Europes Colonialism On Africa
The colonialism stage of the expansion of Europe was beneficial and had a good affect on industrialization in the Western European countries. Colonial territories were established often through conquest and use of force. One of the main objectives of colonialism was to exploit the colonies and their residents to create economic wealth for the mother country. The key features of the colonialism stage were the economic, political and social/cultural features.
Colonialism is the expansion of a nation’s control over territory beyond its borders and has direct political and economic control over the country and its people. European colonialism began as early as in the fifteenth century with the Portuguese and Spanish exploration of the Americas, the coasts of Africa and India. However it was not until the 17th century that Britain, France and Holland established their overseas colonies. The Berlin Conference of 1884 decided which European countries get which territories in Africa which led to the most rapid form of European expansion called the ‘Scramble for Africa’ which took place between 1886 and 1914. The countries involved in the ‘Scramble for Africa’ were Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Italy.
A key economic feature of colonialism was producing and exporting raw materials either agricultural or mineral, precious metals such as gold, silver and copper. Tropical products for luxury consumption such as coffee, sugar, spices, timber and fabrics like cotton. Later when Britain, France and Germany were competing against each other for colonies in Africa in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the international market had changed rapidly with a huge demand for raw materials for manufacturing such as jute, cotton, rubber and sisal (Bernstein, 1992:48). Mass consumption demand such as tea, sugar and vegetable oils (Bernstein, 1992:48). In the colonies with mineral resources, colonial governments started policies that forced some African farmers to leave their homes to become mine workers. Colonies in East and Southern Africa had climates attractive to agricultural production. With production comes labour and therefore to meet these needs, the colonial governments started policies that removed good farm land from the local population and forced some men to work as laborers on European controlled farms. A lot of African colonies had no efficient amount of minerals or the environment for large scale agricultural production therefore colonial governments made farmers grow special cash crops that would be exported to raise revenues. These cash crops include peanuts, coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas and tobacco. One of the most important factors of economic production and growth is people. All means of production depends on human labour. Therefore many Africans were forced into slavery or indentured labour. African countries had under-developed means of transportation and communication infrastructures and therefore railways, roads and river transportation were developed to facilitate a more efficient movement of goods, services, and people.
A key political feature of colonialism was the Europeans having a technological advantage where the use of firearms such as muskets and machine guns ensured dominance over the Africans (Bernstein, 1992:60). The discovery of quinine (prevention against malaria) reduced huge amounts of death rate among the Europeans especially in West Africa (Bernstein, 1992:60). Two other technological advantages which were of importance to the industrialization of Western Europe were the telegraph cables and railroads which made it more efficient for Europeans ‘to control their newly acquired colonies efficiently.’ The telegraph could be used to alert superiors the happenings in the colony especially if there was a revolt which the superiors could then in turn send troops to crush the resistance via railroads or riverboats. Railroads and steamships were also used to transport the minerals efficiently back to the mother country (Bernstein, 1992:61). Therefore we can see that the technological advantages helped in the struggle to maintain colonial rule. Another political feature of colonialism was the use of traditional authority figures such as kings, princes and chiefs who the Europeans could rely on for political support and often bribed these traditional authority figures to help maintain peace with his people and therefore control over the colonies. Another political feature were the authoritarian and statist systems where authoritarianism meant that the local inhabitants had little or no say in government issues (Bernstein, 1992:56-57). The statist system meant that the colonial government had control over all the sources and income being produced in the colonial states (Bernstein, 1992:57-58).
A key social feature of colonialism was the use of hegemonic ideology which imposed ideas that the colonies were actually helping the local inhabitants by developing the country economically, socially and culturally. The second hegemonic ideology was the belief that the Europeans were invincible to ensure that any thought of a resistance or uprising would be futile and crushed easily (Bernstein, 1992:61-62). These ideas were important to the colony to maintain their rule and continued work effort as well as peace from the local inhabitants. The Europeans introduced Western education and religion to the local inhabitants so that they can use the educated locals to administer the country at a lower wage or effort. The Europeans also felt that it was their duty to civilize the ‘barbarians’ by introducing them to Western education and religion as well as to justify European domination. Another social feature of colonialism was the use of racist ideologies where whites were more superior and civilized that Africans.
The colonialism stage of the expansion of Europe was beneficial to Europe and helped industrialization in Western Europe due to the economic, political and social features of colonialism.