Unit 5: Imperialism


Africa Imperialism

European Imperialism

Between 1450 and 1750 Europeans traded with Africa, but they set up very few colonies. By 1850, only a few colonies existed along African coastlines, such as Algeria (French), the Cape Colony (Great Britain,) and Angola (Portugal). Instead, free African states continued, and after the end of the slave trade in the early 1800s, a lively exchange took place between Europeans and African states, such as the Sokoto Caliphate in western Africa and Egypt and Ethiopia in northeast Africa. They traded manufactured goods for gold, ivory, palm oil (a substance used in soap, candles, and lubricants). Under the leadership of Muhammad Ali¸ and his grandson Ismail¸ Egypt grew to be the strongest Muslim state of the 19th century, producing cotton for export and employing western technology and business methods. They benefited from the American Civil War, when cotton shipments from the southern U.S. were cut off, but the Egyptian cotton market collapsed after American shipments resumed after the Civil War was over.

In the latter half of the 19th century, dramatic changes occurred, as Europeans began to explore Africa’s interior, and by 1914, virtually the entire continent was colonized by one or the other of the competing European countries. European imperialists built on the information provided by adventurers and missionaries, especially the famous Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Stanley. Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, went to Africa in the 1840s and spent three decades exploring the interior of Africa and setting up missionary outposts all the way from central Africa to the Cape Colony on the southern tip. When people in Britain lost contact with Livingstone, journalist Henry Stanley became a news sensation when he traveled to Africa and found Livingstone. The two sparked interest in Africa and others followed, including the imperialists.

European colonization of Africa would have profound and long last effects on both Africa and the world. For this unit we will examine why European colonization of Africa occurred and other aspects of European colonial rule in Africa.

Essential Questions

  1. What were the social,  political and economic roots of Imperialism?
  2. Was European Imperialism in Africa a positive or negative event?
  3. Does might make right? Explain.
  4. What were the major political, economic and cultural changes of Imperialism?
  5. Explain the different ways Europeans justified Imperialism.

Key Themes

  • Individual development and identity
  • Global Connections
  • People, places and environments
  • Production, distribution and consumption



Unit 5 Notes