History Of Africa essay

The social and cultural organization evidenced in Africa today has over time been shaped and instilled by western influences from the many years of interactions between the two entities. Interactions between Africa and the Europeans date back to the fifteenth century with the landing of the Portuguese explorers and traders. Whereas the initial interactions were on a basis of trade this would change with time with the onset of the scramble and partitioning of the African society. The scramble and partition of Africa was not only political but also brought forth changes in the social organization in the varied communities in Africa.

This paper seeks to focus at these changes and the social evolution that took place in Africa from 1800 until the end of the scramble of Africa. It will contrast the social evolution in West Africa and in the southern Africa. While the social settings and organization were somehow similar before the coming of the European, they also had some major differences. The differences were both cultural and economic and the Europeans that greatly unsettled this setting. One major difference that was to be noted was in religion.

Most of the western African nations became a mixture of Christians and Muslims due to the influence form the Northern African states, which had become converted to Islam. The southern African communities were mainly Christians coupled with the indigenous African religions. The West African communities were fast becoming absorbed by the new forms of religions. The culture in west Africa was changing rapidly due to the Islamic and Christianity influence more than it was in the south of Africa, where the cultural and social setting was taking long change.

However, in the modern day south Africa, the territories occupied by the Boers had become colonized by the western values in their search for gold. Unlike their counterparts in West Africa, the changes in the social setting were being influenced by the Boers occupation and the exploration of gold. Most of the western African communities were engaging in slave trade, and indeed this was the main preoccupation along with ivory and iron trade. This coupled with the onslaught of the British missionaries was bringing some cultural and social changes in the existing societies in the western African countries.

Both the western and southern communities like the rest of Africa, were resisting the occupation of the Europeans not only due to the political changes they sought to instill but also the effect on the social organization. However, the resistance to the social changes was more prevalent in the southern communities especially as the British sought to extend the influence in the Shona land. This is explained by the contacts the western African communities had with the Europeans in the various trade practices within their territories.

The slave trade was rapidly changing the existing social setting. The southern communities sat unsettled by the trade that existed along the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean. Hence the evolution in the south was less gradual compared to the western Africa. Question 2 The Portuguese traders were the first Europeans to establish any recorded and visible contacts with the Africans in the fifteenth century; they were later to be followed by the British, the French and other colonialists in the sixteenth century.

The first contacts with the African communities were to further religion and exploratory ventures and were mostly done along the coasts. Only much later would explorers and missionaries such as John Ludwig Krapf in East Africa venture into the interior. The missionaries started to take a new turn towards the end of the nineteenth century when the European powers discovered the economic potency in the resourceful, unexploited lands of Africa. It has been established, that the key reason for colonialism in Africa had nothing to do with social ventures but that it was purely for economic reasons.

The colonialists were seeking to enrich themselves from the cheap labor and other untapped resources in Africa (Juhani K, 1993). While all the colonial nations benefited in one way or another, this paper seeks to establish which of the colonial power ranging from the British, Spain, French, Dutch, Italians and the Portuguese benefited the most from the scramble and in what ways. In reaching at this conclusion it would be important to look at the country that had the highest number of colonies and how resourceful these colonies were.

A cross analysis of the benefits reaped from African scramble reveals that it is the British that benefited more, for the reasons that will further be tabled. Whereas before the 1870s, majority of the European countries did not show any deep interest in the African interior, this was to change in the 1880s. The British and the Germans had not been vigorous in the scramble and looked as if they would not establish any formal controls. But a flurry of activities led by the French, Portuguese and the Belgium brought forth renewed interest in more formal controls.

The powers were seeking to extend their sphere of influence to the regions the perceived to be cardinal and strategic to the political and economic ends. The British had an interest in some parts of West Africa, eastern Africa, Egypt and southern Africa; the French took a big portion of West Africa with the rest taking the spoils. Rows would occur during the scramble leading to convening of an international conference to arbitrate and partition the continent.

The main reason that had brought British to Africa was the search of a route to India, which was their colony before they could discover the untapped wealth in Africa. Looking at their territories, it is revealed that their colonies were strategic to their cause and in line with politics of the day. By having annexed Eastern Africa they had control to the longest river in Africa, river Nile and by having Egypt they had access to the Mediterranean and India. Their colonies had great economic potential ranging from agriculture in eastern Africa, minerals in southern Africa, oil in Nigeria among other factors.

The other nation that was close to rivaling such an acquisition was France having secured colonies in the western and northern Africa. Others like Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain did not have much to write home about after the partition. The success of the British can be explained from the approach that it took in its acquisition and control of the territories. The British set up companies in the various regions of influence and were mandated to exert British influence and control through direct colonization mostly.

Direct colonization in the African communities ensured that they were able to quell down resistance as well as benefit directly economically and expand their influence more towards the interior.


Juhani Koponen, 1993. The partition of Africa. A scramble for a mirage. Nordic Journal f African Studies 2 (1). Retrieved on 11/10/07 from http://www. njashhelsinki. fi/pdf-files/Vol2num1/koponen. pdf William Croft, Social Evolution and Language Change. University of Manchester. Retrieved on 11/10/07 from http://www. unm. edu/`wcroft/papers/socling. pdf