Colonization DBQ DOCUMENTS

Scramble for Africa: Background Info
In the late 19th century, Europe’s
industrialized nations “scrambled”
to colonize Africa to gain their vast
natural resources.
• The Berlin Conference of 1884–85,
also known as the Congo
Conference, was a meeting in which
the major imperial powers of
Europe negotiated and formalized
colonial claims to territory in Africa.
• Almost all territory was controlled
by European countries, except
Liberia and Ethiopia (fought to
remain independent). Most nations
become independent by the 1960’s.
“Africa is filled with many different cultures and peoples. Before
colonialism, some of these people lived in what are called stateless societies.
A stateless society is one in which people rely on family lineages to govern
themselves, rather than an elected government or a monarch. A lineage is a
family or group that has descended from a common ancestor. Members of a
stateless society work through their differences to cooperate and share
power. One example of a stateless society is the Igbo of southeast Nigeria.
Relying on family lineages worked well for the Igbo and other African
societies. However, many stateless societies faced challenges from 18th and
19th-century European colonizers, who expected one ruler to govern the
Nations that attended the Berlin Conference decided that any
European country could claim land in Africa by telling the other nations of
their claims and by showing they could control the area. The European
nations divided Africa without regard to where African ethnic or linguistic
groups lived. They set boundaries that combined peoples who were
traditional enemies and divided others who were not. No African leaders
were present at this conference even though it concerned their land and
people. Europe’s division of Africa is often cited as one of the root caused of
the political violence and ethnic conflicts in Africa still today.”
McDougal Littell, World Geography book, excerpts from pg. 423 & 443
Ethnic Boundaries
Ethnic Conflict (2 or
more opposing groups
occupying same land
and struggling for
power and control over
that land)
Dictator: A person exercising absolute authority of any kind; a person who authoritatively
prescribes a course of action or dictates what is to be done, especially in an area of
discontentment and instability and usually with the force of violence of intimidation.
Post-colonial Africa has been overwhelmed with authoritarian rulers who suppress a whole
host of freedoms; commit torture; starve their own people; and, murder opponents with
impunity. From Idi Amin and Ugandan genocide to Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in Sudan, the
historical backdrop explains these leaders’ rise to power.
The fact that authoritarian regimes are so common across post-colonial Africa is devastating
on a number of levels. Moving from one colonial oppressor to a domestic one appears
bizarre and deeply unjust for the continually suppressed generations. Why are they allowing
the continuation of the same oppressive authority? Unorganized “constitutions” and the lack
of democracy are often cited as causes of how these regimes continue to maintain
dominance. Because of the problems that come along with this instability, democracy falls
further down the list of agendas in the minds of people who are merely trying to survive in
poverty and disease. Most of the population struggles to fulfil even the most basic needs and
there is very little time to stop and think about a better government system and how to go
about accomplishing it. People do not have the capabilities to communicate and collaborate
on how to stand up to the corrupt regimes without stooping to their level and using violence
to gain control; this perpetuates the cycle of rebellion and civil war.
European colonizers exploited Africa’s resources and people during the
past few centuries. Millions of Africans were sold into slavery, and countless
others have died in Africa from harsh working conditions while obtaining raw
materials for foreign interests. In addition, the land has been mined and drilled
with little regard for the environment. This history of exploitation has limited
Africa’s economic growth and fostered political instability. Without political
stability, consistent economic growth is difficult.
Today, most African countries are worse off economically than they were
in the 1960s, just after many of them gained independence from European
colonizers. In the last 30 years, average incomes in Africa have decreased, while
they have increased in most of the rest of the world. Africa accounts for only 1%
of total world gross national product (GNP), meaning they contribute very little to
the world’s total export of products. The whole entire continent of Africa’s
economic output is about as large as the country of Argentina. When the colonial
nations pulled out of Africa, they often left the newly independent nations
without money for transportation, education, and businesses. To build their
economies, African countries borrowed heavily. By 1997, total public debt of subSaharan African governments—about 227 billion dollars—was strangling them.