a dream of Dominion in South Africa Britain controlled the Cape and Natal regions of South Africa early on, and soon extended dominion over Zululand after the Zulu Wars Machiavellian politicians also existed in Britain Cecil Rhodes sought to create a diamond and gold Empire in South Africa by painting the map red He dreamed of a corridor from Egypt to South Africa, all British He acted on these dreams with brutal political acumen Zululand was conquered, and covert wars were started against the Dutch republics in Transvaal and the Orange Free State Rhodesia was annexed from its King, and modern Botswana eventually became a British colony Dominion status was achieved eventually, but bloody wars, incompetent politics, and internal disputes made a mess of it Native Africans were brutally exploited, and Afrikaans Dutch settlers fought wars of independence and struggle against encroaching British interests, which led to some of the most expensive wars in British history.Britain also sought to extend its borders in East and West Africa, and over the Nile Competition between British trading interests in the Niger region and Cameroon led to conflict with France and Germany, and almost to war on multiple occasions France sought to paint West Africa Blue, and pushed into the Niger territory nominally claimed by Britain The northern borders of Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria were in dispute, although eventually worked out politically The French also sought territory in the Nile regions of Eastern Africa French expeditions to Fahsoda and southern Sudan sought to annex territory to France, and Uganda was fought over by Germany, France and Britain through exploratory expeditions and missionaries Britain lost control over Sudan to the Mahdi revolution, which sought an Islamic state in Northern Africa, and fought for independence for Sudan from Egypt Britain The Mahdi state expanded into modern Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, but was eventually stamped out by Britain France was beaten back politically, though this conflict over Fashoda, a swampy wasteland, almost led to war between France and Britain Instead, detente was achieved.This was because Britain was also in competition with Germany Bismark stealthily annexed Cameroon, Togo, and Namibia, taking Britain and France completely by surprise He also extended dominion over much of East Africa modern mainland Tanzania and came close to grabbing modern Kenya and Uganda as well Bismark disliked the colonial drive, but this crafty advocate of Realpolitik sought to use German colonies as bargaining chips for eventual European concessions, successfully trading his claims in East Africa for the important naval base in Heligoland with Britain, and wishing to use territory to get France to renounce its claims in Alsace Lorraine, taken during the Franco Prussian War in 1872 German public opinion was strongly pro colony, but Bismark saw them as worthless tracts of land However, he joined the scramble with gusto, never one to pass up an opportunity to strengthen Germany s position His was a much Euro focused colonial expansion Every move was calculated to play France off against Britain He closely supported Afrikaans independence in southern Africa, supported Italian claims in Ethiopia, and allowed Leopold in Belgium to make his moves All was done to strengthen the German alliance system in Europe, and to try and get either France of Britain to move away from Russian support, and to keep France and Britain away from detente His retirement from politics saw this end, and eventual French and British detente did come to fruition, and directed against the German state France had different motivations They had been humiliated politically in recent years, and the state had been in flux ever since to fall of Napoleon and the Franco Prussian war France had lost territory in Europe, and sought to extend its prestige by grabbing large tracts of land, regardless of its worth They competed early on with Belgium over the Congo, and grabbed the northern chunk modern Republic of the Congo They extended the borders of Senegal, and gained control over huge swathes of light land in West Africa and the Sahara Dessert Competition with the British was fierce, and Anglo phobia strong in French politics and within the public sphere However, the danger of Germany proved greater, and the German annexation of Togo and Cameroon, both nominally in France s West African sphere, and bordering her colonies, alarmed France to a great extent As competition with Belgium and Britain dried up in the Congo and West Africa Nile region, France was able to focus on Germany, and eventually joined with Britain in the alliance that has seen it through two World Wars France also coveted much of Northern Africa, with historical claims on Egypt Napoleonic era and interests in protecting its valuable Algerian colony Tunisia, as mentioned, was annexed, Morocco joined as a vassal and Germany out competed in the region France also extended deep into the Sahara Dessert, with an interest in creating rail links through the region to its little jewel in Senegal never happened France also competed strongly with Italy Italy was miffed about Tunisia, and sought to extend its Eritrean colony into the valuable hinterlands of Somalia and Ethiopia In Ethiopia, Italy was roundly defeated by the Ethiopia King Menelik, supplied with modern weapons and artillery by France Italy was extremely humiliated, and furious at the French, eventually joining the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria Hungary in retaliation Italy eventually grabbed Libya and Rhodes in Greece from the Ottoman s in 1911, and sought territorial concessions from Britain and France in Somalia in exchange for diplomatic concessions in Europe they betrayed the Triple Alliance in WWI, and joined the British Allies France lost most of its claims in Eastern Africa, being left with the valuable port of Djibouti, and the islands of Madagascar As an aside, Spain eventually gained territory in northern Morocco, parts of the Sahara coast below Morocco, and Equatorial Guinea as political concessions by France and England The Scramble was a blur of names and land grabs Rhodes, Salisbury, Chamberlain, Gordon and Kitchener, to name a few, sought to paint the map red, compete for political influence and resources with Britain s other colonies, and end the slave trade in Africa, while keeping shipping lanes through the Suez Canal and around the Cape of Good Hope open to British ships France s explorers, like Brazza, cut deep into the jungles of the Congo, and sought to grab as much territory for France as a way to reverse the humiliations of the past Leopold baldly sought money and power in a new African Empire Bismark sought pieces for his European chess game Italy and Spain, as smaller powers, sought to tag along like Belgium, but had difficulty competing with the big powers In a period of less than 50 years, every piece of Africa save, for a time, Ethiopia became portions of small European nations who were after resources, power and prestige The scramble often seems like an afterthought, and indeed, less than a century later, these areas would gain independence once again, although to this day, legacies of colonial abuse, lack of resources, and unfavourable contracts with Western Nations plagues Africa This has been a long review so far Suffice to say Pakenham has written probably the definitive text on this blistering period of land grabbing The naked greed and racism that came with this Scramble is plain to see, and Pakenham does not even attempt to go beyond what actually happened there is no need to do so No narrative is needed, save for the speeches, pieces of text and actions of those who conquered an entire continent, and to those who were conquered Pakenham does a wonderful job showing the thought processes of both sides Many African Kings and politicians sought modern weapons to extend their own dominions, and tried to play sides off against each other, often successful for decades King Menelik of Ethiopia was the only one who would succeed, and at the cost of tens of thousands of lives, and the destruction of much of Ethiopia I could go on and on, but I will leave off by saying this book has a well deserved reputation as being one of the best history texts every written It looks at a relatively small period of time, where massive world changes occurred, and Empires that boggle the mind were carved out willy nilly for reasons varying from promoting trade, to protecting sea lanes, to just wanting land This was a serious and silly time of exploitation, imperialism and opera bouffe which cost the lives of millions of innocent Africans, used as European pawns, slaves, porters and cannon fodder This is truly a wonderful history text, and it is easily recommended for anyone interested in this period of time.


