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Who were the most important men in the British Empire  during the "Scramble for Africa?"      

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Greg Jackson, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The previous educator answer about the importance of Queen Victoria, William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli, and Cecil Rhodes is spot on. There are a few other important British individuals that are worth mentioning as well.

Perhaps one of the most famous of these men is Doctor David Livingston. While he explored Africa before the start of "The Scramble," his reports about the continent did much to excite the imagination of those back home in Great Britain. During the 1850s and 1860s, Livingstone was one of the first Europeans to set foot in much of the African interior. He charted the course of the Nile and Zambezi rivers and established ties with many indigenous groups. While his goals were to set up missionaries and create commercial relationships, the descriptions of a rich African continent were widely read by British imperialists.

Another person worth mentioning is Joseph Chamberlain. He became the Colonial Secretary in 1895 and was in charge of establishing British policy in Africa. His main projects in Africa involved improving the infrastructure in the colonies. He had a railway built in West Africa, established permanent garrisons in South Africa, and founded medical schools to study tropical diseases. He was also in charge of negotiations with other European colonial powers in Africa.

Alfred Milner was also a key player in the Scramble for Africa. At the end of the nineteenth-century, he became the British high commissioner in South Africa. He also served as the governor of the Cape Colony. His policies led to the Boer Wars in which Britain took control of the region. After the wars, Milner was in charge of administering the new English colony and set the tone of the administration that would last for decades.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We should note first of all that one of the most important people in the British Empire during this time was not a man.  This was, of course, Queen Victoria.  While she did not actually rule since Britain was a democracy, she was still important.

One of the most important men in Britain during this time was William Gladstone, who was Prime Minister at various times during the Scramble.  There is debate as to whether he or Benjamin Disraeli was more important in British imperial ventures in Africa.  Disraeli was much more important in pushing to gain empire in Africa, but he died in 1881 and therefore took no further role in the Scramble.  Gladstone was ambivalent about empire, but was in power during much of the Scramble.

Outside the government, one of the most important figures was Cecil Rhodes.  Rhodes was a major figure in pushing for British imperialism in Africa.  He was, for example, the driving force behind British colonization of what came to be known as Rhodesia.


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