According to Kevin Shillington in History of Africa, what reasons and justification(s) led to the "scramble for Africa," and why was this scramble late in coming? Why was this scramble successful, and how was this process formalized among competing European nations without resorting to open conflict among each other?

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The "scramble for Africa" was the European blitz to colonize and settle the African continent in the late ages of colonialism. There were many factors that were involved in this scramble.

First, while England, Spain, and Portugal had been the main colonial powers, industrialization and technology improved the wealth of...

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The "scramble for Africa" was the European blitz to colonize and settle the African continent in the late ages of colonialism. There were many factors that were involved in this scramble.

First, while England, Spain, and Portugal had been the main colonial powers, industrialization and technology improved the wealth of other European nations and gave them the opportunity to begin colonizing. This is why Germany, France, and the Netherlands heavily entered the African colonies. Additionally, because of this industrialization, they believed that Africa would be a wealthy source of the materials they needed to keep up with production that would also be readily accessible (much more accessible than America or Australia).

This scramble was delayed, though, because the other countries were slow to develop to the point of being colonial powers, and, as Shillington relates, because England held a very strong stake to the free trade agreement, backing only those it thought would be beneficial to itself and supporting Spain and Portugal. Eventually, however, the other countries began to make headway and entered the continent. It was extremely successful in large part due to the vastness of the continent and the military strength of the existing colonial powers. No one wanted conflict, particularly with England or Portugal, so they divvied up the nations and laid claim to separate areas they could take without competition.

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The "scramble for Africa" took place for several reasons, according to Schillington:

  • Various other countries managed to catch up to Great Britain in terms of industrialization and manufacturing abilities. This made them decent competitors in the sudden search for new markets for the sale of goods once their home markets (in other words, European markets) became oversaturated. 
  • European nations were also motivated by the belief that African countries contained raw materials (and, thus, sources of wealth) that had gone untouched. The potential reward of moving "in" on Africa was huge.

These two factors (combined with the colonialists' ability to exploit the already existing conflicts between African states and the European "home advantage" of having much more advanced military technology) made African resistance pretty much futile. 

The "scramble" itself was mostly delayed by how long Britain had managed to cling to the "free trade" market due to their advances in industrialization. As was already mentioned, other European countries' ability to catch up with Britain ended this singular control. France was the first to challenge the "free trade" policy by breaking ground on a railway from Dakar to the upper Niger valley. The British response was to support Portuguese claims to Angola and Congo. Germany quickly tossed in its hat to lay claim to Togo, Cameroon, and Namibia. 

This scramble was ultimately resolved without open conflict due to the 1884 to 1885 Berlin West Africa Conference, which set up some parameters for the land claims by 1) recognizing Leopold's International Association as the authority of the Congo basin and 2) by declaring that a European nation attempting to claim land must effectively occupy that land. 

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