History Essay Regarding African Colonisation

1274 words - 6 pages

jHow important were economic factors in bringing about Britain’s colonisation of Africa?

The latter half of the nineteenth century, between eighteen-seventy to the early twentieth century, entailed what historians call the biggest spread of imperial influence from a European power ever. The British Empire spanned across some nine million square miles, with approximately four hundred and forty four million people under British rule, over a series of continents. The colonisation of Africa is said to be due to a multitude of factors, but the underlying factor was economic.
It is very evident that economic gain from Africa drew the British in. For example, British interest in North Africa, ...view middle of the document...

However, it is argued that international relations played a key part in turning Britain’s informal empire within Africa to a formal empire, and along with economic motivations, resulted in the colonisation of Africa. For instance, Britain viewed West Africa as economically futile, beside the exploitation of palm oil on the Niger River. The moment it was evident that other European countries had decided to colonise parts of West Africa that could threaten the British sphere of influence, and most importantly that of palm oil, their interest with the West grew. This can be seen as Britain fighting back mainly because it undermined their authority and the power they had as being the “first true empire.” However, Gallagher and Robinson argue that it had nothing to do with Britain enforcing their domination as an empire upon other European countries. In fact, they state that the British government responded in such a way so that they could protect assets, trade and investment within Africa (the West), and that going from an informal empire to a formal empire, such as the formation of Niger, was so British trade and business wasn’t disrupted. There were most certainly economic motivations within West Africa, and other parts of Africa, but the response of the formation of a formal British Empire within not only West Africa, but also other parts of Africa, such as Egypt, was due mainly to the safeguarding of their interests and economic gain. Leading on, African nationalism was another international relationship that aided the British colonisation of Africa. The Transvaal’s fear of an attack from the Zulu’s led to the Transvaal provincial council requesting British aid in the form of intervention. Likewise, when Egypt ended up in over one hundred million pounds worth of debt, they asked for British government intervention which ultimately resulted in the Foreign office and British colonisation of Egypt. Therefore, it’s wrong to discredit economics as not playing a part, as along with international relations, it was economic motivations that resulted in a reactive policy that caused the British to colonise Africa.
Although individuals were a definite driving force behind British colonisation of Africa, their motivations were ultimately economic and were what spurred many issues regarding international relations. Individuals—men-on-the-spot—such as George Goldie and Cecil Rhodes played a large part in British expansionism within Africa using ‘creeping imperialism’ to gain a foothold in those regions. The matters that arose as a response of these men-on-the-spot was what caused the government to intervene and form a formal empire within different regions of Africa. For example, William McKinnon and his rivalry with the German Karl Peters resulted in the British government funding the British East Africa Company, and then influence spreading almost all the way across the East of Africa into countries like Uganda,...

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