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Cuases of the Colonisation of Africa Essay

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The colonisation of Africa occurred in the late nineteenth century, when a small group of European powers became suddenly involved in a “territorial Partition of Africa”. In the time between 1880 and 1900, “90% of the territory of Africa was appropriated by a handful of European powers” . This event sparked an intense historical debate amongst historians as there have been multiple interpretations about the colonisation in Africa. The historical debate is between metropolitan theories (which focuses on the motivations of each European power), for example by Lenin and Hobson, the peripheral approach which looks at the African perspective. Also, what aspects of these African regions made the European powers want to colonise? Finally, an “international relations” approach – this is the main focus of my enquiry. Were the shifting global attitudes an influential force? This places the Partition of Africa in a global framework, rather than look at European powers individually. A well-known theory focused on international relations is A.J.P Taylor’s theory of “political and diplomatic aims”.

This essay shall investigate whether A.J.P Taylor’s theory of imperialism can sufficiently explain the colonisation of Africa. It shall also explore the decolonisation of Africa, to see whether “political and diplomatic aims” were a continuous factor in European imperialism. This shall be done by examining further developments of his theories, as well as criticisms. For example, D.K Fieldhouse argued that there needed to be a “greater emphasis on economic reasons” as well as elements of “formal and informal empires” (Robinson and Gallagher) throughout the colonisation of Africa. In addition, by analysing the colonisation of diverse African coun...


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... Power, it is generally agreed that “if any nation had upset the world’s balance of power, it was Great Britain.” . Compared to countries such as Germany, Britain was not pursing in Africa purely for appearance and saving face. According to Kennedy, “nothing frightened Britain imperialists’ more than economic decline” because of the disastrous impact upon British power. It was argued that colonisation in Africa was used for “imperial defence” It would “fight for the preservation of the European balance of power.” This appears to support Taylor’s claim that the balance of European power was delicately composed, therefore the colonisation in Africa did not occur for economic interests. It was to preserve the balance power.




Works Cited

J. Steinberg, The Copenhagen Complex, 1966
Admiral Tirpitz
Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, 1988


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