  2. says:

    This massive book 738 pages plus photos maps offers the reader an interesting and enjoyable account of the European powers race to civilize the African continent The book covers the great explorers, the numerous battles and conflicts between the European powers and the natives and between the European powers and many other interesting items during this scramble for Africa I found this book to be a great read, very enjoyable and although the size may be daunting it never got boring The author covers the period from 1876 through to 1912 in 37 chapters of interesting reading Whatever happens, we have got the Maxium gun, and they have not about covers it


  3. says:

    A comprehensive look at how Africa became colonized The surprising part is how late in the 19th Century it actually happened Another is how Belgium, created as a buffer state between France and Germany and ruled by one of Victoria s favorite uncles, became a major player The events in this book lead to actions and reactions that are still being played out on the continent of Africa.As I progress, it is all too easy to see the results of artificial boundaries set by Europeans for their own purposes natural resources, primarily has set the stage for the present conflicts and unrest in Africa.As I begin the section on the Belgian Congo and the Rubber Trade, I can already see the seeds for the present chaos and despair the the DRC.When finally finished, I see the Domino Effect, the result of this Scramble for Resources in the late 19th and early 20th century, affecting the lives of millions of Africans today Artificial borders, artificial democracies and neo colonialism continue to keep Africans in poverty, disenfranchised and helpless in the face of commerce If there is any reason for Europe to be particularly ashamed, it is for what it allowed in the Congo at the beginning of the 20th Century, and what it allowed to continue right through the independence movement Belgium has much to pay for yet.


  4. says:

    This is the only book on my read shelf that i actually never finished i got about two thirds or so into it and gave up.Don t get me wrong, this is a great work, it s just so insanely detailed that a person can t hope to retain enough info to make the read worthwhile.After hours of reading about literally hundreds of personalities here s what i retained Livingston was a good man who unintentionally hastened colonization Stanley was a newspaper reporter made himself famous by attaching himself to Livingston King Leopold was insane Europeans really screwed up Africa and perhaps fought a proxy WWI in the process Braza should have a movie made about him i don t remember who he is exactly but do recall enjoying his particular adventure story Put this one on the shelf next to your atlas and dictionary as a work of reference.


