The colonization of Africa

During the 15th century, the Portuguese began searching for a sea route to India. For this purpose, the ships sailed south along the west coast of Africa, where the sailors founded a series of bases.

In the 17th century, the Portuguese were followed by the French, Dutch and English, and more and more bases and trading posts were established on the African coast.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, the European states limited themselves to the coastal regions. It was not until 1830 that they began to colonize the interior, which often led to bloody conflicts with the locals.


Afrika von 1500 bis 1800

Africa from 1500 to 1800




The beginning of the conquests:

The first major invasion that went beyond the coastal regions was carried out in 1830 by the French. These landed in the port city of Algiers and quickly ousted the ruling Dey, a vassal people of the Ottoman Empire. It was only in the interior of Algeria that French troops met with greater resistance, gathering around the leader Abd al-Qadir and declaring the Holy War to the French.

By the brutal action of the French, which was also led by the tactics of the "scorched earth", they could finally conquer the headquarters of al-Qadir at Mascara. Although the sultan of Morocco also sent troops to support the resistance movement, these were quickly defeated by the French and expelled again.

In 1847, al-Qadir surrendered and Algeria became the first European colony to become France's most important colony due to its raw materials and supplies of soldiers.




The conquest of West Africa:

Between 1823 and 1831, British troops fought bitter wars along the Gold Coast against the native Ashanti, who sought to recapture the British-occupied coastline.


Westafrika 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert

West Africa 15th to 19th century


Gold und Sklavenküste 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert

Gold and slave coast 15th to 19th century


In 1873, the conflict rekindled, but this time the British decided to send an expeditionary force led by Sir Garnet Wolseley inland. This could stop with his soldiers an advance of the Ashanti and force them to retreat. At Amoafu he brought the locals a crucial defeat, so he could conquer the capital Kumasi shortly thereafter. To force the Ashanti to peace, Wolseley burned down the city. Then King Kofi Karikari had to agree to peace and the region became the first protectorate of the British in 1897.

Other protectorates were founded by the French in the territory of Senegal in 1854, by the British in the area of Lagos in 1861. These brought the European occupiers into conflict with the indigenous tribes including the Tukulor and the Sokoto.




The division of Africa:

Beginning in 1879, Belgium, under the leadership of King Leopold II and its Congo International, began to secure territories in Congo. In 1881, the next protectorate of the French took place in the territory of Tunisia and from 1884 on, the German Empire began to found its first colonies in Africa in the areas of Nambia, Cameroon and Togo. The European countries have been increasingly focusing on resources, markets, people and political power.

At the Congo Conference held in Berlin in 1884 and 1885, the major European powers agreed to divide Africa in advance of military conflicts between the European states. As a result, the African continent was divided among the European states, with no say of the native population.


Zeitgenössischer Stich der Konferenzteilnehmer der Kongokonferenz

Contemporary engraving of the conference participants of the Congo conference




The British repression of the Ottoman Empire:

Although Egypt was still part of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 19th century, it has been run as an autonomous province since 1807. The ruling Ismail Pasha tried during his reign to modernize his country, but hoarded in the course of high debts. When it came in 1881 in the capital Alexandria to rebellions of the creditors, were killed in these numerous British. England was forced to intervene and in June 1882 read bombarded the harbor of Alexandria with gunboats.

In September 1882, under the leadership of Wolseley, the British army began the conquest of the Egyptian territory, winning the decisive victory at Tel el-Kebir by destroying the 38,000-strong Egyptian army. The land was then completely occupied and converted into a British protectorate.

Since the southern Sudan land was previously conquered by Egypt, the country also fell into British hands after the British conquest. However, in 1881, under the leadership of Muhammad Ahmad, the population began to rebel against the occupation, with attacks targeting mostly Egyptian troops. In 1883, Ahmad succeeded in destroying a 10,000-strong army of Egyptian soldiers. England then had to send General Charles Gordon to evacuate British citizens from the Sudanese capital Khartoum. However, Gordon decided to stay in the city after the evacuation and defend it. On January 26, 1885, the city was stormed and Gordon killed.

In the wake of the Sudanese uprising General Kitchener was tasked with recapturing the Sudan in 1898. On 2 September he was able to face the Sudanese army at Omdurman and despite his 2 to 1 inferiority win a decisive victory. Decisive factors were the significantly more modern armament of the British soldiers, who literally shot the assaulting Sudanese with their artillery before they came even close to the machine guns.




The full cast:

Until the beginning of the First World War in 1914, Africa was completely divided among the major European powers. Individual revolts of the native population were usually crushed with extreme brutality.


Die Kolonien Afrikas

The colonies of Africa


After the end of the First World War and the conclusion of the Versailles Treaty, the German colonies were divided among the victorious powers. However, more and more pro-independence movements began to distress the European occupiers. Some independence was peaceful, others had to be fought for.






You can find the right literature here:


The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912

The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912

From the rear cover of this 738 page book: "A phenomenal achievement, clear, authoritative and compelling......Thomas Pakenham's fine book tells the story of this particular gold rush with admirable and judicious poise....Contains some of the best-known episodes of 19th-Century history as well as some of the most mythologized and colorful characters the world has ever seen.....Livingstone and Stanley, Brazza and Rhodes, Kitchener and Gordon, Lugard and Jameson.....Highly readable." and "Taking the entire continent as his canvas, Pakenham has painted a picture of heroism and horror. He writes both with compassion and with an effective combination of detachment and judgement. A splendid book."

Click here!



Scramble for Africa

Scramble for Africa Paperback – November, 1992

In 1880 the continent of Africa was largely unexplored by Europeans. Less than thirty years later, only Liberia and Ethiopia remained unconquered by them. The rest - 10 million square miles with 110 million bewildered new subjects - had been carved up by five European powers (and one extraordinary individual) in the name of Commerce, Christianity, 'Civilization' and Conquest. The Scramble for Africa is the first full-scale study of that extraordinary episode in history.

Click here!



The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor

The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor Paperback – March 22, 2016

Africa has been coveted for its rich natural resources ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew merchant-adventurers and conquerors from afar. In modern times, the focus of attention is on oil, diamonds, and other rare earth minerals.

In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future.

His cast of characters includes religious leaders, mining magnates, warlords, dictators, and many other legendary figures-among them Mansa Musa, ruler of the medieval Mali empire, said to be the richest man the world has ever known.

Click here!






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