Why Britain Expanded its Empire in Africa from 1880 to 1900 Essay

Why Britain Expanded its Empire in Africa from 1880 to 1900 Essay

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Why Britain Expanded its Empire in Africa from 1880 to 1900

In 1875 the two most important European holdings in Africa were
Algeria and the Colony. The Cape Colony was a lock up point for the
British Trading Fleet en route from India and the Far East. By 1914
only Ethiopia and the republic of Liberia remained outside formal
European control. The transition from an "informal empire" of control
through economic dominance to direct control took the form of a
"scramble" for territory by the nations of Europe.

Britain tried not to play a part in this early scramble- being more of
a trading empire rather then a colonial empire, however it soon became
clear it had to gain its own African empire to maintain the balance of
power. This is the direct link to Hobson’s Theory of ‘Overseas

Hobson saw the ‘greedy capitalists’ and the British Aristocracy, that
he called the ‘shady elite’ to be investing into Africa to only gain
personally at the start. However, when the problems began to raise the
‘shady elite’ would request the British Government to help and
overtake the problems. Hobson saw the partition of Africa as
deliberate British policy for benefit of elite group of 'greedy
capitalist' investors. However, most investment in Africa occurred
after the Scramble for Africa. This is due to the fact that Britain
was more interested in the USA’s economy.

As French, Belgian and Portuguese activity in the Lower Congo River
region threatened to undermine orderly penetration of tropical Africa,
the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 sought to regulate the competition
between the powers by defining "effective occupation" as the decisi...

... middle of paper ...

... Canal to
the mineral-rich South, though German occupation of Tanganyika
prevented its realisation until the end of World War I. In 1903, the
All Red Line telegraph system communicated with the major parts of the

Paradoxically Britain, the staunch advocate of free trade, emerged in
1914 with not only the largest overseas empire thanks to her
long-standing presence in India, but also the greatest gains in the
"scramble for Africa", reflecting her advantageous position at its
inception. Between 1885 and 1914 Britain took nearly 30% of Africa's
population under her control, compared to 15 per cent for France, 9
per cent for Germany, 7 per cent for Belgium and 1 per cent for Italy:
Nigeria alone contributed 15 million subjects, more than in the whole
of French West Africa or the entire German colonial empire.

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