  5. says:

    This is the ultimate book on the colonisation read occupation of Africa by mainly European powers in the latter quarter of the 19th century the only country to resist the tsunami and remain independent was Ethiopia Readers unfamiliar with Africa might assume, as I did, that the conquest of Africa took place at the same time as imperial adventures in the Americas and elsewhere in the world, but in fact most of it happened much later, in a short but intense burst of European megalomania and kleptomania The book tells this story in all its component parts, and as such explains why the map of Africa is what it is today It also explains many other aspects of present day Africa, which after being the battleground for a devastating proxy war during the Cold War, is still being looted of its natural and human resources by outside interests today, if anything with even greater efficiency and ruthlessness The author has taken a comprehensive and extremely thorough approach to his vast subject matter The book is also very readable, and hard to put down.


  6. says:

    I must say, I really enjoyed Pakenhams handling of substantial material and complicated subject matter into an enjoyable, easy to read narrative The story contains multiple number of characters, where the most attention gets the Belgian King Leopold His actions are costumed in virtuous humanitarianism showing that he is the catalyst for the motivation on the exploitation of Africa Pakenham describes him as, Leopold was a Coburg millionaire, a constitutional monarch malgre lui, a throwback from the age of absolutism, with the brain of a Wall Street financier and the hide of an African rhinoceros He who saw a big chance in making a fortune, in the name of 3 Cs Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.Now, don t get me wrong, many 21st cynics would think that the intervention in Africa is stimulated by the rapacious capitalists, and that s fine However, in depth, Pakenham insists that the aspiration in helping the continent with the enlightenment of the first C Christianity was predominant component in decision for scramble Having that said, commerce was also a big entice Singularly, the beginning years of the Scramble seemed as a stock market sparkle persuading investors to join.The book is well written, and although it is long, it never gets boring, especially for people who enjoy history It is in chronological order, between the actions of the Great Britain, France, and Germany and Minor Powers mostly Belgium in different parts of the continent One of the favourite things i had about the book is the usage of maps Customarily, history chronicles need an atlas by the hand This one doesn t.


  7. says:

    I read this book back when it first appeared It is a bit of a slog but I still remember the story today and I have not found an account of the enhanced colonial acquisition of Africa leading up to WW1 that surpasses this book, although there are fine accounts for particular people and regions I remember few books as I do this one.


  8. says:

    This was a tremendous example of scholarship, that is as good as Packenham s book on the Boer War While this book is long, Packenham s writing drives the narrative along He also organized the book extremely well The chapters are chronological, moving from one part of Africa to another, so the narrative never drags Additionally, Packenham fleshed out the main characters in this saga in a way that makes them three dimensional than is usually found in narrative histories of this type For me, the most compelling parts of this book were how the Germans acquired their pieces of the African continent and subsequently mismanaged their four colonies in a way which seems to foreshadow WW II The other compelling narrative was the creation of the Congo Free State, and Leopold II s efforts to maintain personal control in the face of worldwide condemnation over Belgian abuses in exploiting the rubber trade This was a truly monumetal narrative history, and my only complaint was that while Packenham included the abortive Italian efforts at acquiring a piece of the continent, he did not discuss the efforts of the Spanish Rio Muni, Spanish Guinea or the Portuguese Mozambique Company, Angola However, if he had, this would have turned he work into two volumes This was hard to put down and I want to re read it again.


  9. says:

    I started this for the oddest of reasons the author is from my hometown sort of Thomas Pakenham is the 8th Earl of Longford, whose family seat is Tullynally Castle, a few kilometers west of Castlepollard, Co Westmeath Besides being an internationally renown historian, he s also an arborist and brother to the novelist Antonia Frasier.It looked to be a daunting read it s almost as thick as it is wide But it was brilliant Pakenham is a great writer witty as well as erudite, he personifies the populist historian Very similar in his own way to David McCullough End notes, not footnotes, to keep the narrative pace going In very many ways, it read like a novel.My only critique might be the overuse of certain clich s toss in the sponge popped up over and over again However in the course of nearly 800 pages, this is a quibble.What s amazing to consider is that even at 800 odd pages, this is a gloss on the entire story every chapter I m sure could engender any number of equally interesting books.Africa to me, as one who has never been there is a somewhat magical place, filled with mystery and misery and again, to me so much potential I d love to see a sequel but that wouldn t be history Yet.


  10. says:

    Thomas Pakenham s sprawling story of the slicing up of a continent by European powers is fascinating, suitably large and well written The Scramble for Africa presents a panorama of villains and heroes, both white and black, but paints it with shades of gray Pakenham takes us all over the continent that the superpowers of the day despicably carved up at their whim with little thought about the human beings they were affecting People being people and therefore capable of evil no matter who they are, the machinations of African leaders themselves also are shown, though it s decidedly and understandably a European viewpoint here From Stanley to King Leopold and beyond, this is a fascinating journey for those who take the time Still, from the point of view of American readers, Pakenham assumes too much knowledge of British history and its political system There are a lot of names to keep track of, and there is an occasional lack of clarity as to what precisely is going on Still, this is a strong, well written, fascinating account of a strange period in world history.